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Curious bits & bobs

The Curiosity Approach is more than just beautiful play spaces… So grab a cuppa, settle down and delve deeply inside our articles...

Why not print them out and put them in your staff rooms...


Power of Curiosity

Are you Curious? The Curiosity Approach has its basis in a whole host of pedagogies, including Reggio, Steiner, a bit of Montessori and the Te Whāriki Approach in New Zealand. But when it comes to the very core of what the team want to inspire within children, it really is all in the name. 

“We just want to keep it simple!

"Curiosity is innate within every single one of us and to be a learner in anything, you need to be curious.”

Curiosity is key because it is the very foundation of learning. It is what drives children in the Early Years to explore, do, and think for themselves and the key to fostering that curiosity is curious mindful educators. It's about an environment that provokes and prompts inquisitive, moments and opportunities for children. Educators who share sustained shared thinking and allow freedom of opportunities in play and learning.  

Having recently been interviewed by Matt Arnerich, from 'Family' Nursery Management software.  Here is what he wrote when interviewing us 

The overstimulation situation

If you step into a Curiosity Approach setting, you won’t find bright coloured walls and hundreds of shiny plastic toys. Instead, you’ll see wooden materials, natural resources, and neutral backgrounds that allow the colour to shine. But why?

“Some people want to offer the busy bright walls, but there is a lot of research out there to show the effect on children and how it can feel,” says Lyndsey. The problem is that too many bright colours and not enough care over where they’re placed can overstimulate children. This can cause things like:

  • Crankiness
  • Tiredness
  • Upset
  • Anger
  • Miscommunication

Of course, stimulation is key to developing little brains and building those connections that help them learn. But bright, busy and plastic provisions can also be having an adverse effect on children's well being and behaviour too. By only providing plastic resources we are missing a plethora and wide array of resources, textures and materials.

“Plastic all smells the same, feels the same and often comes in bright colours that overstimulate children,” Lyndsey says. “On the other hand, if you’re recycling and sourcing open-ended resources and natural materials, you’re bringing different elements, textures, feels and smells. That sense of curiosity and wonder will come with it.”



Knighton Day Nursery in Leicester embarked on The Curiosity Approach Accreditation and here are the results of adopting the pedagogy. 

What do we want for our children?

Another important part of the Curiosity Approach is about being mindful of what you want for the children in your care. Overstimulation and behaviour management issues are one thing, but you need to think about the skills you’re trying to teach children too.

In particular, The Curiosity Approach is about developing:

  • Independent thinking
  • Stronger non-verbal communication
  • Language and verbal communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Lifelong learners
  • Risk-taking
  • Respect for resources and the natural world
  • creative and critical thinking
  • Imagination  

According to Jack Ma, it is these skills that will be relevant to children growing up in an ever-changing world.

                                                         CHANGE THE WAY WE TEACH

“In 30 years, half the jobs we have now will not be in existence,” Stephanie explains. “The best thing that we can do for our children is to create thinkers and doers. To manage and take risks. To be curious. Because curiosity is the spark that ignites everything else.”

1. Start with ‘why’

According to Stephanie and Lyndsey, it’s not just about throwing some crates into your setting and heading off to a car boot. “It’s about understanding WHY you’re putting those things in, how you’re presenting them, and why you’re presenting them in a certain way,” Lyndsey explains.

You need to start with ‘why’. Try taking 30 minutes to go round your setting and ask why everything is there. Try things like:

  • What learning opportunity does it create?
  • Is it limited, or is it open-ended?
  • Is it exciting?
  • Will it ignite curiosity?

In other words, does it have a purpose, or is it just there because it’s always been there? “If you have a purpose and a 'why' then that’s absolutely fine. But don’t do it just because that’s what you think you have to do.” Stephanie says.

2. How much stuff?!

Once you’ve really thought about the purpose of everything in your setting, it’s time to cut down on the clutter.

Too much choice and not enough thought,  can be a huge contributor to the overstimulation that many children face at nursery.

If you can’t find the ‘why’ then maybe it’s time to take some resources out.

It’s about giving children more quality options, rather than a load of limited, single-application toys.

Please be careful about listening to myths and misconceptions. It's not all about binning every bit of plastic your setting owns! Where will it go, do children enjoy playing with the plastic farm or small world animals? Babies are also a huge part of any Curiosity Approach setting. 

