PSED: At their command

Claire Hewson, teacher and author, Cambridgeshire
Tuesday, April 27, 2021

While technology is not specifically covered in the revised EYFS it will feature in many everyday activities in your provision. In this first of a new series, Claire Hewson links Ipads and Bee-Bots to learning co-operatively.

Claire Hewson

When we think of children and technology many of us picture a child sitting alone hunched over an Ipad screen. However, when used collaboratively Ipads and technologies such as Bee-Bots, walkie-talkies and remote-controlled cars can support children's personal, social and emotional development.

These technologies can motivate children to play co-operatively and take turns with others. They also stimulate conversation between children and present opportunities for them to negotiate and solve disagreements.

To enjoy the benefits of Ipads, it is important that children learn to use them safely. Some studies have shown that overuse may cause eye strain, physical problems and difficulty sleeping. Studies about the advantages and disadvantages of Ipads are conflicting, but our own first-hand observations of children can reveal some of the pros and cons to us.

Playing and exploring

  • Children engage with how to use Ipads safely
  • They have a go at collaborating to create a story using an Ipad program
  • They investigate communication with walkie talkies

Ipad safety song

Learn the following Ipad song together and make up actions for each line. Sing to the tune of the nursery rhyme, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive. After singing, discuss the words to help children fully understand how to use Ipads safely and why it is important.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 use Ipads safely all the time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive)

Wash hands before you tap (6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Stop often to go and play. (then I let it go again)

With your Ipad sit up straight (why did you let it go?)

Use a cushion or a stand (because it bit my finger so)

Make sure you move about (which little finger did it bite?)

To care for your body and your eyes. (this little finger on my right)

Don't use an Ipad before bed (6, 7, 8, 9 10) Share a picture book instead (then I let it go again)

Remember these few simple rules (which little finger did it bite?)

For a happy, healthy time. (this little finger on my right)

Our Story

Our Story is an Ipad app developed by the Open University. It offers rich opportunities for young children to collaborate, communicate and learn together.

With support, children can verbally make up a story together or retell a traditional tale using pictures, puppets and props. They then take photographs of each scene and use the app to add sounds and text to create their own storybook.

Follow the leader

Outside, draw a road with chalk and ask children to play ‘follow the leader’ with remote-controlled cars, taking turns to be the leader. Can they follow each other in a line? Do they stop at the same time?

Cones could be used to make the course more challenging.

Going shopping

Give children a pictorial shopping list of ingredients they need to make a cake. Arrange these ingredients on a blank Bee-Bot mat. Children work together to program a Bee-Bot to ‘collect’ the ingredients.


  • Our Story app:

  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive (for reference)

  • Basic remote-controlled cars and walkie-talkies designed for very young users (see the TTS website:

  • Chalk

  • Bee-Bot (pictured from TTS)

  • Blank Bee-Bot mat

  • Shopping items

Construction area

Provide wooden blocks, Lego or Duplo alongside road maps and photographs of towns and cities. Encourage children to create their own built environments. They can then navigate remote-controlled cars down roads and past the houses and shops they have built.

EYFS early learning goals

Observe how playing with walkie-talkies helps develops children's conversational skills such as turn-taking and listening so they may meet the Communication and language early learning goal, ‘Listens and responds to ideas expressed by others in conversation or discussion’. As they work by themselves and with others to operate remote-controlled cars and program a Bee-Bot they might also ‘Use talk to organise, sequence and clarify thinking…’

Operating remote-controlled cars helps children to develop hand-eye co-ordination, especially if tracks and obstacles become more and more complex. They might meet the Physical Development goal, ‘…show good co-ordination in large and small movements’.

In pre-pandemic times you could have used the ingredients to make a cake, but for the time being the Early Years Alliance advises suspending activities like cooking that pose risk of cross-contamination.

Scavenger hunt

Create a scavenger hunt for children to complete in a pair with the aid of walkie-talkies. For example, you might hide ten things around the outdoor area for children to find. Encourage positional language by hiding objects in a variety of ways (in front of something, underneath something etc).

Send children off in different directions with their walkie-talkies. They might use the walkie-talkies to talk to each other spontaneously. If not, encourage them to tell each other when they have found something, explaining what they've found and where they found it.

During the coronavirus pandemic make sure children do not share walkie-talkies and disinfect them after every use.

Active learning

  • Children learn together and from each other about how to programme a Bee-Bot
  • They make choices when playing with remote controlled cars
  • They maintain focus on an activity for a period of time

All activities here provide opportunities for children to learn together and from each other. For example, when children are using walkie-talkies for a scavenger hunt they might learn new descriptive or directional language from each other. Using walkie-talkies also supports children's conversational skills because they need to listen carefully and wait patiently for their partner to finish talking before they reply.

When playing ‘Going shopping’, children might notice that their Bee-Bot can reach a certain shopping item by travelling in more than one direction, so they will make a choice about how to program the Bee-Bot. This activity can be adapted to encourage children to make further choices. Children could slide pictures of shopping items or other objects of interest into a transparent Bee-Bot grid with pockets (these can be bought online). They can then set challenges for each other.

Playing with remote-controlled cars is also an opportunity for children to make choices. They could lay wooden blocks on the ground to create a floor maze to navigate with their car. They might set challenges for each other: ‘Can your car get to the end?’ The Ipad safety song is a chance for children to make choices by suggesting actions to help them remember the words.

Using ICT can make activities more exciting for children and so they maintain focus for longer. When programming a Bee-Bot and operating a remote-controlled car or walkie-talkie children need to remember the steps to follow, make decisions and maintain a high level of concentration.

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children practise problem solving skills with remote control cars
  • They understand the link between cause and effect
  • They develop ideas of sequencing

Playing with Bee-Bots, walkie-talkies and remote-controlled cars help children to practise problem solving skills and to understand the link between cause and effect. For example, how do you clear the Bee-Bot's memory to start again? How far will the Bee-Bot move when you press the forwards or backwards button?

When using a walkie-talkie one child might not be able to hear the other. Can they solve this problem themselves? Did someone forget to press a button? Are they holding the walkie-talkie close enough to their ear? When playing with remote controlled cars one car might continually bump into another, presenting another problem to solve.

Activities can be extended for a greater level of challenge. Children could navigate a Bee-Bot or a remote-controlled car over a longer distance involving more turns. With a Bee-Bot this will mean adding more commands to the Bee-Bot's memory and remembering to clear the memory each time.

Putting commands into a Bee-Bot develops children's ideas of sequencing since the Bee-Bot will only work in the way children want it to if it is programmed in the right order.

Key learning points

  • Children work well as part of a group by joining in and showing consideration for others
  • They initiate conversations and respond appropriately to what others say.
  • They play co-operatively
  • When conflicts arise (for example, over sharing a toy) they can negotiate and solve problems without aggression

Key words

Safe, care, healthy, left, right, turn, quarter, half, three quarters, straight on, behind, in front of, overtake, faster, slower, speed, gently, next to, on top of, underneath.

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