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
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
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:
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.
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.
Talk about mountains, rivers, the sea, shells, deserts and the jungle.
Go for a walk
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
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.
Talk about how things change as they are mixed together and cooked.
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 cultural and religious events of your family and of other communities.
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.
Songs and rhymes include:
- Incy Wincy Spider
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Old McDonald had a Farm
- This is the way we….(brush our teeth)...on a cold and frosty morning
- Down in the jungle where nobody goes
- Mary had a little lamb
- I hear thunder, I hear thunder
- The sun has got his hat on
- Row row row your boat
- The Hungry Caterpillar
- Owl Babies
- Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see?
- Dear Zoo
- Shark in the Park
- Apple Tree Farm (series)