Using children’s interests as a starting point for activity planning
If I asked you to name an interest for each child in your group, would you hesitate or name them off the top of your head? Since most early childhood educators have excellent observation skills, chances are this would be an easy task for you. In fact, you may even be able to name more than one interest for each child.
In this article, I am focusing on children’s interests because I would like to demonstrate the importance of using them as a starting point whenever you sit down to plan activities for your group. It is common for early childhood educators to spend a great deal of time searching for activities that are perfectly suited to their group. In general, we look for spur of the moment inspiration and let annual celebrations or seasons guide our activity selection. However, are children really interested in the themes you select? Maybe not…
For this reason, I would like to suggest an exercise that you can work on over the course of a few days. To begin, write one major interest on a piece of paper for each child in your group. For this part of the exercise, you must observe children closely during periods of free play and really listen to what they have to say during circle time. Ask children, for example, what they did during the weekend. There are endless ways to tap into children’s interests.
Once you have collected this piece of valuable information, use it as a starting point to select the first theme you will explore with your group. Offer crafts and exploration activities related to the chosen theme. Let children CHOOSE the material they wish to play with and their arts & crafts accessories. Create specific corners where children can be the masters of their learning experiences.
How much time should you devote to each theme? There is no clear answer to this question. Observe the children in your group and let them guide you. Do they still seem fascinated by the theme or do they appear to be losing interest? These clues will indicate when it’s time to move on to the next theme.
For children to continue to actively participate in their learning experience, they must be given as many choices as possible. Give them as much freedom as you can so they can take initiatives. Encourage children to pick the material they wish to explore as well as their activities. Of course, the starting point for any activity should be something specific a child is interested in. This is true when planning an entire theme or a single impromptu activity. Activity planning should always make room for modifications. Being open to children’s suggestions and ideas will ensure they reach their full potential.