Parents

An Essential Virtual Preschool Program

The moment your baby can sit up and explore the world in a whole new way with vision, sounds, and interactions, Animal Island Learning Adventure (AILA) is right here to deliver the right content at the right time, curated by educators and innovators. No ads. No inappropriate content.

Infant-to-Preschool Milestones Chart

Download, print, and use this chart to assist you in your parenting efforts.

Important Child Development Milestones
Virtual Preschool for Toddlers
Virtual Preschool for Toddlers

Should my toddler have screen time or not?

In 2016, Jenny Radesky, MD and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, authored the American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for children, and her insights are crucial in helping us make informed decisions about media and early childhood development today. As Dr. Radesky stated, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep. What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

But, at times, the very opposite happens when it comes to media and young people. We see it all too often: a parent, perhaps needing a bit of a break, perhaps a bit too tired to engage fully with his or her child, hands over a smartphone or a tablet to soothe a child instead.

“Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep. What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”

Jenny Radesky, MD
Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Should my toddler have screen time or not? This is an area of considerable discussion. In our highly-connected digital world, it is challenging for any of us, including children, to not come across screens. As a result, it is helpful to distinguish between active and passive screen time. What are key distinctions between passive and active screen time? Passive or sedentary screen time as defined by EdSurge occurs “when a child passively consumes digital content with no thought, creativity or interaction required to progress.” Active or interactive screen time involves cognitive or physical engagement as part of the experience.

The concern surrounding passive screen time centers upon its sedentary nature and its close relationship to obesity, patterns of problematic behavior, underdeveloped social skills, and lack of active play. While these concerns are valid, passive screen time can be changed into active screen time quite easily.

In a report published by the Mayo Clinic (“Screen time and children: How to guide your child”) screen time can be made active by taking the following steps:

  1. Sharing screen time with your child. Make screen time a shared activity.
  2. Talking to your child about what they see on the screen and connecting it to their world.
  3. Looking for opportunities to take the on-screen content and making it participatory.

In addition, parents should preview content and ensure appropriateness for the age of the child. The ability to control and filter the content, without any advertisements whatsoever, are all within the control of parents. Children need to understand how to have a healthy and responsible relationship with media, and parents and guardians, as “media mentors,” can show children how to integrate media into their lives in a balanced and appropriate way.

Why is AILA better?

One of the first principles behind AILA is to provide toddlers and preschoolers with a tailored educational experience that delivers the right content at the right time. AILA curates, ad-free, high-quality and developmentally appropriate that helps children, through engaging characters and play patterns, to develop key academic and social skills. With AILA, parents are put in control of both screen time and content, ensuring active rather than passive screen time. With these guard rails in place, children remain cognitively engaged, offering parents opportunities to help their children take their learning from the screen to the world around them.

Howard Gardner, the famed American developmental psychologist and the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, multiple forms of intelligence: linguistic (word smart), musical (music smart), logical-mathematical (logic smart), spatial (picture smart), body-kinesthetic (body smart), interpersonal (self smart), and interpersonal (people smart). A point of clarification is in order. While learning styles are concerned with differences in the process of learning, multiple intelligences center around the content and products of learning. Gifted athletes, for example, may all be “body smart,” but it does not mean they learn and master skills in the same way.

Every child learns differently – some are auditory learners, some are visual, some are kinesthetic. Auditory learners learn best by hearing and prefer listening to or telling stories. Visual learners prefer pictures and graphics. Kinesthetic students learn best by engaging in physical activities.It is important to provide children with access to a multi-modal approach that incorporates all learning styles to keep students motivated, engaged, and ready to learn. AILA provides content that addresses each of these learning styles.

Introducing Sit & Play

How does AILA work?

AILA is built upon Dark Matter Artificial Intelligence (DMAI) platform delivers content that adapts in real time to a child’s interest based on their physical and emotional reactions. Designed as 10-15 minute sessions or learning modules, keeping within the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization of no more than one hour per day, the videos focus on one key concept per session using a variety of multimodal experiences. Multimodal experiences teach concepts using multiple modes. Modes are ways of communicating information in some way, including, but not limited to pictures, audio, speech, music, movement, gestures, and colors.

Each session of AILA includes curated songs, stories, an introduction to key concepts such as letters, numbers, shapes, or colors and engaging game play. Multimodal experiences encompass a variety of learning styles and provides a developmentally appropriate curriculum. AILA ensures a child-centered, engaging experience through its original characters, songs, and scenarios that illustrate positive interactions and behavior.

Parents are able to track what their child has seen and can adjust the length of sessions. The device automatically tracks the interest of the child to offer individualized and personalized learning and to ensure active screen time engagement. Furthermore, AILA informs parents and caregivers about specific activities to follow up on to make a real-world connection to learning for their children.

How does AILA prepare your child for formal classroom learning?

“Much of the research on young children’s learning investigates cognitive development in language, mathematics, and science. Because these appear to be ”privileged domains”—that is, domains in which children have a natural proclivity to learn, experiment, and explore—they allow for nurturing and extending the boundaries of the learning in which children are already actively engaged… Advances in cognitive science make it clear that very young children are capable of much more academically than was previously imagined.”

National Research Council, Eager to Learn

AILA makes use of these “privileged domains” as well as the eagerness and capability of toddlers and preschoolers to learn by providing them content that stimulates engagement in literacy, numeracy, STEAM, and 21st century skills. For children to succeed in more structured early learning environments and to be prepared for future academic and social growth, several important areas elements need to be covered.


First, exposure to basic core learning areas such as letters, numbers, and colors is fundamental. It is not necessary for the child to master these concepts, but a strong background in reading and math concepts have been shown to be a predictor of future academic success.

Second is social emotional learning (SEL). Children who can manage their emotions, understand and relate to others with different perspectives, and make solid positive choices will enhance their ability to succeed in school, in their career, and in life. Research has shown that strong SEL skills can improve academic achievement by 11 percentile points, increase social behaviors such as kindness, sharing, and empathy, and improve students’ attitudes towards school, thereby reducing proclivities toward stress and/or depression (Durlak et al., 2011).

Third are the 4C’s –communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) advocates for the integration of these skills in early learning experiences for children beginning at 18 months. It further advocates for a learning environment that accommodates varying interest and skill development.

GadgetFlow

“Well, the DMAI AILA Sit & Play educational kids monitor gives you a bit of a break while teaching your little one.”

The Strategist

“And as your child ages and develops, so too will this “edutainment system”; the activities grow ever more complex, so the system will remain appealing and educational for years.”

Best Products

“With curated content that is designed to stimulate your early learning, this tablet has AI technology that will keep your child engaged.”

Techwalla

“If you’re looking for an educational activity for your preschoolers that will keep them busy long enough for you to get things done, the Animal Island Learning Adventure (AILA) Sit & Play might do the trick.”

Parenting Healthy

“I think I found the most genius learning screen ever made for babies and toddlers.”

The Toy Book

“This is an amazing technology, as I mentioned, very critical during these times.”

Letters & Literacy

Emergent literacy skills are critical to “getting a child ready to read.” Emergent literacy includes:

  • Letter Awareness: Child understands that there is a name and sound associated with each letter.
  • Print Awareness: Child understands the use of the printed word as a means of communication.
  • Phonological Awareness: Child understands that words are comprised of a series of sounds.
  • Concept Awareness: Child understands that there are words for objects, shapes, colors, and numbers.
  • Vocabulary Awareness: Child understands that there are meanings associated with words and that words can be used to describe their world.
  • Narrative Awareness: Child understands that stories have a beginning, middle, and end as well as characters, setting, and plot.

Another key factor in the development of literacy is oral/aural interaction. The more speech a child hears and uses, the larger the vocabulary and the more complex the sentences a child will construct. By modeling new words and language in context and by building on the interest of the child, parents have the power to encourage children to experiment with language. Curated, digital content can also enhance the learning and enrichment a child receives.

When reading a story, ask questions about the setting, the plot, the characters, and make associations with what a child sees in a story and “real-life connections.” Stories also need not be from a book. Stories include “narratives” a parent might share that models new vocabulary and sequencing. Stories are everywhere; they are in signs, in magazines, even within menus.

Most importantly, let the interests of your child guide you.

Numbers & Numeracy

“Early math skills have the greatest predictive power, followed by reading and then attention skills.” (“School Readiness and Later Achievement,” from Developmental Psychology)

Children begin to notice numbers at a very early age, specifically a sensitivity to the concept of quantity. By building on this early, children can be encouraged to develop a recognition of numbers.

Recognition of numbers leads to the development of other number skills such as counting. While many children early on can “rote” count, “rote” counting does not indicate an understanding of “how many” in a group. Furthermore, recognition of numbers leads to the ability of a child to immediately recognize how many in a group without counting each one. This ability leads ultimately to addition.

Numeracy, on the other hand, is the ability to apply basic math concepts to everyday life. Numeracy begins with a child’s ability to count – fingers, toes, toys, etc. – moves on to the ability to recognize numbers and shapes on objects such as clocks, and extends to when children can express how many cookies they want. These foundational abilities will help a child solve problems, analyze information, understand patterns, and make appropriate choices.

