Aistear is the curriculum framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. It provides information for adults to help them plan for and provide enjoyable and challenging learning experiences, so that all children can grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others. Aistear describes the types of learning (dispositions, values and attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding) that are important for children in their early years, and offers ideas and suggestions as to how this learning might be nurtured. The Framework also provides guidelines on supporting children’s learning through partnerships with parents, interactions, play, and assessment.
Principles of early learning and development
Aistear is based on 12 principles of early learning and development. These are presented in three groups:
1. The first group concerns children and their lives in early childhood:
- the child’s uniqueness
- equality and diversity
- children as citizens.
2. The second group concerns children’s connections with others:
- parents, family and community
- the adult’s role.
3. The third group concerns how children learn and develop:
- holistic learning and development
- active learning
- play and hands-on experiences
- relevant and meaningful experiences
- communication and language
- the learning environment.
Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework presents children’s learning and development using four themes. These are:
- Identity and Belonging
- Exploring and Thinking.
The themes describe what children learn – the dispositions, attitudes and values, skills, knowledge, and understanding.
The theme of Well-being is about children being confident, happy and healthy.
Well-being focuses on developing as a person. It has two main elements: psychological well-being (including feeling and thinking) and physical well-being. Children’s relationships and interactions with their families and communities contribute significantly to their sense of well-being. Children need to feel valued, respected, empowered, cared for, and included. They also need to respect themselves, others, and their environment. They become positive about themselves and their learning when adults value them for who they are and when they promote warm and supportive relationships with them. Expressing themselves creatively and experiencing a spiritual dimension in life enhances children’s sense of well-being. Life is full of challenges and struggles. Therefore, being flexible and having a positive outlook on learning and on life is crucial. All these experiences help children to become resilient and resourceful and to learn to cope with change and situations in which things go wrong.
Physical well-being is important for learning and development as this enables children to explore, to investigate, and to challenge themselves in the environment. A growing awareness of their bodies and abilities is also part of this. The adult supports children’s psychological and physical well-being by helping them to make healthy choices about nutrition, hygiene and exercise. He/she plans for and provides opportunities for children to express themselves, to encourage them to play and work with others, and to deal with challenges. The adult also helps children towards independence by providing them with choice in their activities, and by providing opportunities for them to make decisions and to take the lead.
In our pre-school we:
- enable kids to explore and manipulate objects in a multi-sensorial way so that they can smell, taste, hear, see, touch, reach, grasp, lift, and drop objects.
- encourage kids to do things for themselves, encourage their initiatives and choices, and react positively to their endeavours so that they develop positive dispositions to learning.
- facilitate repetition and challenge so that our pre-schoolers can master and extend what they are doing.
- teach them to respect themselves and others.
- promote good health and encourage children to make healthy choices
- provide a well-structured and orderly environment and a predictable but flexible routine.
- approach conflict situations calmly, model positive behaviour, and create opportunities for children to share and take turns.
- listen to and discuss things in depth with children.
- plan quiet times and set up a space for thinking and reflecting.
- and promote the concept of citizenship and social justice with children and respect them as young citizens.
- appreciate children’s efforts, identify their individual strengths and abilities and helps them to cope and to try again when they experience failure.
Theme: Identity and Belonging
The theme of Identity and Belonging is about children developing a positive sense of who they are, and feeling that they are valued and respected as part of a family and community.
From birth, children develop a sense of who they are. Relationships with family members, other adults and children, friends and members of their community play a key role in building their identities. Children’s sense of who they are is shaped by their characteristics, their behaviour, and their understanding of themselves, their family and others. Belonging is about having a secure relationship with or a connection with a particular group of people. When children feel a sense of belonging and sense of pride in their families, their peers, and their communities, they can be emotionally strong, self-assured, and able to deal with challenges and difficulties. This creates an important foundation for their learning and development.
Giving children messages of respect, love, approval, and encouragement enables them to develop a positive sense of who they are and a feeling that they have an important contribution to make wherever they are. Positive messages about their families, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and languages help children to develop pride in who they are. These messages also give them confidence to voice their views and opinions, to make choices, and to help shape their own learning.
By embracing difference, by exploring their own attitudes in relation to equality and diversity, and by realising that their attitudes and values influence children, adults can develop the insights, self-awareness and skills that are needed to help children develop a strong sense of identity and belonging. This helps to ensure that all children are respected and valued and that they can recognise and deal with discrimination and prejudice.
