The Science of Working with Early Learners



Contributed by Chelsea Niemuth, Early Learners STEAM Educator

The human brain undergoes its most dramatic development during the first three years of life. Early learners are constantly exploring their new world by touching, smelling, tasting, listening, observing and playing. Children train their brains to master four developmental domains: cognitive development, language development, physical development and social and emotional development.


Cognitive development centers on the learning and processing of information. Early learners begin to develop memories, problem solve, and reason. Children are also developing their language skills to express themselves and communicate with others. Talking and conversing with children, even if they cannot reply, helps them learn language. Physical development consists of two halves: fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills encompass all detail work done with the fingers such as pinching, grasping and releasing. Gross motor skills include larger movements like walking, jumping, throwing and balancing. Children must practice in order to master these motor skills. Engaging with others in an active environment develops social and emotional skills. Early learners must practice sharing, taking turns and including others in play.


We facilitate this learning through activities such as carefully curated sensory bins in Baby Bloomers and Early Learners Series. What may appear to be a simple bucket of water beads and plastic aquatic animals is actually a valuable teaching tool. Children use their fine motor skills to explore different textures, shapes and sizes. They develop a vocabulary by recognizing colors and animals. Early learners must share shovels and practice patience when a peer is playing with a toy they may want to play with.


A room to run wild in does more than tire the children before nap time. During activities like parachute and bean bag toss, we teach gross motor skills like walking, throwing and aiming. Early learners must wait for instruction, follow the leader and include all peers. Bouncy Rodys build balance and strength while encouraging sharing.

Painting and gluing art projects develop creativity and imagination as early learners practice fine motor skills. Reading to children during Story Time and identifying colors, animals and objects during play gives children the opportunity to develop a vocabulary even before they can verbalize the words. Science projects such as a baking soda and vinegar reactions introduce cause and effect cognition. Everything in our spaces has a purpose and a learning objective. Our Early Learners Series and weekly Workshops foster social development in a cozy classroom, while Baby Bloomers provides an open environment with more peers playing and learning together.


Though all children develop differently, the first three years are crucial to learning and practicing the skills outlined by the four developmental domains. Early learners absorb much by observing adults and exploring through play. Here at the Thinkery, we focus on how much children can do and helping them practice skills they are still mastering. We strive to create friendly learning environments and family fun.

Join us for Early Learners Programing at the Thinkery

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