The Birmingham Day Nurseries team is committed to curiosity-led learning and development.

What exactly does that mean?

At nursery, your child will retain a sense of awe and wonder about their environment and daily experiences. Instead of prescribed tasks, they’ll be encouraged to explore their own imagination: for example, by being given paints, paper, and a range of ‘brushes’ – from real ones to leaves, vegetables and other unexpected textures and shapes – and supported to develop their own artwork. Narrow single-outcome activities are replaced by free play, allowing your child to develop their social skills, creativity and independence as they construct their own interpretation of the resources before them, individually and with other children.

Of course, all this free play is supported by professional staff, observing, supporting and encouraging your child to develop emotionally and physically.

Wondering how to do the same at home? Follow these simple tips, and help foster your child’s curiosity.

Open questions

This is a simple change that can have a big impact.

An open question is any question that can’t be answered simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Open questions prompt your child to think about the answer, and give them freedom to respond with their own ideas and thoughts. Some examples:

Closed: Do you like…?
Open: How do you feel about…?

Closed: Are you ok?
Open: How do you feel?

Closed: Did you do music at nursery today? Did you play with Suman? Did you have a nice time?
Open: Tell me about your day.

If your child is going through the ‘why’ stage of questions, this can be a great way to redirect the question into a conversation.

Them: Why is the sky blue?
You: I wonder. What do you think?

Follow their lead

It’s tempting to give your child direction when you sit down to play together, or watch as they play independently. It’s also easy to fall back on play strategies and activities that you personally enjoy.

But it’s important to allow your child to be an autonomous individual: a little person with their own likes and interests. If they’re particularly interested in something – dinosaurs, fish, emptying your handbag out all over the carpet – take notice. Give them opportunities to explore stories and imaginary adventures connected to their likes.

If emptying the handbag is their favourite game, don’t simply tell them off. Find a way to redirect this interest, for example by providing them with an alternative bag filled with interesting items to empty out and put back in. The same goes for any kind of messy or disruptive play, from poking through flowerbeds to pouring water.

Loose parts and movement areas

Free play is easy to recreate at home.

Steer clear of the kinds of activities you find on Pinterest and in activity books, encouraging you to follow a strict pattern or template. Instead, choose toys and equipment that leaves your child free to use their own imagination. Building blocks and Lego, felt shapes, art supplies and colourful buttons and beads all leave the end result in your child’s hands. It also promotes their fine motor skills.

Gross motor skills development (using big muscles) and physical activity can also be imaginative and free. Simple household items like large sofa cushions, buckets and cardboard boxes can find new lives as places to sit and roll around on or in, creatures, costumes, buildings and vehicles. Ask your child to initiate an activity with an open question: what’s this? what are you doing? where are you? 

If your child needs encouragement to start off an imaginary adventure, connect the play to something they already enjoy like a loved TV show, story, animal or person. Then let them lead.