Have you heard about inquiry-based learning? Eek! I know. Inquiry-based learning sounds like a phrase that begins in the classroom. But allow me to show you some simple ways you can integrate inquiry-based learning into your every day to inspire more meaningful play at home.
Play that creates chatter and has unlimited extensions leaves you prompting from afar as you drink your morning coffee. Activities that begin at the table and lend themselves right to independent play.
I am here to show you simple examples to explore inquiry-based learning and help expand play at home! Still with me? Awesome. Let’s dive in.
RELATED: Looking for simple activities for kids? Check out our activity cards that inspire play!
What is a Learning Inquiry-Based Approach?
Kids need to play and manipulate parts and pieces for everything they learn to link with prior knowledge and experiences. Simply put, inquiry-based learning prompts a child with a question and allows them to test the hypothesis in a risk-free environment.
Examples of Inquiry-Based Learning Activities
- Fizzy Ice (Toddler Approved)
- Gravity Experiments (Teaching 2 and 3-Year-Olds)
- How to Encourage Block Play (The Workspace for Children)
- Mixing Colors (Busy Toddler)
- The Best Math Toys to inspire STEM (Days with Grey)
- Small Cubes – Giving kids various sizes to play with is excellent for categorizing and exploring how different things stack. Just be wary of using these objects around small children.
- White Paper Roll – I could go on and on about getting a good supply of white paper rolls, and it still wouldn’t be enough. We use it for almost EVERYTHING. It’s worth the investment – trust me.
- Wooden Block Set – I like to start with blocks because they’re nice and simple. But keep in mind you can pick one supply to begin and add more over time to change up this inquiry-based learning activity.
- Wooden Colored Blocks – I always add a bit of color to inquiry-based learning. It helps introduce curiosity around colors and expands their vocabulary.
How to Set Up Inquiry-Based Learning
These examples of inquiry-based learning take seconds (literally, seconds!) to set up!
Step 1. Place a small piece of paper in front of your child’s seat.
Anything will do. You can also use a colored card or a piece of cardboard you have lying around!
Step 2. Add an X for a visual starting place.
You need to give your child a prompt rather than an instruction to start. Remember, this is inquiry-based learning, so let them take the play in the direction they want to go.
Step 3. Put the open-ended supply of blocks for your children to stack on the left of the paper.
Your kids can do whatever they like with these supplies, all you need to do is provide them! They have no specific purpose and are simply there so they can experiment and play.
PRO TIP: I like to place supplies to the left, so my boys get used to tracking the eyes left to right, just like we read and write.
Why Your Child Needs Inquiry-Based Learning
- Adds storytelling and increases vocabulary – As your child grows, they’ll want to learn more words, and that’s great! You want them to hold conversations with their peers and be able to form questions (even if it includes asking how eyeballs work…*sigh*).
- Allows children to construct – Who doesn’t love building blocks? I do! They’re my preschooler’s jam when it comes to figuring out how things fit together and build.
- Allows reasonable risks – We’ve all got to take risks (yes, even your children!). It’s a way for them to learn so they can figure out how to do things for themselves.
- Connects play and problem-solving – Problem-solving by itself is, dare I say it? Kind of boring. I mean, what kid wants to solve algebra when they could be doing it through play?! Put those math worksheets away and introduce inquiry-based learning instead. You can read more
- Expands upon prior knowledge and experiences – For your kids to develop, they need to build up their skills and knowledge, especially when they reach Kindergarten.
- Explores creativity – We use creativity for EVERYTHING. I mean it, figuring out how to stop your child from getting into your makeup bag? Yeah. That requires creativity. But mom troubles aside, kids need imagination for math, literacy, art, and communication.
- Flexible thinking – Kids need to learn to think more than one way, and they do that by expanding their mindset by trial and error. If something doesn’t work, they need to adapt their thinking to find a way that does!
- Hands-on learning through play – The best kind of learning is when you don’t even realize you’re doing it. It’s way less stress on your little one’s brain, and it’s fun!
- Tests hypothesis – Children are little scientists. If they have an idea, they’ll want to experiment and see if it’s true. If it doesn’t, let’s try something else!
RELATED: Kid activities at home are our jam. You will LOVE this list of easy ways to play at home.
What are Examples of Inquiry?
Here, I asked my three boys, ‘How tall can you stack what you have in front of you?
My almost three-year-old stacked larger wooden blocks. It was up to him to change and explore which blocks helped steady his block tower.
My almost five-year-old tried stacking rocks of different shapes and textures. It was up to him to test his hypothesis on which rocks would hold steady and how to try again when they toppled over.
My six-year-old stacked small colored cubes. It was his idea to build multiple layers side by side to add stability. Holding these small blocks is also helping his pencil grip. Check out these 25+ activities to help improve pencil grip.
Hands-on learning ideas are a great way to help motivate kids of all ages. You must check out our new BIG KID activity cards!
Which Inquiry-Based Learning Activity Will You Start?
Inquiry-based learning is SO good for your child, and it’s adaptable for all ages! Easy to set up and with endless possibilities, these activities are a win-win for both you and your little ones.
Activities on Demand
Want great ideas without the ads? Download these 20 hands-on learning games for kids.
Looking for Even More Inquiry-Based Learning? You Will Love:
- Jingle Bell Drop: a STEM Christmas Activity
- Outdoor Tracks: a Water Play Win
- Shape Dig: a Hands-On Shape Activity
- What can you make with 100 Legos?
Frequently Asked Questions
Keep ideas and supplies simple. Try these five activities to encourage higher-order thinking and creativity.
1. 100 Legos
2. Design a Snowman Home
3. Will it Stick?
4. Toddler Thinking Game
5. Block Play Invitation
Inquiry based learning starts with a question or problem for your child to solve. Supplies for this can be tape, paper rolls, tin foil, shoe boxes, blocks, water, and Legos.
Begin with asking a question or stating a problem. Think about what is important to your child. If you child enjoys baseball, you may say, “I wonder how we can pack our equipment for tonights game. Can you help?”. If your child enjoys building, you may ask, “What kind of home will you build your favorite stuffy? What supplies do you need?. Recycled items such as paper rolls and boxes make great supplies for inquiry based learning.
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