Children make connections to understand how the world works and our various systems in transportation, food, nature, and more. Adults can facilitate this learning by asking open-ended questions and inviting children to think beyond the immediate toys and materials right in front of them.

Making daily connections and discoveries across disciplines is one of the most delightful parts of being a human. As we go about our daily lives, we observe, listen, and collect data about the way the world works and functions. Our brains then take that information and process it, and allow us to see connections between nature, art, music, science, history, language, and more. This is something that exists in all humans and is a cognitive skill that can be encouraged and cultivated in young children. The beautiful thing about working on this skill is that you can truly incorporate it into every part of your day. When we encourage children to make cognitive connections, we are encouraging them to become lifelong learners.

To begin, adults can model the way that they make their own cognitive connections throughout the day. For example, on neighborhood walks, adults can call attention to details they see in life cycles, city infrastructure, or design. This could sound like “Wow, there’s the recycling truck…that must mean it’s Tuesday!”, or “I see that some of the daffodils are just starting to bud, which means in the next couple of weeks the daffodils in the neighborhood will be in full bloom!”. Adults can then extend these connections with intentional activities that call children’s attention to these details. For example, they might make Daffodil Trumpets with children to take on their daily walks, and invite children to make trumpet sounds and encourage children to point out daffodils when they see them. In this exercise, adults are modeling and inviting children to make connections with the plants that grow during a specific season and the shape of the plant. Most importantly, this is possible with all ages! With infants, we can point and narrate in a sing-song voice as we describe the shape and color of the beautiful daffodils; with toddlers we can invite them to point and make trumpet noises when we see daffodils; and with preschool aged children we can start to dive into some of the scientific questions and language of wondering why and how and when the world around us starts to bloom. Later on, when children are older, more verbal, or simply curious for more, children may learn that daffodils are shaped like trumpets to encourage pollination, that daffodils often turn in the same direction to face sunlight, and that they are also called Narcissus after the Greek legend of Narcissus staring at his own reflection in the water. Each path of discovery related to just a simple flower is exciting and full of new information, and it all starts somewhere. In this case, it starts with daily walks where we slow down and call their attention to the exciting world around them. 

Throughout the Rayz Kidz curriculum, we love to provide caregivers and educators with concrete ways that allow children to make connections through multiple learning modalities. For example, a child might express their understanding of medicine and sickness when we do STEM activities, like our “Pharmacist” activity that invites children to make their own cough syrup. They might understand all of the ways that we use honey that bees make when we have a “Bee Picnic”, and understand a bit more about food production during this very sensory experience. Or, we can explore connections through art, in activities such as “Window Design” where we understand the purpose and function of windows, while also learning all about shapes! In the Rayz Kidz curriculum, we always unpack the ways that we can enhance children’s learning when they are learning through their favorite modality…play!