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National Childhood Network (NCN)



What is Aistear ?

Aistear is the early childhood curriculum framework for children from birth up to the age of six years. Early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys. Irelands early childhood curriculum framework is called Aistear (Irish word for journey).

Aistear provides information to assist practitioners, including infant teachers and Early Start teachers, in planning and providing enjoyable and appropriately challenging learning experiences that afford children the opportunity to grow and develop as competent and confident learners within loving relationships with others.

Aistear outlines the types of learning that are important for children during early childhood and provides practical ideas and suggestions as to how this learning may be nurtured. The Curriculum framework also provides guidelines on supporting children’s learning through play, interactions, assessment and partnerships with parents.

Who is Aistear for?

Aistear is suitable for all children from birth to six years and can be used in a range of settings. These include; crèches, nurseries, playgroups, children’s own home, childminding settings, infant classes in primary schools and early start units.

Inside Aistear

1. The first group of principles concerns children and their lives in early childhood:

• The child’s uniqueness
• Equality and diversity
• Children as citizens

2. The second group of principles concerns children’s connections with others:

• Relationships
• Parents family and community
• The adult’s role

3. The third group of principles concerns how children learn and develop:

• Holistic learning and development
• Active learning
• Play and hands-on experiences
• Relevant and meaningful experiences
• Communication and language
• The learning environment

Part one also describes the content of children’s learning using four themes, unlike the Primary School Curriculum that uses subjects and curriculum areas.

The themes are:


This theme is about children being confident, happy and healthy.

Identity and Belonging

This theme is about children developing a positive sense of who they are, and feeling that they are valued and respected as part of a family and community.


This theme is about children sharing their experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings with others with growing confidence and competence,in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.

Exploring and Thinking

This theme is about children making sense of the things, places and people in their world. They do this by interacting with others,playing, investigating, questioning and forming, testing and refining ideas.

Each of Aistear’s themes connect with most, if not all, of the subjects in the Primary School Curriculum. Through the aforementioned themes, Aistear focuses on the development of children’s dispositions and skills, the nurturing of attitudes and values and supporting children’s construction of knowledge and understanding of the world.

In supporting children’s early learning and development, Aistear;

  • Identifies what and how children should learn, and describes the types of experiences that can support this
  • Makes connections in children’s learning throughout the early childhood years and as they move from one setting to another
  • Supports parents as their children’s primary educators during early childhood, and promotes effective partnerships between parents and practitioners
  • Complements and extends existing curriculums and materials
  • Informs practice across a range of settings, disciplines and professions, and encourages interdisciplinary work.

Aistear Síolta Practice Guide

This introduction to the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide explains the purpose of, and audience for the Guide and outlines the meaning of the word ‘curriculum’ as used in Aistear, in Síolta and in the Guide. It also gives an overview of the structure of the Practice Guide and describes the aspects of Aistear and Síolta that it focuses on.

An Introduction to the Arts in Pre-school supports early years educators to reflect on the Arts experiences you provide in your setting, and to think about how you can best nurture children’s artistic expressions and support their development as creative thinkers.  This course was developed by Barnardos in collaboration with the National Childhood Network.

Course Content

  1. Section 1 examines what we mean by the Arts and explore what Arts experiences for young children might look like. It also looks at how the Arts are reflected in government frameworks and policies.
  2. Section 2 considers why holistic and inclusive opportunities for artistic expression are so important for young children.
  3. Section 3 explores the importance of the role of the early years educator in cultivating an Arts-rich environment.
  4. Section 4 reflects on other aspects of the educator’s role in Arts provision, including documenting children’s experiences, displaying and sharing of their work, engaging with the Arts community, working with parents and self-assessing your arts provision.