What is an emergent curriculum blog header

What is an emergent curriculum?

As a philosophy of teaching, emergent curriculum is a way of planning curriculum in response to children’s interests to create meaningful learning experiences. Emergent curriculum activities and projects are planned by educators to match the skills, interests and unique needs of the specific children they are working with.

What is emergent curriculum in Early Childhood Education?

In a childcare facility making use of the emergent curriculum philosophy, you might see several classrooms side by side participating in different activities that reflect the varying abilities and interests of the children within each of those classrooms. For example, in one area you may see children retelling their favorite story; in another, you might find children writing invitations to an upcoming event at the center. Whatever the task, the goal is to engage children in a collaborative activity that is of deep interest to them so they can learn through exploration.

Applying emergent curriculum to an early childhood education center is a process that requires an understanding of the individual children in your care as well as the group as a whole. As a teacher, your role is to carefully observe and listen to children as they play, determine their areas of student interest, then develop a plan or curriculum to direct the child’s learning process which reflects these interests.

Why care about emergent curriculum?

The emergent curriculum approach allows early childhood educators to gain greater insight into the needs of each individual child, allowing for thoughtful and customized programming. The flexible and open-ended nature of emergent curriculum lets children and educators alike explore, answer questions and guide learning in a way that evolves over time.

music in preschool classroom with teacher

Incorporating emergent curriculum into your childcare center

If you are looking to incorporate the principles of emergent curriculum into your learning environment, you must start by being open to what children are doing, saying and thinking.

The emergent curriculum you develop is meant to be a loose framework, initiated by the children, which will guide various learning activities. As an educator, you will take on the role of facilitator, observing how children play and listening to what they say. Using these observations, you will plan activities to build upon their learning, providing them the opportunity to discover more and dig deeper. Your emergent curriculum must be flexible and cannot be planned far in advance. Instead, your program should be constantly developing in response to what children are most curious about.

Looking for a way to effectively plan your curriculum and activities? HiMama offers a convenient and simple way to document your observations, reflect upon them and plan activities based on your findings. If you would like a demo of our innovative childcare software to discover how it can be used as part of your emergent curriculum approach, contact us today!


Emergent curriculum is a tool in early childhood education that has the power to create meaningful activities and lessons suited to the individual student. In turn, this creates an early childhood learning environment which encourages children to explore and develop new skills and interests.


  • Mark Forshee says:

    Each one of us needs to be able to play with the
    things that are coming out of the world of children.
    Each one of us needs to have curiosity, and we need
    to be able to try something new based on the ideas
    that we collect from the children as they go along.
    Life has to be somewhat agitated and upset, a bit
    restless, somewhat unknown. As life flows with the
    thoughts of the children, we need to be open, we
    need to change our ideas; we need to be comfortable
    with the restless nature of life.


    The root of situational constraints upon a child lies in a central fact
    of consciousness characteristic of early childhood: the union of motives
    and perception. At this age perception is generally not an independent
    but rather an integrated feature of a motor reaction. Every perception is
    a stimulus to activity. Since a situation is communicated psychologically
    through perception, and since perception is not separated from motivational
    and motor activity, it is understandable that with her consciousness
    so structured, the child is constrained by the situation in which she
    finds herself.

    But in play, things lose their determining force. The child sees one
    thing but acts differently in relation to what he sees. Thus, a condition
    is reached in which the child begins to act independently of what he
    sees. Certain brain-damaged patients lose the ability to act independently
    of what they see. In considering such patients one can appreciate
    that the freedom of action adults and more mature children enjoy is not
    acquired in a Hash but has to go through a long process of development.


    This condensation of history, of language, of the encyclopedia, remains here indissociable from an absolutely singular event, an absolutely singular signature, and therefore also of a date, of a language, of an autobiographical inscription. In a minimal autobiographical trait can be gathered the greatest potentiality of historical, theoretical, linguistic, philosophical culture — that’s really what interests me.


    Still on a preliminary level, let’s not forget Nietzsche’s precautions regarding what might link metaphysics and grammar. These precautions need to be duly adjusted and problematized, but they remain necessary. What we are seeking with the question “who?” perhaps no longer stems from grammar, from a relative or interrogative pronoun which always refers back to the grammatical function of subject. How can we get away from this contract between the grammar of the subject or the substantive and the ontology of substance or the subject? The different singularity which I named perhaps does not even correspond to the grammatical form “who” in a sentence where in “who” is the subject of a verb coming after the subject, etc. On the other hand, if Freudian thought has been consequential in the decentering of the subject we have been talking about so much these last years, is the “ego”, in the elements of the topic or in the distribution of the positions of the unconscious, the only answer to the question “who”? And if so, what would be the consequences of this?


    In this world only the play of artists and children exhibits becoming and passing away, building and destroying, without any moral additive, in forever equal innocence. And as artists and children play, so plays the ever-living fire, building up and destroying, in innocence. Such is the game that the aeon plays with itself. It builds towers of sand like a child at the seashore, piling them up and trampling them down. From time to time it starts the game anew. A moment of satiety, and again it is seized by its need, as the artist is seized by the need to create. Not hubris but the ever-newly-awakened impulse to play calls new worlds into being. (Nietzsche)

    . Teaching is even more difficult than learning. We
    know that; but we rarely think about it. And why is teaching
    more difficult than learning? Not because the teacher
    must have a larger store of information, and have it always
    ready. Teaching is more difficult than learning because
    what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. The real teacher,
    in fact, lets nothing else be learned than-learning. His conduct,
    therefore, often produces the impression that we
    properly learn nothing from him, if by “learning” we now
    suddenly understand merely the procurement of useful information.
    The teacher is ahead of his apprentices in this
    alone, that he has still far more to learn than they-he
    has to learn to let them learn. The teacher must be capable
    of being more teachable than the apprentices.


    You found this

    Charming, but turned your face fully toward night,

    Speaking into it like a megaphone, not hearing

    Or caring, although these still live and are generous

    And all ways contained, allowed to come and go

    Indefinitely in and out of the stockade

    They have so much trouble remembering, when your forgetting

    Rescues them at last, as a star absorbs the night.

    (John Ashbery)

  • Isis sallas Mensah says:

    Very interesting
    Love it

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