Monkey - Animal Island Learning Adventure

STEAM, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) is important because these five areas are part of our everyday activities and lives. Facility in these areas helps us solve problems, teaches us how to be creative and analytical, and teaches adults and children alike how to work through everyday challenges. According to the US Department of Commerce, STEAM occupations are will continue to experience a rate of growth nearly double that of occupations within non-STEAM sectors.

STEAM instruction in early education need not be formal. It is not about flashcards or overt instruction, but rather, STEAM instruction is about the things that children do daily. STEAM education can be as simple as pointing out why and how things happen in our everyday lives. Why does something fall? Why does something breaks? Why do two colors make another color? Children practice STEAM activities naturally. They build forts out of cushions, they pour sand from one container to another, they mix paints, they build towers with blocks. Through this play, children learn about the world around them and build their own theories.

Recently, STEAM has become STREAM to give recognition to the importance of reading and writing. Literacy is an important aspect of the curriculum, as it too requires critical thinking and creativity. Reading and writing are prerequisites to learning science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

By stimulating interest in STEAM concepts, children are encouraged to continue exploring on their own, which leads to independent problem solving. Problem solving motivates children to stay focused and to make informed decisions.

S

Science

Children are naturally curious and are “scientists” starting from a young age. As they observe, they form questions, make predictions, formulate hypotheses, and design their own experiments. They test their hypothesis and refine their predictions all as part of play. They also learn from other children and adults by observing and testing out what they have seen, as well as what they are questioning.

T

Technology

Technology is not only computers, cell phones, and devices. The “T” in technology includes any man-made object, something has simple as a fork, a pair of scissors, or a wheel. As children use and play with these “tools,” they learn their function and come to understand causality. They learn that with a fork they can pierce food and bring it to their mouths, and that there is a difference between a fork and spoon. They learn that with scissors you can divide a piece a paper into smaller bits, that a wheel enables a vehicle to move more quickly.

E

Engineering

The “E” in engineering refers to the combination of what a child learns in science, math, and technology. When children build with blocks or build a pretend house with cardboard or observe someone piling up sticks, they are “engineering.” These activities lead to an understanding of how things work.

A

Art

Art was added to the “STEM” curriculum because the ability to think creatively supports a child’s ability to solve problems and to innovate. Research has also shown that early exposure to creative arts supports cognitive development. As children engage in painting, play, music, and drawing, they are discovering that symbols can be used as a means of expression. The “A” in art also includes music. Music reinforces pattern recognition and numeration.

M

Math

Children are surrounded by “mathematics.” They encounter daily concepts of “more and less,” shape, size, sequence, and distance. When a child plays with a new object, they are exploring concepts of shape and size. When a child asks for another piece of fruit, they are exploring the concept of more. When children learn that reading books comes after bath time, they are exploring the concept of sequence.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social emotional skills help children make friends, follow directions, and be comfortable in a classroom. Generally, SEL breaks down into the following three areas: relationship skills, self-control, and initiative. Relationships include the ability to get along with others, to make and maintain friendships, and to enjoy the process of playing with others. Self-regulation deals with the ability to control one’s emotions, to take turns, and to show patience. Initiative is the ability for a child to express their personal and academic needs.

A child will listen and imitate modeled behavior. These models can come from virtually anywhere, including home, school, and videos, and do not need to be from direct interactions alone. Children are always listening and observing. They may or may not model the behavior they observe, but they are watching the interactions and their consequences.

Positive SEL skills are vital if a child is to be successful personally, academically, and vocationally. These fundamental mental health and wellness skills help a child to adapt to changes and adversity, whether at school, on the playground, or at home. Learning SEL skills as a child correlates to success and happiness as an adult. Combining the teaching of these skills with academic learning provides a child with the tools to be more successful in the classroom and beyond.

The 4C’s

Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking

In today’s economy, mastering the traditional “Three R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) is insufficient for students seeking to compete in today’s global economy. Today’s world requires proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators.

The Partnership for 21st Century has included the following strategies to help children develop these skills:

Child-Centered

Look for opportunities to focus on children’s interests.

Play-Based

Encourage all types of play within the learning environment—dramatic, constructive, creative, physical, and cooperative play.

Cooperative Learning

Provide opportunities for children to play and to interact with each other.

Blended Approach

Connect online play with hands-on play.

Flexible Attitude

Be willing to change the plan.

Differentiated Instruction

Change it up. When guiding children, use different approaches and consider the learning styles of each child.

Formative Assessment

Observe children as they play. What skills have they developed and what are they just beginning to learn?

Whole Child Focused

Provide opportunities to help children develop skills beyond early language, literacy, and mathematics. Offer feedback and encouragement regularly to reinforce academic skills and social emotional learning. These practices will help children foster self-esteem.

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Animal Island Learning Adventure
Animal Island Learning Adventure