What is active learning in early childhood?

10 August, 2021

You’ve probably heard terms like “active learning”, “creative learning” and “play-based learning” bandied around when it comes to early childhood education, but what do they actually mean, and how do they impact your child? In this blog, we provide an in-depth analysis of active learning to answer the question: What is creative learning in early years education?

There’s learning, and then there’s active learning – when a student doesn’t just take in information but participates or interacts with the learning process. Research indicates that active participation in education helps students learn more, as it encourages the brain to tap into the cognitive and sensory networks that help process and store new information. Activities involving discussions, practice, reviews, problem solving, and group work are all great ways to facilitate active learning. In the Early Learning industry, the term can be interchangeable with ‘creative learning’ and ‘play based learning’.

So, what is play-based learning in early years education? It can look like:

  • Drawing, painting and making prints
  • Emptying and filling containers with water, sand, etc.
  • Climbing, swinging and running
  • Singing, dancing and clapping
  • Playing with dolls or objects
  • Puzzles, books and more!

Active learning approaches

Edge has become an example of what cognitive learning should look like in early childhood programs. Some of the key approaches we pursue include:

  • Inquiry-based learning: Involving children in planning, investigating, explanations and finding solutions, allowing them to communicate in a variety of ways.
  • Play-based learning: Offering opportunities for children to engage actively and imaginatively with people, objects, and their environment, and develop skills through experiences and play possibilities.
  • Event-based approach: Encouraging children to plan and enact events by drawing on their experiences and knowledge, including investigations, problem-solving and play.

Among the many benefits of active learning, your child will experience improved self-esteem, gross and fine motor skills, memory recall, problem solving, communication, teamwork, social behaviours, engagement in and out of the classroom, concentration, and confidence – just to name a few!

Why is active learning effective?

The power of active learning lies in the key principles that define it. These principles include:

  • The knowledge that learning involves the active construction of meaning, where the learner links new information with what they already know.
  • A distinction between the processes of learning facts and learning to do something, helping educators understand why a student may know a set of facts but not how to apply them to a problem.
  • An understanding that some learnings are context-specific, while others are more transferrable to other contexts. There is a growing recognition that transferring information requires learned skills.
  • A recognition that many individuals learn more with others than when they are alone.
  • The acknowledgement that articulating explanations – be it to themselves, their peers, or their teachers – helps individuals facilitate meaningful learning.

How is active learning different from other approaches?

Active learning is seen as the opposite to passive learning, an approach where the learning is generated from the teacher and absorbed by the learner. In the simplest terms, active learning asks students to think, discuss, challenge, and analyse information, while passive learning requires the absorption, assimilation, consideration, and transfer of information. This isn’t to say that one is necessarily better than the other – a university lecture is a good example of where passive learning is more effective than active learning – but rather, that active learning is typically better suited to an early childhood context.

Want to know more?

Edge Early Learning provides children with a holistic learning experience and inquiry-based approach to trigger curiosity and build key developmental skills.  If you would like to find out more, contact one of our friendly team members or book a tour of your local Edge Early Learning Centre today!


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