Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

Interest-Based Planning… A Rupturing.


Interest-based planning is an intriguing beast. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how we create educational goals for children based on their interests. I have questioned how we ‘collect’ children’s interests. When I went to TAFE, we were taught to see and to hear children’s interests. If I see you doing something, can I presume it’s an interest of yours? If I hear you talking about something, can I presume it’s an interest of yours? Does our thinking consequently follow this pattern- “I see you playing with Lego. Therefore you are interested in Lego. Therefore this is what I have ‘planned’ for you.” Or do we ask children what they are interested in, what they wish they could do within the service, what they dream about doing within the service?


Then I began thinking about how services restrict or limit children’s interests. Perhaps the thing you are most interested in doesn’t exist at this service. Maybe this service has a policy that restricts you from doing what you are interested in? Maybe you like to play outside when it’s very cold or raining; maybe you like to take your shoes off; maybe you like to get very muddy; maybe you want to explore the world outside of the service; maybe you like to climb trees; maybe you like to play fighting or wrestling; maybe you like superheroes; maybe you like Barbies; maybe the thing you are most interested in is a toy from home, but our policy bans toys from home? I have worked at services that ban all of these things through their policies. What does this mean for interest-based planning? Are the “interests” the ones that I understand as pedagogically valuable and compliant with the policies and management I must work under? I recently heard of a service that bans ‘modern music’. What does that mean for interest-based planning?


I also thought about how educators limit children’s interests… a co-worker once anxiously told me that the children in my group were talking about zombies. ‘Are they allowed to talk about those things?’ she asked me. On what grounds do we exclude interests as not appropriate for our service? Whose interests do we include and whose do we silence? What are the standards and subjectivities we use to assess what we think are appropriate interests for children to have?


I was at a point where I questioned:
Whose interests are desirable and whose are not?
How do I decide what someone else is interested in?

Then I read this:
“Everything you do within your day should have come from the children, of course you extend upon this with your intentional teaching skills but the start must be child directed” (Sustainable Childcare Resources, 2013). Why must it?

The NQS states “1.1.2: Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program” (ACECQA, 2011, p.10). But this doesn’t mean that everything must be initially child directed, does it? I read into the NQS further- it talks heavily about incorporating and extending children’s interests, but does not confirm that everything must start from children’s interests.


Is this just an offhand comment? I don’t think so. The current common assumption seems to be that everything ‘must come from the children’. Educators are becoming pedagogical slaves to ensuring they document and extend on every interest a child may ever express; in ensuring that these interests can be identified and crafted into a program. The NQS does state the need for “evidence that children’s ideas, interests and points of view are heard and respected in planning for and assessing learning experiences” (ACECQA, 2011, p.40). But this doesn’t mean that every activity or experience or event must originate from children’s interests.


I wonder if blindly following children’s interests negates my own intentions. What is silenced when ideas can only come from children? Giroux states that educators are “ethically and politically accountable for the stories they produce, the claims they make upon public memory, and the images of the future they deem legitimate” (2011, p.76). This responsibility is denied when the onus for creating ideas comes solely from children. I wonder what teaching could look like if we considered it as a political act or considered ourselves as politically accountable? What could that mean?

So I ask you…
How do you collect ideas about children’s interests?
What interests do you allow or not allow?
What is denied or silenced if children are seen as the only legitimate creators of ideas?
How could interest-based planning be reconceptualised to sanction the ideas of each person using the service?

Is teaching a political act?


Postscript: There is a couple of months lag between the time I wrote this and the time I uploaded it. My thoughts about interest-based planning have become more complex during this time. I’ve found myself further questioning this idea- and the understandings and other ideas it is building on. So I leave this piece as …. to be continued….

©  Awilda Longstocking, 2013.

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates.


ACECQA. (2011). Guide to the National Quality Standard. Retrieved from

Giroux, H. (2011). On critical pedagogy. York Road, London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Sustainable Childcare Resources (2013, July 3). Quality area 1: Educational program and practice. [Facebook update]. Retrieved from:


10 comments on “Interest-Based Planning… A Rupturing.

  1. Glenda Houldsworth
    October 10, 2013

    I have struggled with these ideas as well and since I also have interests, I “plan” (in the loosest sense of the word) for these too.Great reflective questions and I love that you dare to challenge thinking in a public arena. Teaching is indeed political (to my mind) and the challenges to democratising the ECEC sector are huge but not imopssible to negotiate if we are strong enough to question and debate.

