As parents we have dreams for our children. We hope they will live happy lives with a sense of purpose. But how do we make sure children learn all the skills they’ll need in the early years to reach their potential? Teaching learning dispositions is one way to do that.

What are learning dispositions?

Defining Learning Dispositions

Alright, lovely mums out there, let’s have a chinwag about this fancy term ‘learning dispositions’. Imagine your little one is like a tiny explorer, right? They’re curious, they’re poking their noses into everything, and sometimes they’re as stubborn as a mule when they’re trying to stack those blocks just so. Learning dispositions are like their adventure kit

  • the attitudes, habits, and mindsets they carry along on their journey of understanding the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘What on Earth does that actually mean?’ Well, it’s all about how our kiddos approach learning. It’s not just about stuffing their heads with facts and figures; it’s about nurturing an understanding that learning is a thrilling quest, full of uncertainty and surprises. We want to equip them with robust dispositions that help them to tackle challenges, be creative, and keep on trying even when the going gets tough.

  • Curiosity: They’ve got to wonder why the sky is blue, or why the snail is so slow.
  • Persistence: Like when they fall off the scooter but hop right back on.
  • Confidence: Believing they can be the next Picasso, even if their drawing looks like a blob.

It’s not about creating mini Einsteins; it’s about fostering a love for learning that will stick with them through thick and thin.

So, next time your little one is making a mess in the name of science, or asking ‘why’ for the hundredth time, just remember, they’re building their learning dispositions. And that, my friends, is something to celebrate!

The Role of Dispositions in Child Development

Alright, lovely mums out there, let’s chat about something that’s as important to our little ones as that extra scoop of ice-cream on a sunny day – the role of dispositions in child development. Now, when we talk about dispositions, we’re really talking about those traits that make our kiddos who they are. You know, like how my little Tommy has a tendency to explore every nook and cranny of the garden, or his sister Sally can spend hours drawing circles and hearts with her crayons.

These tendencies aren’t just cute quirks; they’re the building blocks of the development of positive dispositions. And trust me, fostering these in the early years is like giving your child a superpower for learning. It’s all about nurturing those natural inclinations that help them engage with the world in a positive, curious, and resilient way.

Here’s a little list of some common children’s learning dispositions that you might spot in your own mini-me:

  • Curiosity: Always asking ‘why?’, ‘what’s that?’, and ‘how does it work?’
  • Persistence: Not giving up on fitting the square block in the round hole, bless them.
  • Creativity: Turning a cardboard box into a spaceship or a castle.
  • Cooperation: Sharing toys (sometimes) and playing nicely with others (fingers crossed).

And while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget that these children’s dispositions are like tiny seeds that need the right environment to grow. A bit of sunshine here, a sprinkle of water there, and voila! You’ve got a blooming little learner.

So, as we go about our day, picking up toys for the umpteenth time and wondering if we’ll ever drink a hot cup of tea again, let’s remember that every little interaction is an opportunity to nurture these dispositions. It’s the chats during bath time, the patience when they’ve poured cereal all over the floor again, and the encouragement when they’re trying something new. It’s the messy, beautiful, exhausting journey of motherhood that helps these dispositions take root and flourish.

Examples of Key Learning Dispositions

Alright, lovely mums out there, let’s chat about those magical ingredients that make our little ones into eager beavers of learning. We’re talking about learning tendencies that shape the way our kiddos approach learning. Now, don’t fret if this sounds like jargon from a child development textbook; it’s actually pretty straightforward and super important for our munchkins’ growth.

  • Curiosity: This is the spark that lights the fire of learning. It’s that adorable ‘why’ phase that seems never-ending. But hey, it’s their way of making sense of the world, so let’s embrace it!
  • Perseverance: We’ve all seen it, that determined little face when they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. They’ll try and try, and that’s perseverance, my friends. It’s a golden habit of mind.
  • Cooperation: It’s not just about playing nice; it’s about learning to work together. From building a tower of blocks to taking turns on the slide, they’re learning valuable lessons in teamwork.
  • Enthusiasm: Whether it’s a squeal of delight at a butterfly or a happy dance when they’ve mastered a new skill, enthusiasm is contagious and a cornerstone of positive learning behaviours.
  • Courage: It takes guts to try something new, doesn’t it? When our little ones take that leap, whether it’s a first step or a jump into a new activity, that’s courage in action.

