Thursday, 10 May 2012

Following the Child’s Interest

“All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Ryan (5) is into 'where places are' and has a globe which he uses to see where the different countries are. For his 6th birthday he asked his granny, Jackie, for a world map birthday cake. When he told his dad of his special request Dad's comment was: "that's a bit of a tall order isn't it?" Ryan's reply was: "well, she'll just do the best she can!"


On his birthday Ryan received a huge wall map of the world and his dream cake; the first thing he did was to make sure that the flags had actually been placed into the correct countries checking each and every one of them! 

What impressed me is that a child this young has an interest in the wider world, he knows that the earth is round as represented on the globe but that it can also be represented flat on a map ..... or a cake. He also knows where the different countries are and not only that, he knows what the different flags look like....he certainly knows a lot more than me! 


It would be nice to know that Ryan's extensive knowledge and special interest in his subject is also celebrated at school; that he is able to share his knowledge with his class and is able use his special interest as a focus in his learning but unless teachers have the flexibility to follow the child's interest and for the planning to be child led this would be highly unlikely.
 Ryan’s sister, Elia, had requested a butterfly cake for her 4th birthday and again Jackie produced her dream cake. It is most likely that in her class there will be an exploration into butterflies as young children are generally interested in mini- beasts and teachers are very comfortable with doing the life cycle of a butterfly. Elia and many other children interested in this subjects will be able to share their knowledge and interest at school BUT not necessarily at the time when they have that interest; rather when the adult decides it is time to explore life-cycles. 


We all have different interests, talents and intelligences as well as different learning styles. Teaching a group of young children with different interests can be a challenge but I feel every child deserves to be taught in a manner that best suits them so that they can achieve THEIR true potential. As adults we can choose what interests us, we can choose to attend art classes or to go to physics seminars but young children in schools are often taught the subjects that are considered important by the adults even if these are subjects that may not be culturally relevant to some children and subjects where not every child has an interest or ability in that subject. 

Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor of neuroscience from Harvard University, developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in 1983. According to him we have nine different kinds of intelligence that reflect different ways we interact with the world. We all have nine intelligences but none of us have them in exactly the same configuration as we each have a unique profile. For Gardner, intelligence is the ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued; the skills to problem solve; being able to gather new knowledge to create solutions to problems. I would say that a child’s in depth investigation into something that really interests them and is relevant to them will display what Gardner considers intelligence; whether that child has an interest in nature, mathematics, music, language etc. 

In an ideal world children would follow and explore their interests in the classroom through a play based curriculum; children being part of the planning process and teachers having the confidence, freedom and ability to observe, assess and identify the learning that is happening to support child led planning. Could we strive towards this ideal world for our children?

BTW......... Jackie had got it right and Ryan did not need to correct any of the flag positions on his cake! 


Jackie drawn by Neve

One of our roles as the adult is to create an environment that allows children to have high levels of well-being and engagement so that they may reach their true potential - whatever that potential is.

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him”    Pablo Casals


  1. I would love to see more primary schools use play based curriculum, I dont know of any schools in my area that follow and explore childrens interests. Theres a challenge!!!

    1. It would be interesting to know if any schools are following children's interest and how they are doing this?