Provoking curiosity in early years
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Provoking curiosity in early years

24 November 2020 By Designs for Education

Curious children

Children are naturally curious, as educators it is our role to encourage and develop this to enable them to learn through their interests and investigations. The more curious a child is the more observant they are, which in turn encourages deeper thinking and an ability to figure things out.

What can we do to encourage curiosity?

Praise children for being curious, what makes children want to do more of something than being rewarded? Teach children to ask questions, ‘what?’ ‘why?’ ‘what if?’ ‘how?’. If a child is confused by something, help them see it as a puzzle to be solved rather than an obstacle. Put children in mixed groups, a child who is endlessly curious may encourage this in a child who is less inquisitive. Engage children in conversations where questions are asked on both sides, a curious educator naturally creates a curious child.

In order to encourage children to use their own curiosity to develop their knowledge, it is important to use resources which encourage independent thinking skills. We have chosen some resources which will enable and empower children through the opportunity to investigate and observe rather than simply following others.


How can resources help create curiosity?

Open ended resources are key, the more prescriptive they are the less thinking and imagination is encouraged. Mixing formal resources with those collected from nature and everyday life leads to more informal and child led play. Low level units filled with natural resources and blocks allows children the freedom to choose their own path of play rather than being ‘told’ what and where they should play. Stripping settings back to more natural environments, rationing more over-stimulating items such as brightly coloured plastic will lead to a calmer and more relaxed learning environment where children will want to ask questions.


Curiosity and sand play


Sand play introduces endless opportunities for provoking curiosity. Through building and drawing creativity and imagination are nurtured.

Using kitchen utensils helps children learn about real life and how to engage with everyday objects.

  • First experiences in science concepts – what happens when water is introduced to sand? Why does this happen, what happens when the sand dries?
  • Maths skills can be supported by introducing measuring cups and jugs.
  • Place a sand tray on a lightbox for multi-sensory play – mark making in the sand to reveal patterns and colours.

What you’ll need:

D42079 – Tabletop Sand Tray
D52699 – Kneel Up Table
803022 – YPO Play Sand
81153X – YPO Coloured Play Sand – Blue
876093 – Messy Play Utensils


Painting pebbles – mix and match faces


Paint facial features on pebbles and see how many different faces you can make. You could try more abstract illustrations and create monsters or animals. Paint leaves and flowers to create pebble gardens, the opportunities are endless!

  • Choose smooth, flat pebbles.
  • Wash the rocks before starting to paint them.
  • Seal the rocks with a spray sealer or white paint as a base.
  • Paint the pebbles, use an outdoor or multi-surface paint to help them hold up to the elements.
  • Use oil based or Sharpies to write on the rocks.
  • Finish with a water-based sealer – the more coats the better!

What you’ll need:

803902 – Flat Pebbles
735073 – Decospray Transparent Varnish
759104 – Sharpie Fine Markers, Pack of 12


Alphabet and number coloured cups


Plastic cups can be used to create a wonderful resource for use on a light box. Use the cups for number and letter recognition, stacking, playing with light, colour, and shadows. Encourage children to start experimenting through their play – asking questions about why/who/where, introduce investigation through senses and building structures. Choose bright, colourful cups for more impact on your light box.

  • Use an oil-based pen or Sharpie to write your numbers and letters on the base of the upturned cups.
  • Paint over the base with a water-based sealer, 2 or 3 coats will make them last longer.

What you’ll need:

D52696 - Investigation Station Light Box
754740 - Sharpie Twin Tip Markers
Water Based Varnish


These activities have been taken from Little Learners, a FREE magazine full of early years resources and activities. Click here to read our latest issue.

Categories: Early Years

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