Geography for four-year-olds? If that's what's meant by the Early Learning Goal relating to understanding of the world, then what are we coming to?

But, of course, what's now going on in our nurseries and playgroups is almost literally worlds away (excuse the pun) from rote learning. What's more, geography as a curriculum subject for older children has not had much to do with accumulating facts for some time now.

Rather, it requires a scientific approach seasoned by imagination. And harnessing your child's imagination is the key.

If you can encourage an enthusiasm for the world they live in, you are laying a foundation for a later enjoyment of subjects that many parents have never really got to grips with: geography, history too, but especially the sciences that underpin modern life and yet have been consistently rejected by older children.

Small children don't have these prejudices. What they do have is an enormous appetite for new experiences in safe surroundings. And that is the basis for scientific knowledge. Skilled early years professionals and parents can enhance an already enquiring mind and direct it towards discovery by playing to these enviable strengths.

Of course,a small child doesn't think in terms of curriculum areas.

They won't tell you: "Today we did understanding of the world." But their keyworker, who monitors their play throughout the day, will ensure that that is happening both inside and outside the nursery or playgroup. All the time,they are learning by taking an active role and feeling the thrill of discovery for themselves.

How can parents stimulate this thirst for learning?

By learning to see the world through a child's eyes and looking for opportunities for your child to learn through controlled play.

For example: with cardboard boxes great for stacking, putting inside one another or building rockets or houses; by sowing sunflower seeds, which are thankfully fairly indestructible; through bathtime play an opportunity for learning about floating and sinking by playing with plastic ducks and watching the slithery soap sink to the bottom.

Is there one person (a key-worker) with particular responsibility for your child?