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"That's Too Hard, Kids Can't Do That!" - Debunking Age Appropriateness Myths in Children's Play-based Learning

In my extensive experience as an educator and centre manager/coordinator in both long daycare and out-of-school hours care (OSHC), I've often encountered the phrases, "That's too hard, kids can't do that," or "It's not age-appropriate." These statements, though well-intentioned, can significantly hinder a child's potential and learning journey. At Beyond the Beanstalk, we challenge these misconceptions by fostering an environment where play-based learning and opportunities for trial and error are paramount.


The Importance of Play-Based Learning

Play-based learning is not just a buzzword in early childhood education; it's a fundamental approach to developing a child's cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Through play, children explore, experiment, and make sense of the world around them. It is through these hands-on experiences that they learn best. When children engage in play, they are not just having fun—they are solving problems, thinking creatively, and learning how to interact with others.

At Beyond the Beanstalk, our workshops are

designed to harness the power of play.

Whether it's our Storytime STEM for the youngest learners or our more advanced Stepped Up STEM for older children, each session is crafted to provide meaningful, engaging, and challenging activities that promote deep learning.


Building Upon Experiences

Children learn best when they can build upon previous experiences. This means providing them with opportunities to revisit concepts, try new things, and make mistakes. Learning is not a linear process; it involves a lot of trial and error. When children are allowed to experiment and explore, they develop a growth mindset. They understand that failure is not a setback but a step towards mastery.

I recently attended a workshop as a Beyond the Beanstalk presenter, and an incident perfectly illustrated this point. A child approached me with their STEM project, demanding that I complete it for them. I gently reminded them of my rule: they must have three good tries before I can help. On their second attempt, the child successfully completed the task, much to their delight and their educator's astonishment. This moment of triumph would not have been possible if the child hadn't been given the opportunity to try, fail, and try again.


Encouraging Higher-Order Thinking

If we don't allow children to attempt tasks that initially seem beyond their capabilities, we are denying them the chance to develop higher-order thinking skills. These skills—such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity—are crucial for their future success. By providing challenges that require them to think deeply and work persistently, we are extending their cognitive abilities and preparing them for more complex tasks.

Our Beyond the Beanstalk workshops are a testament to this philosophy. We believe that even a two-year-old can tackle a challenge, whether it's counting the legs on a millipede or understanding different ways to tell a story. For older children, tasks like transforming a 2D shape into a 3D structure using bulldog clips push them to think critically and creatively.


The Ripple Effect of Enjoyment and Learning

When children are given the freedom to explore and the support to persevere through challenges, the enjoyment they derive from their achievements creates a ripple effect. This sense of accomplishment and joy fosters a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom. They become more confident, more curious, and more willing to take on new challenges.

As educators, it is our responsibility to create environments where children feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. By doing so, we are not just teaching them academic skills but life skills. We are helping them develop resilience, perseverance, and a growth mindset.


Beyond the Beanstalk: Pushing Boundaries in STEM Education

At Beyond the Beanstalk, we are committed to pushing the boundaries of what is considered age-appropriate in STEM education. Our workshops are designed to be adaptable, catering to the developmental stages of children from as young as two years old to those nearing the end of their primary school journey.

Our approach is simple yet effective: we provide the tools, the environment, and the encouragement for children to explore and experiment. We believe that every child has the potential to excel in STEM, and it's our job to unlock that potential by providing opportunities that challenge and inspire them.

In conclusion, the notion that certain tasks are "too hard" or "not age-appropriate" underestimates the capabilities of children. Through play-based learning, building upon experiences, and encouraging higher-order thinking, we can help children achieve more than we ever thought possible. At Beyond the Beanstalk, we are proud to lead the way in innovative, engaging, and challenging STEM education.

Visit our website at www.beyondthebeanstalk.com.au to learn more about our workshops and how we can help your child reach their full potential.


 

Liz, from Beyond the Beanstalk, smiling warmly in a bright room with plants in the background.
Liz from Beyond the Beanstalk

Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, with over 15 years of invaluable education experience, is the co-founder of Beyond the Beanstalk. Her rich background in education, coupled with a passion for innovative learning environments propels Beyond the Beanstalk's mission of inspiring educators and students alike. With a wealth of expertise, Elizabeth is dedicated to revolutionising education and making STEM accessible for all.

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