Flashcards for Toddlers and Kids
How toddlers and kids learn
Toddlers and kids are experimenting, thinking, solving problems and learning all the time. They learn best by actively engaging with their environment. This includes observing things and people, listening to and making sounds and words, exploring objects and experimenting with textures and materials (such as water, sand and dirt).
Using visual imagery to learn
Vision develops rapidly in an infant and evolves into the dominant means by which children learn about their world. Around 90% of the information that is transmitted to the brain is visual in nature and it is processed very quickly. In fact, the brain is able to see visual images that appear for a mere 13 milliseconds.
Studies show that we typically retain 10 to 20% of written or spoken information compared to 65% when it is presented visually. Various types of visual imagery can be effective for learning such as photos, illustrations, symbols and sketches.
Using visual imagery with children
Within an early learning centre or classroom visual imagery can be used to support learning in a variety of ways. For example, a visual schedule, which depicts the day’s activities in images, provides children with an opportunity to anticipate future events, which is often helpful for alleviating anxiety.
Likewise visuals in a classroom can be used to define a child’s personal space. For example, a photo of a child attached to the place where they store their personal belongings, such as their coat and backpack, is helpful for creating a sense of belonging. Similarly, visual images can be used to define spaces within the classroom such as ‘book corner’ and ‘blocks station’. Using visual images in this way assists children to use these spaces for their intended purpose - the book corner is a great spot to sit and read books whereas the blocks station is an ideal place to build a house.
Flashcards for children
Visual imagery in the form of flashcards has been shown to work well for teaching toddlers and kids. They can act as a playful means of enhancing the familiar words that they use (their vocabulary) as well as introducing them to new concepts, such as matching (eg a bowl with spoon or a sock with shoe) and sorting by category.
Their history and use today (show +)
Size variation (show +)
What makes an effective flashcard?
Flashcards that offer captivating imagery, carefully selected for their teaching purpose, have been found to be stimulating and motivate learning. So too are images that that are reflective of the user’s own world. For toddlers and kids this might include images of toys, preferred foods and activities they typically enjoy like playing on a swing or building a sandcastle.
Variety of uses for flashcards
Flashcards can be used in a variety of ways such as developing a child’s matching skills. Matching is a developmental milestone that requires visual discrimination. Learning matching skills in pre-school will support children to match letters and sounds at school, which is crucial for literacy. A parent or teacher might encourage a toddler to match one identical flashcard with another. Alternatively, they might ask them to match similar images, such as two happy faces.
Likewise, flashcards can be used to develop a child’s ability to sort. For example, a set might consist of images that the child needs to sort into categories such as instrument, clothing and appliance. Sorting at an early age is important for understanding numerical concepts later on, such as grouping numbers and sets.
Another skill that flashcards can assist with is spatial reasoning, which relates to how well a person is able to take in new and potentially abstract information and then apply that information appropriately. For example, a flashcard set that depicts a series of prepositions encourages spatial reasoning. A child might be asked to find the image of a mug that is on top of a microwave, followed by the one where the mug is inside the microwave and so forth.
Language development (show +)
Variety of uses for flashcards
And thus, while the image conveyed on a flashcard may be relatively simple, its use may be for increasingly complex learning concepts. For example, a set of verbs flashcards may be used with a toddler to enhance their vocabulary (eg the word ‘swimming’) whereas the parent of a child aged three to four years might use the same set for syntax (eg the formation of the sentence ‘The lady is swimming’). And further on from there, this same set might be used to teach the correct use of past tense (eg swam versus swim).
As a result of their broad application, flashcards work well at home and in formal educational settings, such as school. Parents and teachers alike find them to be a playful means of exploring and teaching key learning concepts. Their success lies in being specific to the particular learning needs of the child.