Why has it been written?
The authors were moved to take part in this project by their observation
that many children today from 3-8 are starved of first hand experience. This
was reinforced by a recent small scale study of reception classes (Adams et al
2004) which found that both child initiated and adult led activities offered
children little opportunity for intellectual challenge, emotional engagement,
or acts of personal meaning making.
There is no shortage of advice and guidance for educators
working with children from three to eight years old. The authors’ intention in
adding to the pile is to support educators in thinking more deeply about one
particular aspect of children’s learning in those years: their active
learning, which is stimulated by high quality first hand experiences.
What is this book?
This book is an alphabet of real experiences. The text for
each letter has been designed as a springboard from which children and
educators can launch themselves into the beautiful, mysterious, physical world
in which we all live, looking and listening, tasting, touching and breathing
Our analysis of what matters to children is at the heart of
everything we have written. We are convinced that simply providing "things for
children to do" is an inadequate description of what needs to be done to
improve children’s opportunities to experience the world at first hand. Our
position is that the things children do, while they are 3–8 years old, should
be the things that really matter to them, not the things that matter to their
educators, or to the authors of helpful advice on provision and resources. Our
own thinking about what matters to children is described in full on the page
for the letter ‘I’ which we have used to stand for the active learner, the
child at the centre of the whole process of education. ‘What matters to
children’ is also represented on every page of this alphabet: we have used
these ideas as strict criteria for the suggestions we make for each area of