From the moment a child is born they become inquirers. They may not be able to see clearly for the first few weeks of their life, but they start to recognise the sounds and shapes around them. They begin to understand familiar sounds that help them to make sense of their world and what it means to them. For a child to increase their capacity to learn, we as their carers, teachers and friends must be aware of their social and emotional needs and skills. Talking to your baby and playing with your baby is the best thing for their development. From a very early age children learn to distinguish sounds and objects that make them feel safe e.g. the sound of music coming from a mobile hanging above their cot or the bright colours and textures of their various toys.
There are many ways to foster inquiry. As a young child, toys become integral in them developing an inquiring mind. Not just any toy, but toys and activities that are designed to have more than one outcome, toys that encourage collaboration (working and playing with others), toys that encourage sharing, conversation and problem solving. Supporting learner generated inquiries is important in developing a child’s intellectual and social development. Toys and activities that are connected to the child’s interests are more likely to encourage them to ask questions that will build on what they already know. A child’s learning can be boosted when they work with others to problem solve or further explore an interest. Listening to the ideas and opinions of others helps children to develop relationships and to realise that just because someone has a different idea, they can still be right.
Children love to ask questions, it’s one of the ways that help them to make sense of their world and their place in it. When children are given the opportunity to become inquirers through an environment that stimulates their thinking, they begin to ask questions. When they start to do this, they are beginning to understand their world, and this then drives their need to learn. When children ask questions and begin to find possible answers, they become confident little people who tackle new challenges without fear of failure. Creating interesting and engaging activities that values the child’s interests and questions is vital for effective learning.
For young children effective learning often happens through repetition and multiple exposures to the same experience using different toys or activities that build on their previous interactions. As a parent, you may become frustrated with the amount of times they watch the same movie or want the same book read to them or play with the same toys, but this is how they develop their thinking and their knowledge! This is why it is important to provide engaging toys and activities that provide the opportunity for children to ask questions and then investigate to find the answers.
To foster an inquiry based learning environment, setting up a child’s play space with toys and activities should encourage the child to be in charge of their own learning rather than a passive participator in activities that do not allow for questioning, thinking and collaborating. This active learning process supports the need for experiences that permit children to follow their interests and shape their learning. By providing challenging, inviting play spaces children will know that this is their space and is based on their needs.
A rich and varied environment supports children’s learning and development. It gives them the confidence to explore and learn in a secure and safe, yet challenging space. (Hodman, 2011)