Making sense of the world - 5 ways to promote learning

Making sense of the world
Young children make sense of their world, and the people, places and routines that make
up their world through play. Often their role play repeats patterns they know about;
driving their ‘fire engine’ bikes around and around the same ‘streets’, or making mud
cakes and serving tea several times in one afternoon.
It may seem strange to us adults that children are happy to play out the same story again
and again. But by repeating these patterns, children are reaffirming their existing
skills and knowledge and connecting them to new skills and knowledge, i.e. putting
things in context and making sense of them.
This very same process helps to deepen the synaptic connections in their brains that
create, store and recall knowledge, and enable them to function, think and
communicate as intelligent and purposeful beings.
Introducing new
concepts through
It can be easy to let children
return to their normal patterns of
play without another thought, but
how do we know when to
introduce new concepts? And
how do we do this in a way that
will help extend their learning in relevant ways?
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Be a careful observer, ready to spot the ‘glad eye’, when children are happy to
invite you in to their play. Be just as ready to play alongside or slightly apart, or gently
follow their lead ensuring they retain control of their play, if that is what the child needs.
When it is appropriate, let yourself be as spontaneous as they are. It's a lot of fun!
2. Try to provide different levels of feedback, and be intentional in your
communications by using questions that will help stretch children’s enquiries, decision
making and use of language, for instance.
3. Provide hints when asking questions, to enable children to think more deeply
about something, e.g. ‘Have you thought about…’ or ‘What do you think of…’, keeping it
meaningful to their play.
4. Offer a small range of different, but
relevant, options to help trigger different
pathways for their thinking and actions,
e.g. (to a child playing with water) ‘I’ve just
found a big sponge and a watering can. You
are welcome to use them if you like?’
Think in advance of ways in which these might
make a good fit and extend their thinking,
rather than picking the first resources that
come to hand.
5. Offer one or two open ended materials
and resources that stimulate new activities,
ideas, and games. Materials that have a less
obvious purpose are much more likely to
stimulate the imagination as children become expert at assigning them new uses
designed specifically for their own purposes.
Natural or ‘found’ materials lend themselves to this, such as branches, big stones, sheets
of foil, small wheels, thin loose tyres, string, dustbin lids, plastic bottles, planks of wood,
and so on.