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A pre-school director shares exactly how to spot 'teachable moments' with your child.

Ku Children’s Services
Thanks to our brand partner, Ku Children’s Services

From the moment we bring a child into the world, we want to be able to guide them to learn and grow as they delight in joy and wonder at the world around them.

And as they grow, we want them to become excited by the possibilities of what they can learn, discover and do.

Bonnie Te Ara Henare, Director and teacher at KU Phillip Park, a childcare centre that is part of the not-for-profit KU Children’s Services in Sydney, believes there’s something magical about the moment a child learns something new.

It’s called a ‘teachable moment’, which Bonnie describes as “a serendipitous moment; unplanned and unexpected”.

“There are countless teachable moments every day and these represent significant moments in a child’s life to deepen their curiosity and understanding of the world around them,” Bonnie tells Mamamia.

 Pre-school director Bonnie Te Ara Henare from KU Phillip Park. Image: Supplied.

For children, teachable moments are important because they affirm and validate children's natural curiosity or wondering about the world and the meaning that they create from it.

The early years before children start school are a time for children to explore their natural curiosity, and to learn through play in a safe environment. A pre-school will tap into this inquisitive nature of children, providing opportunities for them to ask big questions in order to make sense of the world.

At KU childcare centres and preschools, the focus for the educators and teachers is on creating 'teachable moments' to encourage the children to think deeply about the world around them and then discuss these elements from different perspectives.

These normally come in the form of an open question from a child that might relate to concepts such as birth, death, diversity, and change.

An example shared by Bonnie explains the idea. A child might ask, "What happened to the butterfly? The butterfly is not moving" if they encounter a butterfly in the playground.

The teacher can then use this opportunity to discuss what the child thinks may have happened, and the idea of living things being impermanent.

"Often we find the teachable moments are linked to the cycle of life and nature," Bonnie explains. "There is a deep wondering and awe. It’s really relational, where they’re trying to piece together how the world works."

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The teachers at KU use these big questions as a learning opportunity for the children, seeing them as a starting point for discussions and further inquiry.

"We are intentionally seeking, listening and causing these moments every day with the children," Bonnie explains. "That is the core purpose of our being as educators and teachers."

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The smallest moments can spark the biggest realisations. Image: Getty.

It's an important time to capture a child's imagination. "Research shows that children’s curiosity peaks at the age of five," Bonnie explains. "At pre-school you have this amazing window of time to harness this curiosity. Capture it, give weight to it, create projects, and develop extensions into the community."

Bonnie, who is a mother of six, has plenty of experience in picking up on children's curiosity cues and turning the moment into something they can learn from.

For parents, Bonnie says that "becoming aware of teachable moments means listening for your child’s wonderings, questions that are being sparked every day, and being present to the invitations to connect with your child in conversation about these wonderings that they share with you. This will naturally deepen their understanding and also bring your attention to what is holding your child’s attention".

When a parent observes and listens for teachable moments, there is an opening to ‘speak’ into the moment that can ignite the curiosity of their child as it is sparked.

"Many parents ask me how they will know when they are in a teachable moment with a child," says Bonnie. "It will be unmistakable. You may see or feel an illumination in your child's eyes, face and hear in their voice an elevated understanding that was not present before. You will experience a closeness or affinity with your child that leaves you enlightened and elated, where the presence of joy and love is felt."

According to Bonnie, there is one simple way to facilitate the space to have these teachable moments at home: give your children the gift of being present by truly listening to them.

"Listening costs nothing but reaps the greatest investment in establishing strong relational foundations for children in life," Bonnie shares.

It's simple, but makes perfect sense. They are our future leaders, after all.

For more information on learning at KU Children's Services, visit ku.com.au.

Feature image: Getty.

Ku Children’s Services

KU Children’s Services is one of the largest not-for-profit providers of early childhood education and care and has more than 140 centres across NSW, ACT, VIC & QLD. 99% of our centres meet or exceed the early childhood National Quality Standards. KU’s philosophy supports the National Quality Framework, introduced to ensure consistent, high quality early childhood education for all children. Using this Framework, our qualified educators provide a play-based program designed to be flexible, recognising that each child develops at their own pace. Click here to find out more about KU’s high quality early education programs.

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