What an important life skill it is to understand the world in the early years. In the British curriculum this is a key area for EYFS defined as follows:
- Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
Children need experiences to understand how the world works. For example does our child ask questions like these:
Where does the water go after a bath? How does a tree grow? Where is the sun at night? Why don’t we all drive on the right hand side? Which car is the biggest/fastest? Why does the water go in a different way down one toilet in Taiwan and another way in New Zealand? When will I be able to go to work like you? Can the earth spin around faster? How is yoghurt made? Who else makes milk apart from cows? Why don’t we live with superheroes around us? When can I see a shark at the beach? Where does my family come from? Where was I born? Can I travel to the moon? If the world is round are we upside down? Why are there so many countries?
Depending on the children’s environment, this will spark different questions; curiosity needs to be encouraged to develop language, communication, social and emotional skills.
This is the time you can take your child to a local park beach, or even just take a walk, look at the surrounding environment if in Singapore you maybe under an HDB and it will be concrete playground; or in a local gated community in Dubai, it may be very hot and sandy; in Australia it’ll be really grassy near the beach; in Canada up the mountains. Each child will have a different experience within their life.
However, give them time to communicate, observe their surroundings. Ask them what do they see, how do they feel? Why is it important? And many more such questions. When you go to the park, explain your surroundings, allow them to see it through their eyes however hear it through your eyes. Remember in their eyes you are the expert.
The skills a child picks up from understanding how the world works from trains, work, school, travel, animals, etc helps to build the foundation skills necessary to be able to function in the communities where they grow and develop.
Listening and attention: children listen attentively in a range of situations. They listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.
Understanding: children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.
Speaking: children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.
Here are a few websites and activities to look at when developing the concept of understanding the world.
I look forward to exploring this area in more detail in another article soon… But what activities have you learned that have been helpful? Please do share in the comments below.