Researching children’s interests

Researching children’s interests is part and parcel of our work as educators. But do we often rush to make assumptions about what they are truly interested in, without really digging below the surface? If we rush this process, we can make the mistake of veering off course with our programming, and miss the opportunity to deepen children’s learning.

Picture this. Think about a child who regularly packs backpacks with pretend food and empty food boxes, then lays out the contents of the bag as if he or she is having a picnic. This child may do this day in and day out. It seems only logical that this child has a strong interest in picnics right? We then follow this up with a class teddy bears picnic, a picnic basket is put in the dramatic play area, and we offer books about picnics at group times. All too often, this leads to…crickets. And we are left wondering where we went wrong! It turns out, the child was actually interested in the PROCESS of organising picnics. Making lists and packing objects into bags. Then unpacking and categorising the objects into groups. It was easy to jump to the conclusion that this child was passionate about picnics right?

Diane Kashin recently hosted a very popular webinar that looked at children’s interests and theories as inspiration for programming. When considering the ways that we observe and document children’s learning, she asked us to embrace the image of ourselves as “researchers”. A researcher is a thinker. A researcher is a theory builder. A researcher is a documenter. She also asked the question “What will the impact be on our global sector if all early learning teachers embrace the image of themselves as a researcher?”

child playing with water

So before racing to try and understand the learning that is happening for children, pause and reflect on the learning that is happening for you!

Here are 8 questions to consider, that will help you discover a little more about yourself as an educator who is also a learner, a theory builder and researcher

  • What interests me?
  • What puzzles or intrigues me?
  • What do I wonder about?
  • What do I want to know or better understand about children as learners or about myself as an educator, a learner or a person?
  • What would I like to change or improve?
  • Why is this important?
  • What are my assumptions or hypotheses?
  • What have my initial observations revealed to me?

To further understand how the above questions can help you when using and researching children’s interests as inspiration for programming, check out Diane’s free workshop. She will cover these questions and much more, leaving you with strategies to help you better understand children’s passions and interests.

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya was born in Lower Hutt and went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone Kindergarten. A qualified ECE, she studied at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked with home-based educators, in community-based childcare and in kindergarten. With childhood memories of reading books and writing stories, combined with her passion for all things social media, Sonya segued into her role with us at Storypark as social media manager.


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