How can we nurture a sense of wonder in our preschool child?

As parents, it’s important to understand why the sense of wonder is so critical and important in a child’s life; and to revive the delight in the mysteries and beauty of nature.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with her joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel Carson, author of The Sense of Wonder

On 11 March 2014, I was privileged to attend “Childhood Education: Nurturing a sense of wonder in preschool child” (MWOS 2014 series), a seminar by Professor Masayo Ave. This seminar aims to share how educators and parents can nurture the imaginative prowess and sense of wonder in children by using design thinking process, that promotes integrated learning and creativity.

Here are some activities that she shared and what I gleaned from the lecture.

1. Design Gymnastic ABC

Do you know that our world is full of A.B.C. and numbers? This activity opens up a new world of seeing our surrounding. Be earnest and open to seek out the alphabets and numbers, and we will find them in many unexpected places.

Try to seek them out when you are walking leisurely. Practise this “gymnastic” exercise regularly to sharpen our senses and observation skills.

Dot and I are so delighted when we find these alphabets on our way home.


2. Wonder Hunting Map

Go to a nature park and collect a wide variety of leaves, flowers and plant parts. Only pick leaves, flowers and plant parts off the ground.

Be familiar with the trees, plants, flowers and the exact locations where we can find these plants.

3. Wonder Plate

After collecting the leaves, flowers and plants parts, display them neatly on a plain white tray. The children can examine and take a closer look at leaves, flowers and plant parts by using a magnifying glass. This will train their observation skills.


4. Many, many extraordinary stories

The children can think out of the box by making faces from the leaves, flowers and plant parts. They can be creative with the use of the natural materials. After that they can tell a story about their design. Is the person a boy or a girl? Is this person happy?


5. As real as possible drawing

Dot picked these flowers off the ground. We observe and analyse the petals, the stalks, lines and the colours. Then we matched the colours of the flowers with the oil pastels and select the best matched colours. Dot then tried to draw them as real as possible.

This is her first piece of work with little help from me.

Prof. Masayo Ave mentioned that children should be given more than the typical 12-colored oil pastels for drawing and colouring. In Germany, the standard is 60 colours. I couldn’t find 60-colored oil pastels in Singapore so I just bought a 50-colored oil pastels for Dot.


6. Colours of Singapore chameleon

Chameleon has the ability to adapt and camouflage itself from its predator by changing its skin colour.

Using Leo Lionni’s Colour of its own, the children can adapt the as real as possible drawing they did earlier to the chameleon.

leo lionni-chameleon

7. Spirit Garden

After all the fun and hardwork, the children can finally see how their pieces of work fit in the big picture. They can choose where to place their leaves, flowers, plant parts and even the chameleons on the branches of the tree. The branches of the tree are made from cardboard, which are prepared in advance.

This activity enhances the sense of corporation and to share the joy of creation.


My afterthought

After attending the seminar, many thoughts run through my mind. Firstly, I’m very glad that we expose Dot to nature when she was very young. She went for her first nature walk at Bukit Timah Hill when she was about 15-month old. I could observe how nature and outdoor activities benefit my daughter in many areas of her life.

Secondly, I suddenly realized that Singapore has so many beautiful and colourful flora that I’ve yet to know. The Wonder Plate is an amazing display of our local treasures. Prof. Masayo Ave probably knows more about our local plants than myself. I really need to open my eyes to see and learn about these treasures in Singapore.

Finally, preschool children are not too young to learn design thinking process. Prof Masayo Ave’s activities just proved how fun and engaging they are to preschoolers who participated in the MWOS workshops.

About MWOS

ManyWaysOfSeeing (MWOS) is an initiative of the DesignSingapore Council and was started in 2003 by the late Dr. Milton Tan. The project was inspired by the works of the late Nelson Goodman, the Harvard Philosopher who started Project Zero to”understand and enhance learning, thinking, creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels”. MWOS aims to enhance the appreciation of good and meaningful designs through the cultivation of a creative mindset from a young age.

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