And let’s not forget, every child is unique, with their own particular ways of exploring and understanding the world. As mums, we get front row seats to the most extraordinary show – watching our confident learners grow.

Now, I remember when my little one first faced a puzzle. It was a scene of intense concentration followed by triumph! Puzzles are brilliant for developing cognitive skills and positive learning dispositions ece like problem solving and patience. And let’s be honest, isn’t it just a tiny bit hilarious watching them try to jam pieces together in the most peculiar ways?

Lastly, a tip from one mum to another: ask those reflective questions. ‘What do you think will happen if…?’ or ‘How did that make you feel?’ It’s all about encouraging them to consider their own point of view and become reflective thinkers. So, let’s raise a cuppa to our little explorers and their wonderful world of learning!

Content knowledge – the old way of learning

Traditional Learning Models

Oh, the good old days of learning, when everything was as structured as a bento box lunch! We all remember sitting in rows, reciting times tables, and memorising the kings and queens of England until the cows came home. But let’s have a chinwag about whether this approach was the bee’s knees for our little ones, shall we?

Traditional teaching methods have their place, but are they the golden ticket for early years students? I’ll let you in on a little secret: while these methods might have turned us into walking encyclopaedias, they weren’t always spot on for fostering the ‘kei tua‘ – that’s Maori for ‘beyond’ – in our children’s learning journey.

We’ve seen a shift from a content-heavy focus to recognising the importance of learning outcomes that prepare our kiddos for the real world.

Here’s a cheeky list of what traditional learning often looked like:

  • Teacher at the front, chalk in hand
  • Students absorbing information like little sponges
  • Lessons focused on facts and figures
  • Success measured by the ability to regurgitate information

And while there’s a time and place for knowing your 2 times tables, we’re now understanding that learning is about so much more. It’s about curiosity, problem-solving, and, yes, even failing and picking ourselves back up. So, let’s raise our cups of tea to the new way of learning, where outcomes are king and our children are taught to think outside the box!

Limitations of Content-Focused Education

Let’s have a little natter about the old school way of teaching, shall we? Picture this: a classroom where the little ones are sat in rows, heads down, memorising facts and figures until the cows come home. It’s all about content, content, content. But here’s the rub – not all kiddos are cut from the same cloth, and this one-size-fits-all approach can leave some tots trailing behind.

  • Some critics are fretting that a one-track curriculum framework might not be the bee’s knees for every child, especially those from diverse backgrounds.
  • There’s a worry it could put the brakes on reading and writing, need more resources than a bake sale can fund, and not quite get the munchkins ready for the big leagues of schooling.
  • And let’s not forget about catering to the different types of learners – we’ve all got one who’s a mover and a shaker, and another who’s happy as Larry with a book.

In the grand tapestry of early childhood education, it’s clear that a content-focused syllabus might just miss a few stitches. It’s not just about stuffing their noggins with knowledge; it’s about lighting that spark of curiosity and giving them the tools to keep the fire burning.

So, while we’re all for giving our little darlings the best start, it’s worth pondering if the traditional way is the right way. After all, we want them to soar, not just score, right?

The Shift Towards Skills and Dispositions

So, we’ve been chatting about how the old school, content-heavy learning is a bit like trying to remember the entire phone book – not much fun, right? Well, hold onto your hats, because we’re now embracing a world where learning is about picking up new things like soft skills, not just stuffing facts into our noggins. It’s a bit like swapping a hefty encyclopaedia for a nifty smartphone that helps you navigate the world.

Picture this: your little one isn’t just learning to count; they’re learning to be curious about numbers, to enjoy the puzzle of a maths problem. That’s the beauty of focusing on the acquisition of knowledge as a journey, not a destination. It’s about the sparkle in their eyes when they explore new experiences, not just the gold star on a chart.

