Children learn best when they are deeply engaged in what they are doing or experiencing. When their curiosity is piqued, and they become genuinely involved and interested, they’re engaged - and this is powerful for learning.
So, how can we work with our children to support, develop, and extend engagement? Here are five easy ways to develop engaging experiences for young children.
1. Have fun! We all like having fun, right? And, when we enjoy what we do, it’s infectious. If we openly display enjoyment while carrying out a task, activity, or while exploring and discovering, then children will follow. Be prepared; determine exactly what the activity will be and have all your resources ready to go. This way, you can be fully present. Go on, enjoy yourself! Relax into it and just be you. Within moments, children will join you.
2. Create challenges. Children love to play and get involved. During activities, use language to motivate and encourage children to take part in mild competition. Rather than create individual winners, set tasks the whole group can achieve together, i.e., how quickly can we all build this tower together? How can we make a spaceship to carry us all? Children will develop team-building skills by sharing experiences, taking turns, and problem-solving.
The flexibility of loose parts easily allows challenges to be planned, mastered, and then reassessed and adjusted. This is an obstacle course at Roseville Childcare, United Kingdom, created from loose parts - brought, found, and up-cycled.
3. Be honest. As educators, it’s important to be reliable and consistent. Children need to know where they stand with us, so let them know what’s happening during the day and maintain clear boundaries and limits. Implementing routines will empower children, build their confidence, and help them feel relaxed to engage in play with deeper learning and understanding.
Outdoor dining area at New Shoots Children's Centre, The Lakes.
4. Inspire and excite. Introduce awe-inspiring opportunities that children will flock to. Children are naturally eager to explore, discover, touch, and feel something they’ve never seen before. Use a wide variety of activities, materials, and resources that introduce colour, texture, and natural materials to generate interest and excitement. Deepen learning experiences by connecting the opportunities to children’s interests and passions.
Campfire provocation at New Shoots Children's Centre, Hillcrest.
5. Make-believe worlds. Make learning magical, mystical, and exciting. A simple way to do this is by sharing your love of books and the written word. Reading with children brings a book and its characters alive. Use your voice in different ways to give characters personality. Let go of inhibitions and witness how children smile as you relax, have fun, and become someone else. Your enjoyment of a book, the story it tells, and the adventures in which you travel come to life as your inner actor emerges. Exploring make-believe worlds with children sparks their imagination and encourages a self-directed world of role play.
The loose part play area at Roseville Childcare, United Kingdom, is a large outdoor space where imaginations can run wild. Recycled goods donated by the community have been gathered and sorted to allow children the power to create. Restrictions are limited so that creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration can take place. Photograph by Emma Smith.
Make the most of Enspirement by jumping into the Enspires and discovering countless ideas for provocations, activities, and learning opportunities that engage children in meaningful ways - opening a world of possibilities, pleasure, and enjoyment.