This document highlights the unique needs and strengths of typical young children, identifying eleven key characteristics of primary learners1 – their ways of thinking and engaging with the world and their remarkable hunger for learning. Each of these characteristics is based on the writings of developmental psychologists and educators such as Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, and Jean Piaget, as well as recent peer-reviewed research and the experience of primary educators in our EL network.
Young children find security in rhythm, ritual, and repetition.
Young children learn through play.
Young children want to belong to a community that is safe, beautiful, and good.
Young children explore the world with wonder.
Young children “understand” the world first through their bodies.
Young children seek independence and mastery.
Young children thrive in the natural world.
Young children use stories to construct meaning.
Young children seek patterns in the world around them.
Young children construct their identities and build cultural bridges.
Young children express themselves in complex ways.
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