“This is a T-Rex, this one big like 20 cars, this one is from South Africa” said Leila as she was describing her news to the class about her interest in Dinosaurs. In the Preschool room we are focusing on the letter D and the children are encouraged to bring in an item or picture relating to the letter of the week. Leila’s dinosaur news sparked much discussion amongst the children during group time.
To extend the children’s interest in dinosaurs, the Educator asked the children if they wanted to create a play space that was all about dinosaurs. Leila and the other children agreed excitedly. The Preschool room educators gathered the children’s input on what things they should include in the play area. Some of the children exclaimed, “trees, dinosaurs, volcanos, lava, sand and water”.
Miss Daniella collected a very large recycled box, flattened it, and painted the landscape of a dinosaur’s natural habitat like river flows, grass and dirt. The educators implemented all of the children’s suggestions into the dinosaur play area where the children freely added a variety of different dinosaur toys, trees, rocks, stones, natural materials like small wooden logs, wooden platforms and books relating to dinosaurs. Together as a class we set up a very creative and fascinating Dinosaur Land.
The unique thing about extending children’s interests and creating play-based learning is that children drive their own learning, taking it as far as they want to go. In this dramatic play area children learn to do things like negotiate, consider others’ perspectives, transfer knowledge from one situation to another. Children can learn new dinosaur names as well as their significant features and loads more.
The Dinosaur theme is tried and true in most early learning settings at one time or another. Intensely interested children can rattle off the scientific names of dozens, if not hundreds, of dinosaurs. They can tell you what these creatures ate, what they looked like, and where they lived. They know the difference between the Mesozoic era and the Cretaceous period. The level of dinosaur expertise a child can have is seriously astounding.
There is a naturally occurring psychological phenomenon known as ‘extremely intense interests’ (EIIs). EIIs are frequently seen in preschool-aged children and obsessions can range from dinosaurs to space or Disney characters. They typically start to emerge at around 18 months of age.
Having such intense interests helps children to become more observant, increase their attention span and promote efficient information processing skills. Interests tend to promote ‘fact collecting’ behaviour and it’s thought that the transition from home to spending more time at school may interrupt or slow down their natural fact-collecting enthusiasm. On average though, interests can last from six months to three years, and we absolutely should encourage them to learn as much as they can!
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For information regarding our childcare and kindergarten service go to: Story House Early Learning Putney