What Is The Curiosity Approach and Why Is It Important?


girl wearing white holding a flower

The Curiosity Approach puts the fun back into being learning.

The world is changing for our young children and they are living in a fast paced society.

It’s becoming more technologically advanced, and there are more opportunities in terms of education. With this comes more pressure, as children have less time to be free and play.

They are too busy attending play dates, clubs, and after school activities, as parents want them to have access to as many opportunities as possible.

Whilst this intention is good, children need time to learn and discover without hurrying from one place to another. Being overstimulated has a negative effect as children can feel overwhelmed and suffocated. Their young minds are perfectly happy with the simple things in life, but society is moving at such a fast rate that we are accidentally overloading them.

It’s time to take a step back and let children be young. Instead of relying on apps or iPads for entertainment, they need to get back outdoors and explore nature and it’s beautiful surroundings.

In this blog post we’ll identify what the curiosity approach is, how it started, and why it is important for children during early years.

What Is the Curiosity Approach?

The clue is in the name – to ignite a child’s natural curiosity to explore the world around them.

Instead of directing children, and telling them what to do, the curiosity approach is based on child-led learning. Therefore, children make their own choices, and figure things out for themselves which leads to enhanced confidence, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

The approach draws ideas from other philosophies of early education including Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Pikler, and Steiner. It aims to create children who are ‘thinkers and doers’ instead of passive learners who simply follow the direction of an adult.

By creating active learners, children are more engaged in their environment and have a lot more fun. They are in charge of their own development and choose activities which play to their own interests.

The Curiosity approach is a modern pedagogical approach and is exercised by over 4000 educators working in over 20 countries.

children stacking wooden blocks

What Does the Curiosity Approach Look Like?

A classroom implementing the curiosity approach will look very different from a traditional setting. In contrast to the bright colours and paintings you would usually see at a nursery, these classrooms are decorated in neutral tones. This creates a peaceful, tranquil environment which does not distract away from a child’s learning but instead places full focus on the various loose items which children can play with.

These resources are easily accessible in the classroom and are placed at eye-level. They are made from natural materials such as wood to encourage children to think of their own ideas when it comes to play time.

Instead of giving them a plastic toy with an obvious identity, and therefore hindering a child’s imagination, these natural toys give children full freedom to make up their own games. They are challenged to use all of their senses to discover how something feels, sounds, and how they can interact with it.

Children are essentially going back to basics and using their imagination to work out what the item is. As they are doing so without guidance, this increases their confidence and encourages them to think independently.

They can also follow their own schematic learning styles as items can be stacked, lined up, counted, and combined which shows how play can be incorporated into learning.

In this setting, the child is in control of play, rather than an object limiting their play.

Why Was the Curiosity Approach Developed?

The Curiosity Approach was founded by Stephanie Barrett and Lyndsey Heller who have 50 years experience in childcare between them.

The pair wanted to create an approach which was mindful and respectful and allowed a child’s creativity to flow. They understood the changing technological times and sought to create an educational practice that inspired a child’s natural awe and wonder.

Instead of children leading busy lives, and teachers trying to cram as much as they can into the working day, this approach aims to put the fun back into childhood. Unfortunately, it seems the nursery environment is focussed on preparing children for school. However, the focus should be on making sure the school is ready for the children.

Using this pedagogy, it ensures the environment suits the child rather than the other way around.

Benefits of Using the Curiosity Approach

There are lots of benefits of this approach from allowing children to be more free, to giving children more control over their own learning. However, these benefits are not only limited to children but also apply to nursery practitioners.

Less time spent marking assessments and handing out tests has to be a good thing?!

Less Technology

Instead of children spending so much time online engaging in digital activities, this approach takes them back to basics. It encourages children to spend more time outside of the classroom, exploring the rich outdoors and learning about nature.

This is important for their health and wellbeing and also provides them with new opportunities which the nursery setting can’t fulfil. Furthermore, by spending less time online, children can also interact more with each other and expand their social and communication skills.

When your child is watching an iPad or the TV they are not collaborating with their classmates. Being able to interact with other people will not only put them in good stead for further education but also later life.

The approach is also centered on empowering young children, and replacing the gratification of stickers and rewards. It aims to stop putting so much pressure on young children and instead encourage them to learn in their own way.

In turn this leads to a lifelong love of learning as children have more control and independence.

woman helping child ride a rocking horse

Nursery Practitioners Have More Time

Not only does the curiosity approach bring lots of advantages to children, but their teachers too.

It seems many nursery practitioners have become disheartened in their role and forget the reasons why they chose this job in the first place. One of the main reasons for becoming a nursery teacher is because of your genuine love of children.

However, by being bogged down by tests and assessments, practitioners have less time to actually spend with children. Unfortunately, they are too busy marking pieces of work instead of being fully present in the moment.

This means they are missing out on precious moments and might be overlooking some learning opportunities. The Curiosity Approach reignites an educator’s passion for early childhood and gives them time to engage and reconnect with their class.

They are no longer rushed or worried about busy schedules, but can play with children and form stronger relationships.

Peaceful Environment

As we’ve discussed, overstimulation can have a negative impact on a child in terms of their concentration, mental health, and wellbeing. As teachers and parents, it’s natural to assume that your child needs to be busy for their brain to stay active.

