Emergent curriculum: How to adapt early childhood activities to meet kids’ interests

In Rocky Mountain House, Alta., Lucinda Parker works as an early childhood educator with Learn ‘N’ Laugh Family Dayhome Agency, caring for toddlers and preschoolers in her home. Learn ‘N’ Laugh Family Dayhome Agency has several day homes participating in the Physical Literacy Proof of Concept Study. Here is Lucinda’s story as shared with Heidi Greenhalgh, her day home consultant:

Emergent curriculum is an important early childhood education concept that encourages educators to adapt activities to meet the interests and abilities of children.

This past February, the children were excited about Groundhog Day approaching, so many of our activities were geared towards developing this interest. As part of the physical literacy study, I wanted to use the activity “Squirrel Tails” (APPLE Seeds program, Activity #1), but I adapted the skills (walking, hopping, jumping, and balancing) and created a “groundhog maze.”

Contributed by Lucinda Parker (day home provider) and Heidi Greenhalgh (day home consultant)

Heidi, Lucinda, and Learn ‘N’ Laugh Family Dayhome Agency, Rocky Mountain House, are participants in the Physical Literacy Proof of Concept in Child Care Study. Heidi shared this story during one of our mentor meetings in March.

Our “groundhog maze” brings active learning to life

I introduced the activity by reading the storybook Ten Grouchy Groundhogs by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook. We talked about the legend of Groundhog Day and looked at pictures of real groundhogs. The children learned about groundhog behaviour, such as living in a burrow and hibernating in the winter.


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Then I created a maze with masking tape on the carpet. A square starting area was the “burrow” (small enough that children had to huddle together and practice balancing). From the burrow, I taped “tunnels” with some turns leading to an open area where the “groundhogs” looked for their shadows and then scampered back to the burrow. I made the tunnels about six inches wide so the younger children could use them successfully. Older children could walk on a single line of tape along the edge for more of a balancing challenge.

We also added in various movements such as hopping, skipping, and walking backwards or sideways. Children enjoyed using their hands to make groundhog ears on their heads as they played, which also made balancing more challenging. The toddlers watched the older children play and then tried imitating them by walking and crawling after them.

After enjoying the activity together, we left the groundhog maze on the carpet for free play. Sometimes children repeated the groundhog activity and sometimes they used the maze for different play, such as driving vehicles or walking stuffed animals.

When my consultant, Heidi, came to visit, she asked the children questions about what they were playing. She started by modelling the movements and pretended to do what they might have tried. First, she asked if they stepped on the tape of the maze like a balance beam. They all laughed. 

Next, she stood on one foot and hopped through the tape. They laughed again and said no. Then the children showed her how to play in the maze and taught her about groundhogs—all of this while giggling, playing, and having a wonderful time.

One response to “Emergent curriculum: How to adapt early childhood activities to meet kids’ interests

  1. We are thankful to have Lucinda as our dayhome provider and cannot say enough amazing things. We definitely are blessed to have found such a loving caregiver for our daughter.

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