In New Zealand, they’ve got this fab early childhood curriculum called Te Whāriki. Think of it like this: learning and development become a thrilling adventure, hand-in-hand! It’s not just about the destination, but the journey itself – that’s what makes all the difference. It’s like giving kids a treasure map where the biggest treasure is not just what they find, but how they get there.

Now, let’s break it down with a list of what these soft skills might include:

  • Communication: Chatting about their day or arguing the merits of why bedtime should be later.
  • Collaboration: Working together to build the tallest Lego tower known to mankind.
  • Critical thinking: Figuring out the best way to get the biscuit without being caught.
  • Creativity: Turning a cardboard box into a spaceship, obviously.
  • Confidence: Strutting into preschool like they own the place.

All these skills are super important for the real world. They’re the tools that’ll help our kiddos thrive in a future we can’t even imagine yet. So, let’s give a round of applause for play-based learning, because, as it turns out, it’s not just fun and games – it’s the secret sauce for raising brilliant little humans.

Learning dispositions – a new way of learning

How are dispositions taught at early childhood services?

Oh, the joys of early childhood education! It’s not all ABCs and 123s, you know. It’s about nurturing those little sparks of curiosity and the ‘I can do it!’ attitude that we see in our young children. Early childhood teachers are like gardeners, carefully tending to each child’s growth, making sure they bloom beautifully.

In New Zealand, we’re quite proud of our new zealand early childhood education curriculum. It’s all about giving the child’s voice a platform and weaving the child’s interests into the daily activities. It’s not just about what they learn, but how they learn it. And let me tell you, it’s a breath of fresh air!

At my little one’s nursery, they’ve got this fantastic way of incorporating children’s attitudes into everything they do. It’s not just play; it’s high-quality childcare with a purpose. They observe, they listen, and they guide. It’s like watching a dance where every step is both intentional and full of joy.

Here’s a little peek at how these dispositions come to life:

  • Curiosity: They set up little mystery boxes around the room. You should see the kids’ eyes light up when they find them!
  • Resilience: When things don’t go as planned, the teachers are right there, encouraging the kiddos to try again, turning ‘oops’ into ‘a-ha’ moments.
  • Collaboration: They have these group projects where everyone’s ideas are valued. It’s like a mini United Nations in there!
  • Independence: They encourage the little ones to choose their activities based on what they fancy. It’s all about fostering that early learning spark.
  • Creativity: The art corner is a riot of colours and imagination. It’s where the magic happens, and trust me, it’s messy magic!

So, while we’re sipping our much-needed cuppa, rest assured that our little treasures are in good hands, developing the kind of learning behaviours that will help them navigate the big wide world. And that, my fellow mums, is something to raise our teacups to!

How can parents teach dispositional learning at home?

Alright, lovely mums out there, let’s have a chinwag about something that’s as important as that morning cuppa – teaching our little ones to be lifelong learners. Now, don’t worry, it’s not about turning your living room into a classroom; it’s about nurturing those nifty learning behaviour in everyday life.

First things first, let’s remember that our kiddos are natural-born learners, and our homes are brimming with opportunities for children’s learning. It’s like hiding veggies in their spaghetti bolognese; they won’t even know they’re getting the good stuff! Here’s a cheeky list to get you started:

  • Encourage curiosity: When they ask ‘Why is the sky blue?’, instead of a sigh, think ‘Aha! A teaching moment!’.
  • Praise the process: Celebrate the effort, not just the end result. ‘Wow, you worked so hard on that Lego tower, even though it went all wibbly-wobbly!’
  • Model learning: Let them see you struggle and succeed. ‘Mummy’s trying to learn Spanish, and it’s tougher than finding a matching pair of socks on laundry day!’

Now, I know what you’re thinking – ‘But how do I actually do this without a teaching degree?’ Don’t worry, because it’s all about the approach. It’s about being there, engaging with your child’s learning journey, and making it as fun as a tickle fight.

Real Life Example

My daughter gets a bit flustered with those big math numbers, especially with subtraction. But I’ve come up with a little trick that seems to help and gets her excited about it, too!

I knew she loved coloring, crafts, game night, so I came up with a Subtraction Scavenger Hunt

All I do is hide cards with subtraction problems on them around her room.  I make sure to start with easier ones and then they get a bit harder. She’s got to find them all and solve the problems. Now, here’s the fun bit – I have a special picture ready for her to colour in. Each answer matches a colour, so she fills in the picture according to her answers.

It was brilliant because she’s so focused on the hunt and the colouring, she doesn’t even realise how much maths practice she’s getting! It keeps her curious – she’s always eager to find the next card. And getting those answers right gives her such a confidence boost.

The Impact of Playful Learning on Dispositions

Oh, the wonders of play! It’s like a secret sauce for  all those fabulous learning behaviours in our little ones. Playfulness isn’t just about having a giggle; it’s a serious business when it comes to development. Imagine this: your kiddo, dressed as a superhero, is saving the world one stuffed animal at a time. It’s not just adorable; it’s them learning resilience, problem-solving, and how to be involved learners.

Through play, children become mini-explorers, scientists, and artists, all while they think it’s just fun and games. They’re building a foundation of enthusiasm that’ll stick with them like gum on a shoe.

Now, let’s break it down a bit, shall we? Here’s a cheeky list of what our little adventurers gain from play:

  • Resilience: Falling down and getting back up again in the playground teaches more than just physical balance.
  • Playfulness: It’s the spark that ignites imagination and creativity, turning a cardboard box into a spaceship.
  • Involved Learners: They’re not just playing; they’re fully immersed, like little sponges soaking up every experience.

So, next time you see your child knee-deep in Lego or hosting a tea party for their teddies, remember they’re doing some serious learning. And the best part? They’re having a blast doing it!

The Role of Play in Developing Learning Dispositions

Understanding Play-Based Learning

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of play-based learning, shall we? Imagine your little one, apron on, splashing paint on a sheet of paper bigger than they are, with a grin that’s just as wide. That’s play-based learning in action! It’s all about letting the kiddos learn through what they do best – play. It’s not just fun and games; it’s serious learning in disguise.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘How does my child playing with blocks teach them anything?’ Well, it’s a bit like magic, but with a sprinkle of science. Through play, children explore the world, test out ideas, and learn to solve problems. Here’s a quick rundown of what they pick up along the way:

  • Creativity: From building a fort out of cushions to drawing a family of stick figures, play encourages little minds to think outside the toy box.
  • Social Skills: Sharing toys (or not) is often where the first negotiations happen. It’s the start of learning to get along with others.
  • Physical Development: Climbing, jumping, and running around like a superhero are all in a day’s play and great for growing bodies.
  • Emotional Growth: Ever seen a toddler throw a tea party for their stuffed animals? That’s them working on empathy and understanding emotions.

And here’s the kicker – as a mum, you’re the secret ingredient in this learning recipe. Your encouragement and the way you talk about their play can turn a simple game into a brain-building power session.

So, next time you see your little one deep in play, remember, they’re not just making a mess (although, let’s be honest, that’s a given), they’re crafting their future one giggle at a time. And that’s something worth stepping on a Lego for, right?

Real-Life and Imaginary Play: Extending Children’s Thinking

Oh, the joy of watching our little ones dive into the unknown world of make-believe! It’s not just about donning a cape and declaring themselves superheroes (though, let’s be honest, that’s pretty adorable). It’s about them tapping into their creativity and problem-solving skills. They’re not just playing; they’re learning to navigate life’s little challenges, one dragon-slaying adventure at a time.

When our kiddos engage in pretend play, they’re not just amusing themselves. They’re acting out complex scenarios, juggling different perspectives, and learning to walk in someone else’s tiny shoes. It’s like they’re running their own little empathy marathons!

And it’s not all about the solo quests, either. When they team up with their pint-sized pals, they’re honing those all-important social skills. They learn to share, negotiate, and sometimes, to lead the charge against the cookie-jar monsters. Here’s a little list of how these play sessions can sprinkle a bit of magic into their development:

  • Creativity: Dressing up as pirates searching for treasure? They’re not just swashbuckling; they’re story-weaving.
  • Language Skills: Ever heard a toddler explain the rules of their made-up game? It’s like a crash course in linguistics!
  • Social Skills: Sharing a toy or taking turns being the ‘shopkeeper’ is the toddler version of networking.