However, in nursery settings adopting the Curiosity Approach, the walls are covered in neutral tones with soft furnishings to create an environment which is safe and calming. These comfy spaces allow children to relax and feel comfortable throughout the day.

A big part of this ethos is making the nursery feel like home. It’s about creating a place of safety and somewhere that children want to be. This safe space also helps with separation anxiety which is something a lot of young children experience when they first leave their primary caregiver.

By making the classroom feel familiar and homely, it will be less traumatic for the child when they have to leave their parents. In addition, when children feel relaxed they are more likely to engage in deep learning which allows them to reach their full potential.

Natural Resources

Using resources made from natural materials is good for both the child and the planet. Firstly in terms of sustainability as you’re not using plastic toys. Instead you’re using materials which are readily available from the environment.

Furthermore, these commercial toys are becoming more intelligent and are doing more thinking than our children. They flash, beep, make noises, and ultimately entertain children instead of educating them. This means our children are becoming passive learners rather than active learners as the thinking is already done for them.

Young infants need to grow and develop independently without relying on these digital devices to skip over important stages. For example, to aid physical development, the approach takes inspiration from Pikler. It believes in allowing children to unfold and move freely without the constraints of a baby bouncer.

This enables children to develop at their own pace instead of jumping over key developmental milestones which could be detrimental to their balance and coordination in later life.

More Respect

Another reason why the curiosity approach uses loose toys is to encourage children to have more respect for different objects.

Think about a typical nursery environment and how many objects get flung through the air with little or no thought. When objects are plastic, children don’t consider the consequences when they launch a plastic teapot or a plastic plate across the room!

However, by using natural materials, children learn to handle the items with care. They are also encouraged to manipulate larger items into different shapes to fine tune their motor skills. Furthermore, using authentic resources reduces the gender divide as children can play with objects without feeling restricted.

It opens up a whole world of possibilities for play instead of children subconsciously being influenced by their gender. For example, girls might feel like they should play with a doll whereas boys might feel as though they should play with cars. However, by using loose items which do not have a set identity, these preconceptions are removed.

This ensures each child is treated equally and is able to freely express their interests.

boy jumping in a puddle

Outdoor Play

The curiosity approach helps children reconnect with the outdoors. Instead of viewing the classroom and the outdoors as two separate spaces, learning flows seamlessly between them.

Nature is also brought inside, whether this is using natural resources at the playdough or water station, or plants throughout the classroom setting. It’s important for a child’s mental health that they are exposed to natural surroundings. This creates a positive environment and also adds to the sense of peace and tranquility.

Curiosity approach settings inspire children to have a genuine love for the outdoors and to feel excited about discovering more. This pedagogy is centred on children having respect for the outside world and for those who share it.

This concept is also supported by using natural resources by using items which would otherwise have been discarded. There is no need to keep buying more plastic toys when there are endless opportunities to be had using existing materials.

In turn, this teaches children about the need to upcycle which is an important life lesson outside of an educational setting.

Imaginative Play

As children are using objects with no fixed identity, they have the freedom to use their creativity and engage in imaginative play.

They can choose what they want the object to do and what it means to them. This might differ from one child to the next, but the main thing is that children are having fun and making decisions for themselves. They are free to make up their own mind without being judged.

This reinforces their innate curiosity and gives children the confidence to develop their own theories of the world. By using their imagination, anything is possible, and their ideas are not restricted by an adult.

It is the responsibility of nursery practitioners to provide these opportunities and create an environment which brings happiness and soul back into the classroom. By doing so, it leads to the development of a child physically, spiritually, and mentally.

Why Is the Curiosity Approach Important?

It’s important we put the joy back into the classroom. This approach encourages both teachers and children to take a step back and simplify education.

This doesn’t mean the approach is any less effective than other teaching methods, but rather that it goes back to basics. Instead of relying on technology it believes children should be free to explore their environment and think for themselves.

This is a hugely important life skill as the experiences children have in early years shape their perception of learning in the future. By exciting and engaging children in the learning process from an early stage, this increases their participation in future learning.

Curiosity is something in all of us – it just needs to be ignited. Curiosity is what sparks our thinking process and makes us ask those all important ‘why’ questions. Instead of just being passive and accepting of situations, curiosity encourages us to delve deeper.

As a result, it’s crucial the nursery environment instills this desire from a young age.
photo of toddler smiling

What Is The Curiosity Approach and Why Is It Important?

Children need to be free to explore their environment and engage in activities that genuinely play to their interests.

During nursery, the classroom needs to serve this purpose and should let children be themselves rather than influencing what activities they should and shouldn’t do.

The curiosity approach aims to give children back their freedom by igniting their natural curiosity and imagination. When adopting this teaching method, children are able to think for themselves, make their own choices, and direct their own learning.

Children’s minds are curious and are open to absorbing new information. However, society is overloading them with information rather than letting them choose for themselves. Early child educators have a responsibility to support young children and give them the confidence to develop their own incredible theories about the world.

So, it’s time to take a step back and put children in the driving seat. This enables them to develop independent thinking, stronger communication skills, and become lifelong learners. As a result, this approach puts them in good stead for further development and gives them the skills they need in an ever-changing world.

At Learning Journals, we understand that development is an exciting process. As your child grows and learns about the world, you want to be part of the journey. With our online platform you can easily track each stage of their progress. Whether children are at home or at nursery, you shouldn’t miss these valuable moments.

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