Active Exploration

Preschoolers are curious to learn how things work and eager to  explore their world

Young child exploring wind chimes

At A Glance

Children are interested in everything everywhere! They are curious about how things work, what they look like, how things are made, and what they can do. Preschoolers learn through active exploration. This includes watching, listening, smelling, touching, tasting, and more! Providing children with opportunities to explore on their own and in their own way builds their confidence to figure things out and seek new information

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can support preschoolers' active exploration skills

Encourage Exploration

Rather than telling children what something is or how it works, use comments and questions that encourage children to explore and find out more on their own.

Promote Curiosity

Spark interest by providing opportunities for children to try something that may be new and interesting for them, like this educator does with fresh coconut.

Support Active Exploration

Get children involved by creating experiences that allow them to use their five senses to observe objects, materials, events, and organisms, like hermit crabs!


Red, Yellow, Blue (and a Dash of White, Too!)

Written and illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, this story follows an adventurous child as they paint their way through discovering creatures and color combinations.
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Zonia’s Rain Forest

Written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, this story follows a girl as she explores the lush setting of her home in the rain forests of Peru.


Encouraging Risks During Play

This article from NAEYC discusses the importance of taking risks during play and provides strategies to support children’s active exploration.


Exploring Mud Play

Playing with mud may be messy but so beneficial for young children. This video from Illinois STAR NET offers several ways to encourage children’s active exploration during mud play.


Outdoor Play is Essential

This article from NAEYC explores the history of playgrounds and the importance of safe outdoor spaces for young children.

Activity Cards for Preschool Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to promote children’s active exploration skills
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Play with Light

Exploring Shadows

Experiment with different ways to create shadows outside with the sun or inside with a flashlight.

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Explore with touch

Texture Touch

Explore your surroundings to find objects of various textures.

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Use the senses

Mindful Moment

Encourage children to use their senses to focus on the sounds, smells, and sights around them.

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Check it out

What Is It?

Collect loose parts and prompt children to think about what they could create with the items.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills