Creating the best start for children birth to three

A wealth of research establishes that the first three years are critical in laying the foundations for life-long learning and wellbeing.

The significance of these early years is often overlooked in educational and early childhood policies and practice. Studies have also shown that high quality infant-toddler programs and interventions can tackle early disadvantage and developmental vulnerabilities to the improve long-term outcomes for every learner.

The Infants and Toddlers Research Group is breaking new ground by investigating how very young children learn. The group aims to investigate the factors that promote learning from birth to the age of three. In doing so, we will deliver new evidence-based insights into what constitutes a high-quality learning environment – whether learning is at home, in an early childcare centre or in the community. This is taking the group into interesting new territory as researchers investigate a wide range of relevant issues, including:

  • high quality teaching and learning
  • curriculum and policy analyses
  • infant-toddler play and explorations
  • early interventions for infants with diverse learning abilities.

Studying early childhood environments from every angle

The Infants and Toddlers; Pedagogies, curriculum and learning research group is investigating early childhood environments from every angle in Australia’s evolving social and educational landscape.

Over recent decades, as the participation of both parents in the workforce has become common place, more infants and toddlers are moving into early childhood education. By the age of two, 25% of Australian infants and toddlers are spending some time in formal educational settings, and by the age of three, over half of Australian children attend early childhood education centres.

Our group’s recent success in securing substantial Australian Research Council funding is enabling us to investigate, for the first time, the longitudinal relationships between the language environment in the infant-toddler rooms of Australian long day care settings and the development of the foundational learning skills that underpin later academic success. In this nationally significant project, we are seeking to identify the key factors that support the acquisition and use of language as a critical tool for early learning.

Other key topics include:

  • outdoor play
  • digital technologies
  • the influences of bilingual backgrounds
  • reflective practice
  • special needs in the earliest years
  • the government policies that enable or constrain quality learning.

To ensure our research findings are translated into real improvements, we actively engage with the early childhood and community sectors, and deliver pre- and post-service professional development programs. By raising awareness of the critical importance of learning from birth to the age of three, we aim to drive interest in – and funding for – the research needed to inform quality early childhood services. We hope to promote access for every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, to the quality infant and toddler programs that offer them the best possible start for learning and life.

Associate Professor Sheila Degotardi: Infant-toddler pedagogies and learning; Relationship-based pedagogies; language and learning.

Dr Helen Little: Risk-taking in physically active play; outdoor learning environments and pedagogy

Dr Kathleen Tait: Diverse educational needs;

Dr Belinda Davis: Infant/ toddler pedagogy, reflective practice, Early Years Learning Framework and Professional Experience