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Resources that support Discovery based learning

All elements of discovery involve learners being open to something new or the ability to see things differently.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

When children play, there is almost always an aspect that involves discovery, but often it is not intentional and can vary from child to child. However, with a dedicated focus between educators and students, there is an opportunity for learning that goes beyond a surface level, bringing meaning and relevance to all involved. An emphasis on what the child is learning and how it may connect to other areas of their development is critical to understanding its inherent value. 

True Discovery Requires Child-led activities

While planning activities for children is an expectation for educators, it can be less challenging and more rewarding based on observations of their interests and individual needs. 

However, if Educators allow children time and space to revisit and repeat them for as long as possible, this can lead to unexpected and exciting consequences. Children are often free in their approach to exploring resources and using them in ways adults may never even ponder. Even with the simplest of materials, children love to inspect them every which way possible. 

Learning more about the natural world seems to be an innate interest in children; they are instinctively drawn to animals and the seasons. Setting up a large open-ended play mat with a set of Woodland animals and a play tree stump provides a multi-sensory experience that incorporates a variety of textures that can highlight children’s questions and insights through play about what they are learning through discovery. 

Choosing to focus on the elements of the season changing by colours or finding out more about the kinds of animals that live in each hemisphere, opportunities are plentiful that encourage their worldview, that is relevant and is in context to their current understanding. Allowing children to set the pace means that the questions they ask are those they are most interested in and ready to learn more about. 

The Importance of Quality Questions during Discovery Play

There are two types of questions involved in learning. The first are closed questions where the responses are most often factual and singular, they don’t come with an explanation or justification and tend to stop conversations in their tracks. 

The second is open-ended questions. As their name suggests, these questions leave room for extension and postulation. When open-ended questioning is taught to children and practised, they can change the course of relationship building as important information is contained in each exchange. 

Children can easily be involved in setting up their learning environment by participating in planned question and answer sessions when communicating with adults. When based around routines, these sessions can be extremely powerful as they involve children discovering things about themselves and the people around them. 

Between transitions, using open-ended questions, children may be asked to think about what resources they have been engaged with during play and where their thinking may take them next. This could involve them sharing something they have made with loose parts or demonstrating how something works with their peers.

How Discovery Learning Encourages Challenging Thinking

It is easy to believe what you are told, but much more so when you experience things yourself. Young children live in a world where they are asked to trust what they hear but naturally begin questioning as they interact with it, gaining independence and forming their ideas and thoughts. 

We live in a constantly changing world that advances technology each day, creating inventions that generally make life easier and more convenient.  Entrepreneurs are those who question and challenge the way things are, and young children are similar as they see things through fresh eyes, experiencing life for the first time.

Resources that offer the possibility of being accessed in more than one way are very appealing as they can stimulate thinking and imagination, cementing learning and understanding. Items such as the Papoose Weaving Forest are designed for children to weave fabric through wooden sticks whilst standing upright. Adding accessories to its base like a Felt River, Wooden Trees and houses with a family can create endless small-world play opportunities. Turning it on its side, the same Weaving Forest could become a tropical reef for marine creatures to live in or a frame of a hut-style tent.

Children can explore transformative concepts with Grimm's Stacking Flower, Double Rainbow, and Four Elements Set which have all been designed to create many original and unique designs from their original forms. 

Developing emotional vocabulary with young children is made easier through the exploration of feelings and emotions with a  Memory Game. Visualising and creating their representations are made simpler with Plasticine and Emotions Rollers. Conversations can flow more smoothly during play, and children can put their learning into context. This may lead them to develop their intention and follow through by making a representation of their feelings safely. 

All elements of discovery involve learners being open to something new or the ability to see things differently. Sharing new learning can spark interest or facilitate the desire to try new things. Working in collaboration with children and helping them to ask the questions they would like to have answered is the basis for them to carry these skills forward in their learning. 


For more information about ways to encourage Discovery and Play, visit our website at 



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