So, next time you see your child chatting away to an imaginary friend or building a fortress out of sofa cushions, remember they’re doing some serious brain-building. And who knows, today’s cushion fort could be the early blueprint for tomorrow’s architectural masterpiece!

Scaffolding Learning Through Play

Oh, the joys of watching our little ones play! It’s like a front-row seat to the most imaginative Broadway show, but instead of seasoned actors, we have our pint-sized Picassos and mini Mozarts. Now, as mums, we know that play isn’t just about having a giggle. It’s about building a strong foundation for those nifty learning experiences that stick.

You see, when our kiddos are deep in play, they’re not just mucking about. They’re little scientists, testing theories and solving the world’s problems, one Lego brick at a time. And that’s where we come in with a sprinkle of encouragement and a dash of guidance. We’re the scaffolding to their skyscrapers of imagination, subtly supporting their learning without taking over the show.

Play is the secret sauce to learning, and we’re the chefs in this gourmet experience of growth.

Here’s a little list of how we can keep the scaffolding sturdy and the play productive:

  • Provide the right tools: Just like a builder needs a hammer, our kids need the right toys and materials that challenge and excite them.
  • Observe and engage: Keep an eye out for what sparks their interest and jump in with questions that’ll get those gears turning.
  • Step back when needed: Sometimes, the best thing we can do is take a step back and let them figure it out. It’s like watching a chick hatch; they’ve got to do it on their own to strengthen those wings.

Remember, every block stacked, every pretend cup of tea poured, and every fort built is a step towards a future where they’re ready to take on the world. And isn’t that just the most exciting thing?


In conclusion, the shift from traditional content knowledge to learning dispositions represents a significant evolution in early childhood education. Emphasising dispositions such as curiosity, resilience, and collaboration prepares children not just for academic success, but for lifelong learning and adaptability. Early childhood services and parents alike play a pivotal role in nurturing these dispositions, creating environments where play is not only encouraged but strategically used to scaffold learning experiences. As we’ve explored, the benefits of this approach are manifold, fostering not only cognitive development but also social skills and emotional well-being. It is clear that by supporting learning behaviour from a young age, we equip children with the tools necessary to navigate an ever-changing world with confidence and creativity.

Helpful Resources:

  • You can find out more about early childhood terminology on the Education Review Office (ERO) website.
  • Now that you know more about learning dispositions, find out more about early childhood development in our Preschoolers section.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly are learning dispositions?

Learning dispositions are the tendencies or attitudes that influence how a child approaches learning. They include characteristics such as curiosity, persistence, and flexibility, which can shape a child’s engagement with learning activities and their overall educational development.

How do learning dispositions affect early childhood development?

Learning dispositions affect early childhood development by guiding the ways in which children interact with their learning environments. Positive dispositions can lead to a more proactive, engaged, and resilient approach to learning, which is crucial for early development.

Can you provide some examples of key learning dispositions?

Key learning behaviour include curiosity, persistence, creativity, confidence, and the ability to collaborate. These dispositions help children to explore, discover, and learn effectively in a variety of settings.

How can parents encourage dispositional learning at home?

Parents can encourage dispositional learning at home by providing extra support and stimulating environment, offering diverse experiences, encouraging exploration and play, and modelling positive learning behaviours such as curiosity and persistence.

What is the impact of playful learning on children’s dispositions?

Playful learning has a significant impact on children’s dispositions by promoting engagement, motivation, and enjoyment in the learning process. It allows children to apply knowledge and skills in different contexts and supports the development of positive dispositions for lifelong learning.



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Sue Hunter is mother of 4 boys and has a wealth of early childhood experience including lecturing on the subject. She has a special interest in how trauma and neglect can impact upon children’s learning and development. Sue believes that strong connected families are the building blocks to a healthy society.

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