Children learn by investigating and exploring the world around them, so we need to make sure that “world” draws them in and gives them opportunities to learn! Laura Wilhelm, EdD— Vice President of Professional Learning at Kaplan Early Learning Company and author Enticing Environments for People Under Three — shares how we can more deeply engage young children by creating environments with the “3 I’s” in mind—Inviting, interesting, and intriguing.
Hi, I'm Dr. Laura Wilhelm with Kaplan Early Learning Company. I think we've all seen a child toss a new toy aside, just to play with the box! Why is that? Boxes have more play possibilities, and they appeal to the child's senses. Cardboard has an earthy texture—that's inviting. Getting inside the box and making it dark, and suddenly light—that's interesting. With imagination, a box can become a race car or a mountain or a house—that's intriguing.
We can increase the depth of engagement in our classrooms by planning for these three “I”s— inviting, interesting, intriguing. They sound alike, but each one goes a little bit deeper.
An inviting classroom makes us want to enter with a warm welcome and a sense of belonging. In this infant room, I'd want to go up the ramp and check out that enchanted looking aquarium, that crate full of colorful balls, and all those books!
Opportunities for independence make things interesting for toddlers. “This is my classroom and my school family.” Doing it “myself” and learning to take care of materials strengthens that sense of community and shared responsibility. When one toddler does something, they all want to do it.
Plenty of parts can be used in different ways to add complexity and make it more intriguing, like the instruments in this music center. Paying attention to children's wonderful ideas leads us to ask questions and add props that extend their thinking. Sharing their excitement celebrates their learning!
For more ideas, check out my new book—Enticing Environments for People Under Three. It's written for infants and toddlers, but the ideas can be used in classrooms of any age!