Developing a Sense of Wonder in Young Children

How can we, as parents and teachers, most effectively become the companions that help each child discover the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in? How do we make sure that our curriculum fosters and strengthens the sense of wonder in young children?

The sense of wonder is an integral part of every newborn infant. Wonder is possible when children are free from threats and fears. Here are some ideas to help parents and teachers provide an atmosphere in which wonder can flourish in children.

A sense of wonder is created, nourished and sustained when:

  • Sensitive adults react in a prompt, responsible and satisfying way to the needs of their children.
  • Parents lovingly hold and cuddle their child in ways and amounts that promote attachment, comfort and joy reciprocally between the parent and child.
  • Parents and other adults close to the daily life of the child interact with the child and her world by expressing interest, spontaneous humor and joy.
  • Parents and teachers encourage children to freely experiment, taste, feel, hear, see, explore and get into things that are interesting and safe.
  • Children see and hear their parents and teachers become engaged and responsively enlivened when doing such things as reading a story, playing or listening to music.
  • Children notice that their parents and teachers let themselves get lost in the fun and creativity of play.
  • Parents and teachers find something good about the mistakes children make as they grow and learn.
  • Children in schools and preschools are influenced by educators who often ask, rather than teachers who usually tell.
  • Teachers and parents are flexible enough to postpone their planned activities from time to time and let a child’s creative idea or direction lead the way.
  • Children are encouraged to voice their emotions and to talk about their hurts and fears with attentive, responsive parents and teachers.
  • Young children can choose play activities based on their own feelings of interest and boredom and not the decisions of another person.
  • The efforts of young children are regularly encouraged and prized. Children’s sense of wonder is damaged and grows weak if their efforts are often met by adult corrections and criticism.

Wonder becomes possible when children can risk being themselves without there being any risk at all.

Written by Peter Haiman, Ph.D.