Babies are born curious. From our earliest days, we’re on a journey of discovery to understand the people, patterns and practices around us.
To young children, even the simplest objects hold wonder. If you’ve never seen a bowl before, its potential uses are limitless – does it go on your head? Do you stand in it? What happens when it falls? A baby will play with a bowl every which way in an effort to figure out its purpose.
As parents and early childcare educators, our role is not to introduce curiosity, but to foster it, which is why New Shoots Papamoa in the Bay of Plenty has taken on board The Curiosity Approach™.
What is it all about? What does it mean for our children? Read on to discover how you can nurture your child’s own curiosity at home and how this can benefit the whole family.
The Curiosity Approach™
Started by two early childhood educators in the UK, The Curiosity Approach™ is a childcare philosophy that encourages young children’s curiosity. Drawing inspiration from Reggio, Steiner, Te Whariki and a dash of Montessori, The Curiosity Approach™ creates a culture of marvel and awe.
“This ethos is so closely aligned with our own here at New Shoots that, when we discovered they offer an accreditation programme, we jumped at the chance,” says New Shoots Papamoa Centre Director Tracey Hickey. “We knew their lessons would teach us new ways to cultivate curiosity among our children.”
After 18 months of learning and training, New Shoots Papamoa is now an accredited centre, and keen to share ways to support curiosity at childcare and at home.
Lesson one: the value of curiosity
Curiosity is the desire to know more, to learn, to pursue knowledge, to understand. The beauty of curiosity is there’s no single book, toy or game needed to find it. Instead, it’s about creating an environment that allows each child time and space to learn their own way, pursue their interests and ignite their imagination. Sparking curiosity in our children will lead to a generation of creative thinkers, investigators and doers.
Lesson two: let children learn their own way
We all have our strengths, weaknesses and interests, and the same goes for children. Spaces that focus on wonder allow children to learn in their own unique way, setting them up to enjoy the process of discovery. With The Curiosity Approach™, how one child plays will be completely different to another child – and that’s exactly the point.
The process of learning is more important than the end result. In early childcare settings, we aren’t looking to create an army of young people who can read, write and count. We want to inspire an empowered generation of independent thinkers, problem solvers and lifelong learners.
Lesson three: open-ended, natural resources over toys
Toys are often designed with one way to use them and this limits the ways a child can interact with them. Open-ended resources, on the other hand, offer unlimited learning. Free from flashing and beeping, there’s no direction or end goal; these items can be used over and over again in different ways.
Open-ended resources include everyday objects like wooden spoons, weighing scales, muffin tins and ribbons. They’re items that let children take an active role in play, freeing them up to come up with ideas, experiment, make mistakes, learn, bounce back and try again.
The Curiosity Approach™ focuses on natural materials, not plastic ones, for several reasons.
- Sustainability. Using natural and recycled materials is better for the environment and helps us move away from a throw-away culture.
- They’re all different. Unlike plastic, which is pretty much always shiny, hard and bright, natural resources are all distinct. They have various textures and weights, tactile sensations and even smells.
- Plastic can be overstimulating. Research shows that the relentless bright colours of plastic can offer too much stimulation to young brains, resulting in a fussy, frustrated, tired child.
- They teach consequences. A big part of understanding the world is discovering cause and effect. When you drop a ceramic cup, it breaks – indestructible plastic toys don’t. Natural resources instill care and respect for our belongings.
Lesson four: learn from nature
The natural world is ever-changing. Plants grow and wilt. Trees sway on windy days; rain falls from the cloudy skies. Outdoors, no two days are alike and this dynamic environment gives children a constant stream of things to explore and investigate. Outside, no special equipment is needed and learning opportunities are limitless.
Lesson five: homely environments are key
Children under five years old are not ready for school. Our early childcare centres should resemble cosy homes, not classrooms. For young children, the best environment to inspire curiosity is a homely one that makes them feel comfortable and at ease. Soft rugs, reading nooks and quiet spaces are all important elements of a childcare centre.
How to encourage curiosity at home
Taking a curiosity-led approach is not limited to childcare centres. Here are a few tips to encourage your children’s curiosity at home.
- Rummage through the kitchen (or bathroom, garage, laundry…) There is unlocked potential hidden in that whisk! Watch your child create a new world out of an everyday item.
- Wander the aisles at a second-hand shop. Preloved items at opp shops are affordable, sustainable and come with mysterious pasts.
- Build forts – use torches, sheets, cushions, and drapes to create unusual spaces at home.
- Go with the flow at storytime. If your child wants to point at pictures or imagine new tales to old books, follow their lead.
- Ask open-ended questions. They require children to carefully consider their thoughts and express their ideas.
- Unplug – put down the device and be present. Children have an amazing ability to show us joy in things adults have long forgotten about.
Benefits for children and families
Children love spending time in spaces where they can play, tinker and explore – and this will have knock-on effects for the whole family. Encouraging open-ended play and curiosity will lead to enjoyable family time, homely homes and interesting adventures for the whole family.
The Curiosity Approach™ also teaches young children the invaluable lesson that there is more than one ‘right way’ to do something. It gives children confidence, teaches them the value of deep thinking and creates an opportunity for them to problem solve and persevere.
How curiosity has affected New Shoots
The Curiosity Approach™ accreditation at our Papamoa children’s centre has reinforced what we were already doing. It pushed us to improve areas we hadn’t focussed on as much. It prompted us to use more recycled resources that would otherwise have been thrown away.
Let’s continue to find ways to encourage children to investigate, learn and grow.
If you’re interested in learning more about New Shoots centres, our website is a great place to start. You can:
Find the centre nearest you
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