What is the Curiosity Approach?

The Curiosity Approach was developed by co-founders Lyndsey Hellyn and Stephanie Bennett, who have over 50 years of combined teaching and leadership experience in Early Childhood Education and Learning.

It’s promoting Awe & Wonder in early childhood, replacing plastic generic toys with authentic real items to give children real experiences in play. The environment is set up to be an extended version of home and not a watered-down version of school. Children are not made to sit and paint the same printed-out animal, which will result in no uniqueness. They are encouraged to choose their outcome and freely express themselves. The Curiosity Approach supports different ideas and activities, such as outdoor play, allowing children to be curious, splash in puddles, play with mud & sticks, collect natural findings, and make them into resources (thinking out of the box). This was the perfect approach for our setting, and we became accredited in 2018, one of the first curiosity approach nurseries in Nottingham.

Benefits of adopting the Curiosity Approach in your setting:

The approach welcomes the children to be curious and to be introduced to new real authentic items and learn new vocabulary that they wouldn’t necessarily hear within their home environment. We use household items to explore wooden objects and be creative with recycling items to create resources. We asked parents to kindly gift us any unwanted items from their homes or any unusual items to bring in for the children. We did receive an animal horn which the children said was from a “unicorn”. The parents were included, and progress was shared via photos and posts.

It teaches the children to respect their environment as the third person and the resources they use, e.g. if they throw a plastic teapot, there are no consequences. If they throw a ceramic teapot, it will smash.

We noticed in our setting that the children’s behaviour positively changed, they were more engaged and curious, and the staff now think more about the activities and make them ‘invitations to play” rather than a pile of plastic toys in the middle of the table. The children have so many more opportunities to explore and learn.

Our décor is neutral and calm throughout our setting to promote calmness in play and prevent the children from being overstimulated by bright, busy colours and display boards.

The children love when they host real tea parties with real China plates and cups to eat and drink from. We support this during celebrations such as Birthdays, Christmas, and even a teddy afternoon tea party with biscuits. This allows the children to have conversations and share thinking ideas and their own experiences with one another.

The children are encouraged to challenge themselves and take risks, such as using a hammer with nails (supervised) and cutting up their fruit at snack using a knife. This gives the children great self-esteem and a willingness to try new tasks. They are encouraged to ‘keep trying’ and are celebrated for their uniqueness. 

New clients look around our setting, and they tell us, “it feels homely”, which is what we love to hear. We want the parents as well as the children to feel relaxed.

Our babies have real bangles, mirrors, paintbrushes of various sizes, and lots of natural sensory within the room. They are supported to move freely and have lots of stimulation visually, e.g., a handmade chandelier made from our very own willow tree. Big windows give those lots of natural light, and they can see out to watch their environment and interact.  

Here are a few quotes from powerful theorists:

The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; they will reveal themselves as the greatest marvel of nature. – Maria Montessori

How many times have you passed an object to a baby that is just out of reach? 

Maybe they are stretching, reaching, and just cannot reach the item.

Did you know …..? 

“We do not force a toy on a child; we don’t put it into his hand. 

We just put it next to him… If he notices the toy and is interested in it, he will reach for it.” 

Dr. Emmi Pikler

“In 1972, architect Simon Nicholson developed the Theory of Loose Parts; the idea that loose parts, materials which can be moved around, designed and redesigned, and tinkered with; create infinitely more opportunities for creative engagement than static materials and environments.” 

Have you heard of Bandura

He is an influential social cognitive psychologist who is best known for his social learning theory, the concept of self-efficacy, and his famous Bobo doll. Bandura’s social learning theory proposed that learning can also occur simply by observing the actions of others. Bandura states that most human behaviour is learned through observation, imitation, and modelling.

Urie Bronbfenbrenner 

Have you heard about how the environment affects a child’s development? 

1917-2005) developed the ecological systems theory to explain how everything in a child and the child’s environment affects how a child grows and develops.

How does the Curiosity Approach help children develop?

The founders of the Curiosity Approach say that it is about developing skills that will be relevant to children growing up in an ever-changing world. These include:

  • Independent thinking
  • Language and verbal communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Lifelong skills
  • Risk-taking
  • Imagination
  • Respect for resources and the natural world
  • Creative and critical thinking

The best thing we can do for our children is to create thinkers and doers. Encourage them to manage and take risks. Because curiosity is the spark that ignites everything.

Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up! But a child’s purpose is to be a child!- Tom St

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