What do you do when your pre-schooler develops an all-consuming passion, like volcanoes, ponies or whip spiders?
Buy them a book? Show them a video on YouTube? Make a small-world scene in a builder's tray?
All of the above are great jumping-off points. But if you believe in inquiry-based learning, this is only the beginning.
After gathering some information about the subject, and after much discussion, questions will arise: how are volcanoes made? How do you care for a pony? How do whip spiders catch their prey?
Your job is to help your child think of ways to investigate further.
Is there somewhere we could visit where you could find the answer? Where could you find someone who looks after ponies? What would be some good questions to ask?
At every stage, it's your child who poses the questions. You are the facilitator. You deal with the logistics, arranging field trips and interviews.
The project concludes with a piece of artwork, a model, some writing - anything that enables your child to express their learning in a meaningful way.
Projects can last a day or several weeks. As long as the topic is interesting, keep investigating.
And don't forget the final review. A quick look back over the project helps to clarify and solidify what was learnt.
What current fascinations does your child have? Talk to them about it today. It might become their first project.
Here's the rest of the series:
Encourage open-ended play for creativity and focus
Understanding schema play in toddlers
Independent play and why it matters
Insider Guide: Small World Play and Language
Tell Almost Any Story with Just a Handful of Figures
A simple guide to choosing the right toy