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Early Years Foundation Stage (commonly abbreviated as EYFS) “sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. All schools and Ofsted-registered early years providers must follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes. The EYFS only applies to schools and early years providers in England”.
For curriculum information from the devolved nations, please see the links below:
- Wales - Foundation Phase Framework
- Scotland - The Early Years Framework
- Northern Ireland - Learning to Learn
Early Years and Computing
Despite computing not being explicitly mentioned within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework, which focuses on the learning and development of children from birth to age five, there are many opportunities for young children to use technology to solve problems and produce creative outcomes. In particular, many areas of the framework provide opportunities for pupils to develop their ability to use computational thinking effectively, such as through undertaking projects involving the concepts and approaches suggested by Computing at School’s (CAS) Barefoot Computing resources.
Barefoot Computing have a section dedicated to the Early years, full of ideas on how you can incorporate their resources into your classroom. You can also book a free CPD workshop. All the resources are free to download: Barefoot Computing early years.
As young children take part in a variety of tasks with digital devices, such as moving a Bee Bot around a classroom, they will already be familiar with the device before being asked to undertake tasks related to the key stage one (KS1 - ages 5 - 7 years) computing curriculum, such as writing and testing a simple program. Not only will children be keen to again use a device they had previously enjoyed using, their cognitive load will also be reduced, meaning they are more likely to succeed when undertaking activities linked to the next stage in their learning.
Within the revised EYFS statutory framework, the Technology strand within Understanding the World has been removed. However, there are opportunities within each area of the framework to enable practitioners to effectively prepare children for studying the computing curriculum.
Incorporating computing in all areas of the EYFS
The September 2020 release of Development Matters (pg. 9) outlines how effective teaching and learning gives children the opportunity to play and explore, participate in active learning and create and think critically. The activities outlined below have therefore been included to meet these criteria where feasible. Tasks are outlined for each area of the EYFS framework, although many other opportunities exist to use technology with younger children; particularly when linked to a topic studied within class.
Understanding the world
Classrooms could contain a role play area with a range of technology, both functioning and model / broken devices, or a variety of electronic toys, such as remote controlled cars, walkie-talkies and interactive pets, as part of continuous provision. Further technology could be included in conjunction with other activities, such as digital cameras for pupils to photograph their own learning, although children should ideally be given the opportunity to select and use technology for a certain purpose, rather than simply being given a device. The pedagogical approaches used in this age group should also be carefully considered, which includes the need to tinker, or play, with a device, in order to discover how it functions.
Bee Bots continue to be extremely popular in both EYFS and Key Stage 1, and provide a number of opportunities to develop pupils’ computing knowledge within literacy sessions. Children could create a story about the Bee Bot’s journey, such as around a local area or a country being studied, or they could sequence events within a story being studied. For example, children could guide the Bee Bot between different locations, characters and locations within Little Red Riding Hood. Should devices not be available, the Barefoot website has Fake Bots available, which children can use instead of a digital device. In addition to this, programming devices suitable for young children are being developed by a range of manufacturers, such as the Code-a-pillar by Fisher-Price.
Many children entering Early Years settings are already familiar with tablet devices, although their ability to use a keyboard and mouse is often limited. This has recently become a more significant issue, due to the prevalence of tablet devices in the home. It is therefore important that children are given opportunities to become familiar with a range of input devices, including the keyboard and mouse, in order to develop the required fine motor skills. Usage could be linked to phonics sessions, such as through the use of drill and practice games, including Dance Mat Typing or the Animal Typing app, or more creative outcomes, as described when examining the areas below.
Communication and language
Unplugged activities, or those away from the machine, give children an opportunity to develop their understanding of technology without the need for expensive devices. Children could be asked to give precise instructions verbally, such as through giving instructions to a sandwich making robot, with links made to the importance of using the correct vocabulary, along with speaking clearly and precisely. Giving instructions could also form part of sessions linked to physical development activities, such as determining rules for certain playground games.
Personal, social and emotional development
Voice recorders, or the microphone built into a tablet device, could be used to record how pupils are feeling, or to discuss their relationships with others. This could be extended through pupils creating their own videos, which could also link to children giving online safety guidance to their peers on appropriate use of technology and what to do if they feel worried or concerned when using a device. A range of age-appropriate books are now available for young children to examine online safety, such as Chicken Clicking, Goldilocks (A hashtag cautionary tale) and the free Smartie the Penguin. Using voice and video recorders also allows children to self evaluate their own speaking.
Expressive arts and design
The use of painting and graphics applications can further develop pupils’ keyboard and mouse skills, whilst a range of tablet based apps are also available, such as the free Doodle Buddy. Creative outcomes can be produced, which allows pupils to take ownership of their work and could even be part of an extended project. Outputs produced could be linked to other uses of technology, such as producing mats for Bee Beets to travel around, whilst other physical computing devices, such as Spheros, can even be put into paint and controlled using a tablet device to produce images. Outfits for a device to wear, such as Bee Bot head dresses or Sphero paper cup people, could also be developed.
Spheros decorated using balloons and paper cups - Photographs courtesy of Donna Rawling
Controlling devices provides an excellent opportunity to develop pupils’ understanding of left and right, along with directional language. Pupils could be asked to guide a device around a shape, or even use activities from computing related websites, such as code.org, to develop their understanding further. However, whilst such activities can effectively engage pupils in programming tasks, their usage should be carefully considered to ensure they have a purpose.
Here you will find resources produced by CAS community members to support the teaching of computing to 3-5 year-olds. All are free to download! Happy browsing!