Please be reassured dolls are an important part of teaching children about empathy, kindness, acting out past experiences and managing emotions, thoughts and thinking. Perhaps the arrival of a new baby in the family? Dolls play a humongous part in nursery life. 

However, items we do ask you to reflect upon and reconsider are plastic closed toys!

Take a plastic garage for example. It’s pre-designed, manufactured and the designer has it in mind what they want you to do.

You’ve got a little lift that you put your car in, you wind it and up it goes to the first floor, the second floor and back down the ramp. The next time you play with it it goes up the lift and down the ramp.

From the first day you play with it until the 20th, nothing changes. The ramp is set, still the same trajectory. But when you have open-ended resources and loose parts – drain pipes, guttering, cable reels, even bits of cardboard – children create their own garage.

They are designers in their own play.  They are the thinkers AND PILOTS IN THEIR OWN PLAY. 

Yes! most certainly children will use their imaginations and the plastic manufactured garage can become whatever the child desires, a helicopter station, fire station etc. But the garage physical structure never alters. It's a fixed closed resource.  Give the children open-ended resources and their curiosity and imaginations are ignited. The play takes on a whole new level. 

Curiosity Approach settings are sweeping the country and as educators, it can be easy to be swept along with the tide.

As mindful educators, we need to be equipping ourselves with knowledge and understanding regarding play and what true play looks like. How as educators we can support and facilitate curiosity and become researchers and facilitators of children's learning. To understand sustained shared thinking and support, scaffold, model and communicate with children. 

As we said earlier it's more than just apple crates and car boot treasures.

This is an ongoing and deeper understanding of play, child development and a commitment from a mindful team of passionate educators to place CHILDREN, provision and practice at the centre of everything we do.

Nicholson (2005, p. 50) sees the physical building as a ‘second skin’ where children are at the centre of what is happening, and communication and collaboration takes place easily. Laevers (2005, p. 22) suggests that the ‘richness’ of the environment can be tested through two principles, those of diversity (how broad is the horizon of possible experiences?) and depth (how much is there to be discovered?). He highlights the adult’s role in setting up an environment where such exploration can happen. Consider, in relation to your early years setting, the question he poses: ‘Is the reality brought into the setting complex enough or is it processed by the adult up to the point where the joy of discovery, adventure and serendipity altogether is banned from the daily life of children?’ (Laevers, 2005, p. 22).

“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” Maria Montessori 
At The Curiosity Approach, our big goal is to transform educational practice from ordinary to extraordinary. 

Have you read our latest book? From Ordinary to Extraordinary. This book is about the transformational journey of serval Early Educational Settings who have embarked on the Accreditation journey. It's about their WHY, their How and the impact this has had on their children, provision and practice. 

Education Systems haven't changed for 200 years, isn't it about time we started to rethink provision and practice, to look beyond academic pressures, targets and next steps? To care for our children with HEART and mindful consideration. to place the emphasis back on play, investigation and that innate drive of curiosity. 
Albert Einstein said  " The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. 

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.  Walt Disney.


"The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out." Albert Einstein
At The Curiosity Approach, we are willing to question current practice, to help spark conversation and discussion.
To provide a doorway to reflection and deeper analysis of our own current practice and knowledge. It's about understanding your own why. Your own mission, vision and ethos. 

As a reflective practitioner, It's important to consider -

  • Think about how you work
  • Acknowledge your strengths, but also recognise your weaknesses as a setting or personally. 
  • Consider the impact your actions have on children, colleagues and the families you work with.
  • Continually reflect and review your methods to improve the quality of your practice
  • Identify and resolve problems, seek alternatives 
  • Be open to listening and trying out new ideas
  • have an open mind, open heart and open thinking 
Whether you follow the Curiosity Approach, love our message and thinking or just take elements of it. Maybe the Curiosity Approach just isn't for you! We are Early Years and we are united !
Do what you do with intergrity and intent. We are all in Early years for one common goal ' The Children.' 

Love and respect x 

Together we can do more 

Thank you for taking the time to read this short and hopefully informative piece of writing. We have tons more articles to read and keep you updated on our thinking, philosophy and ideas.  






Stephanie Bennett

This article was written by Stephanie Bennett, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Lyndsey Hellyn. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

Lyndsey Hellyn

This article was written by Lyndsey Hellyn, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Stephanie Bennett. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

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