In our pre-school we:
- support children to think about themselves, who they are and their strengths, interests and abilities,
- ensure that both boys and girls are encouraged to explore, take risks, enjoy challenge and to take on caring roles,
- spend one-to-one time with kids to make them feel special and valued:
- use resources and materials which reflect kids’ families, genders, abilities, backgrounds, and cultures,
- create multiple opportunities for young children to talk, listen and be heard whenever possible with peers, with adults, or in small groups,
- use pretend play to encourage and support children to empathise with others and see things from another’s point of view,
- adapt routines to cater for individual needs, interests, preferences, and capabilities,
- create a language environment that reflects the languages of all the children and adults in the pre-school,
- develop young children’s awareness of the community in which they live,
The theme of Communicating is about children sharing their experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others with growing confidence and competence in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.
Communicating involves giving, receiving and making sense of information. Children do this by using non-verbal means of communication, talking, listening, thinking, and understanding. In time, the skills of reading and writing enrich this experience. Communicating is a two-way activity; as well as learning to share their experiences with others children also learn to interpret what others are sharing with them. They communicate in many different ways including facial expressions, gestures, body movements, sounds, language and for some children, through assistive technology. Children’s language is more than words, phrases and sentences. It includes art, Braille, dance, drama, music, poetry, pictures, sculpture, signing, and stories. While most children eventually master spoken and written language as their key means of communicating, they continue to speak through their gestures, body movements and expressions to a greater or lesser extent. Some children with special educational needs may need additional and consistent support throughout their lifetime to practise, learn and perfect the art of non-verbal communication.
Being a good communicator is crucial to children’s development. The adult encourages children to communicate by listening to them, interpreting what they are saying, responding to them, and by modelling good communication. The adult also provides an environment which motivates children to interact with each other and the adult, and with the objects and places in it. By capturing children’s interest and curiosity and challenging them to explore and to share their adventures and discoveries with others, this environment can fuel their thinking, imagination and creativity, thereby enriching communication. These early experiences support children in becoming confident and competent communicators.
In our pre-school we:
- encourage the children to develop their non-verbal communication,
- help the children in developing their listening skills,
- encourage kids to think and talk about their own and others’ feelings,
- support pupils in developing their language,
- provide a print-rich environment and foster kids love of, excitement in, understanding of, and use of books,
- provide opportunities for young children to make sense of their experiences by representing their thoughts and ideas through mark-making and early writing,
- use mathematical language in everyday situations and develop children’s understanding of numbers in the environment,
- help the pupils to express themselves creatively through art, cookery, drama, language, music, scientific exploration, and stories,
Theme: Exploring and Thinking
The theme of Exploring and Thinking is about children making sense of the things, places and people in their world by interacting with others, playing, investigating, questioning, and forming, testing and refining ideas.
Children use their senses, their minds and their bodies to find out about and make sense of what they see, feel and experience in the world around them. They gather information and develop new skills, including thinking skills. They form ideas and theories and test these out. They refine their ideas through exploring their environment actively and through interacting and communicating with adults and with other children. Much of this happens through play and other experiences that allow children to be creative, to take risks, and to make discoveries. As they learn, they retest their theories adjusting them to take on board new discoveries and new experiences.
In early childhood, most children develop physically and cognitively through exploring their environment, though some have disabilities that make this more difficult to achieve. As well as building knowledge and developing skills, children also need to develop positive dispositions and attitudes towards learning. They have an innate drive to get to know the workings of their world. The adult can foster learning by planning activities for them through which they can experience success as learners. This means planning activities that are suited to children’s individual needs and connect with their experiences and interests while at the same time challenging them to extend their knowledge, refine their skills, and work together to solve problems.
In our pre-school we:
- enable children to develop physical skills,
- extends children’s knowledge about their world,
- encourage young children to get involved in projects which enable them to explore a topic that interests them, or an experience they really enjoyed,
- encourage kids to think deeply about things by using discussion techniques, listening carefully to them and building on what they know,
- use play and real-life experiences to classify, sequence, sort, match, look for and create patterns and shapes,
- enable kids to develop an understanding of concepts like measures (weight, height, volume, money and time),
- build on children’s natural curiosity and help them to experiment and investigate change,
- encourage young children to experiment with colour, shape, size, and texture to represent ideas,
- use symbols to help young children learn from and use their environment,
- model the writing process and help pupils to record their experiences and thoughts,
The complete information about Aistear can be foud here.(Opens in new page)
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