Let Them Grow: Emergent Curriculum

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Emergent Curriculum: Honeybees

Now that I have a toddler in my life full time, not just during the day, I have to be more creative in my play with her. A two year old is hit or miss with activities. The smaller sensory activities are often not enough of a challenge and pre-school age activities are often beyond her ability.  That’s where child emergent based activities come into play for me at this time in my life. 

Child emergent curriculum was developed in the 60’s but was a long time coming. It has had many contributors and thinkers before it including Erikson, Piaget, and Montessori; the idea behind the philosophy is that the activates are in response to the child’s interests and are open-ended and flow based on the child’s response to it! There is extensive reading on this philosophy and my column is not one of them. Instead, I have borrowed key components of the practice and simplified it for the young toddler.

By incorporating longer activities based on the child’s interest, you can keep toddlers engaged longer and make the learning experience more in depth.  You can help build the genuine love of learning with little effort and few tools. This week for example we are learning about bees. It’s autumn and bees are still everywhere. We had a bee sting incident, which triggered this interest. For a two-year-old, bees are quite interesting, a little feared and a lot awesome!

I love to start off any learning exercise with learning a song. The bumble song is a fun and simple song that will remain in your child’s repertoire for years. Toddlers learn so much though song. Including body movements and facts;  The fact is bee stings hurt and we shouldn’t pick up bees.

Bumble Bee Song

” I am scooping up a baby bumble bee won’t my mom be so proud of me because

I am scooping up a baby bumblebee (swinging a closed hand)

Ouch she bit me(opening your hand) 

I am Letting go a baby bumble bee won’t my mom be so proud of me “

I like to leave out the squishing part of the song, especially at this age.

Another great song is the beehive counting song.

Bee Hive Song

“Here is the bee hive(showing your fist)but where are the bees?

Inside where no one sees. (Shaking your hand)

Watch them come out of the hive (lifting one finger at a time)

One, two, three, four five!” 

The idea behind the emergent philosophy is to continue the topic as long as there is interest. As long as there are still questions and the quest for knowledge for both the parent (or teacher) and child. Day to day remind the child of the songs they have been singing and what you have together learned about bees. Add more activities. Bee art is always fun art!

Bee Art

Honey comb stamping using a sponge cut into a hexagon, hexagon stamps or cardboard cut outs or bubble wrap rolled around a roller.

Using different shades of yellow paint in trays have your child experiment with the shape of a honeycomb. Talk about the hexagonal shape, show them photos of actual honey comb to give a visual. Talk about what the honeycomb is and how bees make the world go round!

After making the honeycomb it’s time to try the honey. Luckily in our valley there are some really amazing beekeepers. You can visit them at the Tuesday’s market or by calling ahead to make an appointment and possibility get a more in depth tour.

Honey sticks are a great way to taste a bit of honey! Try to let your child try different types of honey products.

You can also take an adventure to see bees in their home, on flowers. . If you are feeling brave  you can help capture one safely on a jar, and examine it. Talk about what could happen if you touch it.  Look for bees with pollen on their legs, different types of bees – learning can go on and on.

Bees are just one example; emergent curriculum can be adapted to any topic. Make the topic or theme a couple days to a week long depending on the interest of the child or group.  See what your little one remembers from the previous days. By making a learning activity more engaging, more emergent it gives your child time to process the information and really experience learning on their timeline. Help your child gain a lust for learning at a young age. Let their nature explorer go free.


Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programming for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: