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Helping children understand the world

From the day they are born, children actively explore the world around them. They are naturally curious and develop interest in what things are, what they do, how some things occur and why things change.

They learn best through hands on experiences, being able to discover things for themselves, but also through having conversations with you about the things they observe.

In early years, understanding the world is all about children taking notice of, talking about and finding out about all the things that make up their world.

Ways to help your child understand the world

Family

Children learn about their family through you and other family members, such as grandparents, talking to them about their immediate family. For example, you have 1 brother, he is a baby now but will grow up just like you did. When you were a baby you had a cot but now you are bigger you sleep in a bed and so on. This becomes their own special story within the family, and they will also be interested in stories of other members of their family.

Look at family photographs together and talk about them.

The natural world

Child looking at a snail

Children are curious about the things that they see in nature, such as family pets and other animals, bugs, birds, plants and the weather.

They can learn about the natural world by you talking to them about what they see and hear and being able to observe first- hand where possible:

Animals

The noises that different animals make, how they move, where they live, what they eat, what their young are called, and which animals have wings, fur or hooves.

Plants

Observing trees and flowers, being able to grow a plant and watch the changes that happen over time and at different seasons, looking at and learning about the different parts, such as the leaf, stem, and roots.

The weather and the seasons

Talk about the sound of the rain, the noise thunder makes when you hear a clap, the feel of the wind and how it makes things like washing on a line move.

Have fun jumping in puddles. Blow bubbles on a windy day. Watch ice melting on a hot day. Look at icicles that form on a freezing cold day. Talk about the seasons and how and why they are different.

Natural features

Talk about mountains, rivers, the sea, shells, deserts and the jungle.

Activities

Go for a walk

Child feeding the ducks

When out and about, point out things that your child can see or shows an interest in, such as:

  • birds pecking for worms, flying or nesting
  • new shoots growing on plants or peeking out of the ground
  • the patterns on tree bark
  • the different types of flowers growing
  • squirrels looking for nuts.
  • different types of buildings and structures and talk about what they are used for
  • feed the birds and ducks

Travelling

Talk about the different types of transport. For example, cars drive on the road, trains drive on tracks, aeroplanes fly in the sky. Point out road signs, maps and directions. Make a map together showing the route to the shops, park or other places your child is interested in.

Cooking

Talk about how things change as they are mixed together and cooked.

Growing

Try growing or caring for a plant together - watch as a bean grows long roots, cress shoots (quick and easy to do and can then be eaten), tomato plant flowers turn into tomatoes - turning from green to red.

Look at the stars and the moon

If your child is interested, share books about space and the planets.

Celebrate

Celebrate cultural and religious events of your family and of other communities.

Trips out

Visit or use books and technology to look at different types of environments. This might include beaches, the countryside, farms, a waterfall, rivers and the jungle. Talk about the features.

Stories, songs and rhymes

Children love stories, songs and rhymes. Below is a small list of some that relate to understanding the world, which you might like read or to sing with your child.

Share non-fiction books together, so that children can find out about real places, and people, living things.