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Thursday 13 August 2020

Technology Ideas for the Early Years

When we think about what ICT and technology looks like for young children, it can be easy to assume that the focus is placed firmly on screen technology such as computers, ipads, tablets and other screens, but this isn't the case at all...


Technology for children, particularly in the Early Years, involves objects which work in different ways, for different purposes...Equipment which involves 'technology' to achieve an outcome or an effect. Mechanical toys with simple mechanisms, which allow children to investigate those "what will happen if..?" ideas...and of course, child-safe resources for children to act out scenarios within their play which may mimic real life technology used by adults.

Within this post I am going to suggest some ideas for technology for young children which can help to enhance learning through play  by offering exciting resources. I will also be adding a list of technology ideas to my Amazon Associate storefront (affiliate) for you to browse through. 

Technology Ideas for the Early Years

***some of the ideas in this post will be amazon affiliate links - this means that I may earn commission on qualifying purchases, although this wont cost you any more. Some products were gifted items for the purpose or writing this post. Gifted and affiliate links  will include an asterisk. Thank you for supporting my blog ***

Would you look at the image above of a role play kitchen and think of this as 'technology'? More likely you'd see this as an opportunity for imaginative play, mathematical concepts, taking on a role and perhaps some literacy...but this area of provision includes items that mimic real life technology: microwaves, cookers, taps. Children will utilise these resources as if they were real life technology (depending on their experiences) watching how others play, and enhancing their understanding of technology within every day life. This is just one of the types of 'technology' you may see within an early years setting, and something I will explore further below....

Different types of technology within the Early Years:

Sometimes, it can be hard to spot technology - or indeed to identify a resource as such and understand the technological play value it holds for young children. It is likely that you already have a lot of technology  already in use without even realising it holds this type of value for young children. Here are some of the main types of resources you may see or use within play that count as technology for young children...

Every day technology role-play  resources:

Here are some other examples of every day technology that children may use within a role-play scenario, which may not function as technology itself, but mimic real-life items that do:

Everyday vintage, heuristic or real life items that have technological play value:

These items are often manual items that you may not always consider to be 'technology' purely because they don't require batteries, electricity or have a screen. Some may be early electrical items which work differently to their modern day counterparts. Either way, they all have a 'cause and effect' mechanism base on the technological advancements of their day. These items not only allow children to explore different types of technology, but also offer rich learning experiences when it comes to discussing past and present and the the world of those around them...

Typewriters can be used and shown alongside early electrical typewriters, desktops, laptops and tablets to show a progression of technology through the years. Vintage typewriters such as this are brilliant for young children to explore and understand how words make it onto paper as they are able to see the print being stamped through the ribbon as the keys are pressed...

You may have seen this idea in my previous post "coffee beans sensory play tray". As well as being a brilliant cause and effect piece of technology, using the coffee beans grinder helps children with their proprioceptive input by adding a little resistance when using the muscles and the joints in the arm and shoulders and also develops motor muscle planning by having to appropriately sequence and time body movements to reach a desired outcome with refined control

We all know how brilliant mirrors are for aiding role play, and also for recognising emotions. Add in a light up mirror and this doubles up as a brilliant piece of technology to add into the mix too when exploring reflections... 

Of course, balance scales don't need to be vintage - they will work in the same way and newer models and are great for checking and comparing weights against modern day battery powered scales! Balance scales are also great for working on calculations with numicon (which is weighted), to make and check calculation answers. Children can explore scales independently by filling , adding and removing objects and noticing what happens when they add and take away weights and objects.

Purpose made technology toys and resources for children:

Of course, there are some resources that are made for children with technology in mind! You can find a full list of items over on my *technology and ICT list here, but here I am going to give you some examples and information on some resources we have tried and loved!

Learning Resources GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope*

This microscope from Learning Resources is perfect for little ones to explore and investigate resources independently...
hild looking into Learning Resources GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope
With 2 large eye pieces  (perfect for little ones to have a look at their treasures without needing to close one eye)  this microscope was made with little ones in mind! Easy to turn handles for zooming in and out, and an easy to push LED light - this Learning Resources microscope helps children to investigate independently without the help of an adult...
birds eye view of Learning Resources GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope
The children absolutely loved exploring with their microscope, as you can see by their faces, they were fascinated by their discoveries! I set out some natural items and loose parts and we also went on a treasure hunt in the garden...
Child looking through  Learning Resources geosafari my first microscope
Not pictured is the giant dead moth that Charlotte wanted to have a look at, and then decided to snip the wings in half to have a look at what happened...always be prepared for 'what if' activities to take unexpected turns when following a child-led approach!
Child looking through Learning Resources first microscope
This microscope is sturdy and robust enough to cope with little hands, but also light enough to be moved around the room. We have placed ours on our science shelf ready to be used whenever the children find something interesting and want to have a closer look! You can see some images of all of our past 'shelfies' over on my instagram highlights.

John Adams Power Tracks* with Volty the coding robot:

I have previously used other coding robots with my EYFS class as a Teacher so I was interested to try this one out with the children to see how it compared!

This did not disappoint, and it offered a little extra in terms of 'thinking skills' when attempting to follow one of the 20 circuit tracks that come with the robot. Of course, you can use this without the circuits, but the tracks offer little extra enhancements as Volty the robot moves over them such as noises, or flashing eyes! 

The circuit tracks do become more difficult as you move through them, offering a good deal of challenge, and even I had to have a good think when helping to complete some of the larger tracks!

The robot did sometimes need adjusting on the tracks if it wandered off the line slightly, and my only negative about this one is that we couldn't find a way of 'continuing' the code if we wanted to test a short portion and then carry on. (If you've found a way of doing this please let me know!)
children playing with volty the coding robot and john adams power tracks
Coding is a really important skill within modern day technology. For our youngest children , this involves giving a set of instructions to be followed in order to achieve a desired result. Coding a robot is essentially telling it which movements to make and in which order, in order to reach an end point. Both Arthur and Charlotte enjoyed accessing this power tracks coding robot at their own developmental stage. Charlotte enjoyed making movements without the use of the tracks, at its most simple 'cause and effect' level. Arthur enjoyed the more complex stages of working out which movements he would need to programme in to make Volty move in the right way.
children playing with volty the coding robot and power tracks

Another brilliant use for technology is to use recordable microphones for a talking station to help with emotions  which you can read more about here.

Marty the Robot is another great idea for how to make STEM fun.

So as you can see, there are SO many ways of incorporating technology into the Early Years without simply using screens, tablets, computers. It is important for children to have access to technology as it is a huge part of the world we live in, and understanding how it can enhance learning is crucial. Technology is not something to shy away from - it really can help engage learners and give them an extra something to access the curriculum and make it much more 'fun' and therefore more memorable.

Do you use technology with your children? Let me know your favourite resources...

Sarah x 

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