Children are natural observers. They constantly take in new information through their senses to be processed by the brain. It’s how they learn about their world. It’s why children mouth toys and reach out to touch unfamiliar objects. There are a number of things teachers can do to promote and enhance children’s observation skills:
- Provide novelty – Look for new or different objects that you can safely share with children. Look for items that require children to explore using all of their senses. Each item doesn’t need to activate all 5 senses, but be sure to include items that provoke all senses throughout the day. You could introduce:
- Class pets or visiting animals
- Different toys or materials for children to explore and use in their play
- Different art materials
- Items from nature
- Items with different textures, sounds, and smells
- New foods (consult with families in case of food allergies)
- Tools for observation – Teachers can promote observation by providing tools such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug boxes, ant farms, etc.
- Language – Children need to hear new words in order to use them to describe their observations. Be sure to fill the environment with language and new vocabulary words. Younger children will benefit from hearing words that describe items, such as the red car, or the round table. Introduce multiple words that can be used to describe a particular item. For example, the fabric you add to the music area can be described as soft, silky, smooth, and velvety.
- Point out interesting things to observe – When you see a bird soaring above the playground or an interesting cloud in the sky, tell the children what you observe. When you hear a new sound in the environment, ask children to stop and listen.
- Encourage children to listen to one another – Sometimes, we need to be observant of others. In early childhood, children should pay attention to the words and actions of their peers. Words and actions are clues to the needs of others.
- Help children observe sensations in the body – Throughout childhood, children become aware of their own bodies and sensations that are occurring within them. Infants discover their hands and feet. Toddlers can be encouraged to notice when they have to use the bathroom. Preschoolers can bring attention to how strong emotions make them feel. Remember, observing can be both external and internal.
- Play observation games – Games like I-Spy, and sound bingo games are fun for children and help them build intentional and careful observation skills.
- Ask many questions – Promote observation by asking children to tell you what they notice about an object or situation. Open-ended questions are best:
- What do you see/hear/taste?
- How does the object feel?
- Describe what you taste/smell?
- What’s happening now?
- How is it changing?
- What is happening to the size of the item?
What are your favorite ways to encourage children to be more observant?
For the main article Strengthening Scientific Thinking, CLICK HERE
For the article Asking Questions & Gathering Information, CLICK HERE
For the article Making Predictions, CLICK HERE
For the article Experimenting & Sharing Results, CLICK HERE