Every year, we’re becoming more attuned to the diverse needs of pre-school-aged children. New teaching aids and ideas can help in different ways; to engage children’s attention, to reinforce skills and values, and to give teachers feedback on learning outcomes.
Over the last decade, methods of teaching have changed drastically as technologies have emerged, and our understanding of the various needs of children has grown.
Let’s look at the most essential tools for teaching in early childhood in 2024.
In this blog:
1. Sensory and manipulative materials
Everyone – children and adults alike – use their senses to explore, test and make sense of the world. It’s why we touch fabrics and pat our pets. Sensory play helps children learn and process new information using the five senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste.
For decades children have loved materials that stimulate the senses, such as playdough, sand, slime, clay, beads, water and magnets. All of these foster fine motor, sensory and spatial skills.
Today, there are more sensory products available than ever. It’s possible to create sensory corners with touchable walls, hanging textures and fabrics, and specific toys designed to stimulate exploration, movement and simply having fun.
2. Virtual reality devices
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) devices create incredibly immersive and awe-filled experiences for children. AR devices overlay images or information over the top of the real world (for instance, having a lion suddenly prowling in front of you). VR transports the user into a simulated world, which means there is no limit to what can be imagined or seen.
These devices aren’t necessarily single-player either, although some are operated using individual headsets, glasses or goggles. It’s also possible to use projectors or apps mirrored to a screen or TV for a whole class to engage with.
AR and VR provide a unique way to teach a variety of subjects with a ‘real world’ glimpse of history, geography, culture, nature and space. Games and simulated experiences can develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, too.
3. Robotics and coding kits
Another newcomer to early childcare centres is robotics and coding kits. Intended primarily for pre-schoolers, the opportunity to explore robotics and coding opens up the basics of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It helps develop logical thinking, creativity and problem-solving.
These kits typically include motors, wires, batteries, sensors and controllers or software that are used to create machines, toys, robots and more. Some of the kits available today are truly incredible – everything from wind-powered energy to password-controlled money boxes.
4. Cultural materials
Accepting and understanding different cultures is vital in today’s diverse communities. Materials that explore topics such as food, clothing, history and art allows children to appreciate their local community and the cultures of other children.
Using multicultural resources such as books, toys, art and fabrics also fosters an important sense of belonging for all children. In particular, authentic Indigenous resources help to highlight Australia’s history and respect for First Nations people.
5. Music and movement resources
Music resources aren’t just toy tambourines and harmonicas anymore (although those still have a place in modern learning!). Music incorporates all types of movement and physical creativity: dance, yoga, singing, exercise and more.
The need for physical movement has become clear in recent years as children spend more time on devices. Music and movement resources such as instruments, recording devices, speakers or headphones expose children to different genres of music, rhythms and melodies.
Props such as scarves, ribbons, hoops, mats, cushions and bean bags all encourage free movement such as dancing or doing actions in time with the music, as well as encourage singing, dancing and coordination skills.
6. Big toys for gross motor skills
Children love playing with big things: giant blocks, enormous dominoes, hoops, outdoor games and big puzzles. Large toys help develop gross motor skills, such as being able to build a giant tower without it falling over. It also promotes cognitive skills such as logical thinking and problem-solving.
Big toys and games often end up becoming collaborative events for groups of children, promoting cooperative play and team-building skills.
Gross motor skill toys also help children to grasp how their bodies work in relation to big items, including basic skills such as carrying heavy objects, balance, stacking skills, distance and height.
7. Role-play activities
Children love to mimic what they see adults do, which is why giving the opportunity for role play is so important. Role-play gives children the ability to explore the world, use their imagination, and even act out and resolve conflict.
Today, there are so many resources for creating imaginative role play. Outside the classic kitchen, there are now fantastic kits for vets, surgeons, baristas, restaurants, sushi bars, and so much more.
Sourcing teaching aids
In Australia, one of the best resources for teaching aids in childcare centres is Modern Teaching Aids (MTA). Teaching aids can also be found through online stores and blogs, as well as recommendations from other childcare centres and online groups.