  2. Kaiser Jane
    October 10, 2013

    Your pieces reasonate with me so well. I was and am so excited to find like minded people in relation to all of this.
    I wonder that leaving the programming in the hands if our children how then are we educating them? By extending their interest I see our roles being becoming a supportive role… and where do the families contribrutions come in?
    Currently I document a child’s significant interest. This is determined by either seeing a child use/do/be involved in something for the first time and/or going back to the same thing over and over again. If there is a way to further develop their interest then its also significant and a learning story may come out of it.
    From what I have see so far and I am only beginning to learn all these nqs and I am no way an expert, with all these changes paperwork is on the rise, our voicescare getting smaller and the idea of anything that could build character like manners learning why boundaries may be set and decorum is thrown out the window because its not part of our role

  3. Project: Preschool
    October 10, 2013

    I have just recently begun to think about this, as well. The key, for me, has been to try to look beyond the classroom to things that I know all children are interested in and try to bring it into the classroom. Right now we are doing a bit about the grocery store. Do we have a grocery store in our center? No, but what child does not enjoy shopping? Every time they pick up the purses out of dramatic play, they are pretending to go shopping. I think the key for me has been to look at broad topics and themes that children are interested in and figure out how to make it work in the classroom.

    Having said that, I have some boys in my class that are into superheroes. While I haven’t been comfortable with the play that is happening regarding that, you have made me think that maybe I can incorporate some lessons about good and bad, because that is what the superhero ‘thing’ is about – good vs. evil. It may help with some of the more aggressive play that I have seen, to explore these ideas as a class.

    I have never thought of using children’s interests to develop plans and activities as making children the only legitimate area in which to plan activities. I think that it is probably easy to get into that mindset, but as a teacher, I wouldn’t want to become a slave like that. In a workshop that I am presenting, I portray curriculum development as a fusion between the interests of the children and the passion of the teacher. And interests should be identified as broad themes, not as specific as the Legos mentioned above. Defining interests in that way would drive any teacher insane.

    Teaching, like anything else, is about balance. It is about finding a happy medium. I would encourage you to step back from interest-based planning to see where the balance is. For me it was, ” I see that you like to feel textures, so here are some sandpaper letters for you.” Or, “I see that you like superheroes so let’s examine the fight between good and evil.” If your kids do like Barbies or princesses or other things from home, there are ways to explore those things without actually bringing them into the classroom. That is where the teacher’s creativity can come in and shine.

  4. Alison
    November 6, 2013

    Really appreciate ALL the above comments and evaluations. l especially value “Project Preschool’s”statement “I portray curriculum development as a fusion between the interests of the children and the passion of the teacher.” Thanks for bringing balance back into the argument.

  5. Susan Stacey
    May 21, 2014

    As someone who writes and thinks about Emergent Curriculum and other Inquiry-based practices, I do say in all my presentations that one of the biggest misunderstandings about Emergent Curriculum is that it only evolves from the ‘interests of the children.’ Rather, I posit that EC begins with some interests of the children, is thoughtfully and intentionally scaffolded by the teacher, and here begins a back-and-forth ‘conversation,’ or collaboration between children and adults. Project Preschool’s statement is right on the mark in my thinking….both teachers and children have a voice – all the protagonists are represented in this approach. And in my next book, about Pedagogical Documentation, I will be exploring how documentation supports inquiry-based practices and teacher growth.

    • Project: Preschool
      June 2, 2014

      Susan, when will that book be released?

      • Susan Stacey
        June 3, 2014

        The book on pedagogical documentation will be published in the Fall (August/September). The other two books that I wrote (on Emergent Curriculum) are ‘Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings’ and ‘Unscripted: Emergent Curriculum in Action.’ All books published by Redleaf Press. Much of the writing and speaking/training that I do relates to clarifying what Emergent Curriculum is, and is not (lots of misunderstandings around!), and how it unfolds in daily classroom life, creating a balance between play, responding to children’s ideas, and intentionality.

      • Project: Preschool
        June 3, 2014

        I already own your other two books! I was very excited to see that you had commented on this! I hope everyone else that has commented will check out your books as resources for implementing a balanced interest-based classroom.

  6. MACK
    September 30, 2015

    I just read your article as a provocation, what we (I) do is always open to (self)challenge. To be contrary in my life is exposing myself to new ways of thinking. Yes … the pendulum … In an instance reflecting, questioning, acting, wondering all happening simultaneously. Love to challenge myself. Sometimes I think children are interested in almost everything, aren’t they the curious ‘little scientists’ in awe and wonder of our magnificent world. I know I am.

  7. Kerry Smith
    December 28, 2015

    As an”elder” he f the early childhood sector, I read these comments and this blog with great interest. You are struggling with the same questions that have been asked for over 60 years. What exactly is early childhood pedagogy? What exactly is quality education and care? Why is there so much documentation needed? Why is the NQF so restrictive? Or is it our own interpretations that are causing a mismatch with sensible implementation. For me the NQS are too restrictive, too steeped in underlying one- sided theoretical jargon and even though restrictive, create confusion of meaning. My own thoughts about all of this has been to allow the freedom of play to guide your environment. Play has structure, it has rules, it has meaning. The relationships you build with the children are paramount to their development. A sound relationship will give you everything you need to know about that child. Your environment is nothing more than the background that stimulates and challenges. From my point of view the NQF came from an American system of assessment and rating and overall is doing more damage than it is worth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: