Through my work with the TEDx community, I recently met a woman of whom I’m fast becoming a major fan. Her name is Tania Luna and she is Surpriseologist. What is that you might ask? Well, she specializes in the art and science of surprise, providing one-of-a-kind experiences at her company Surprise Industries.

Over a cup of coffee, Tania and I began chatting about the role that surprise can play in early childhood education. As we were talking I came to realize how the two are actually quite connected. For young children the world is full of surprises, so many experiences are new and seen through fresh eyes. However, in the classroom, routine can quickly set in and once it does active learning steadily decreases. So how can we as teachers (and parents) reinvigorate their learning experience? Well through surprise of course!

Here are some quick & simple ideas to bring back the wonder:

Move things around: In my house I am able to navigate through my bedroom and hallways in the dark. Everything has been in the place for so long that the motion of moving through has become second nature to me. I am no longer actively thinking about walking through the space. But put something else there or move the furniture and I actually have to think for a moment in the dark about what might be right in front of me. The same works for the classroom; move things around and get kids thinking. This can apply for the home as well. If you have a play area in your house, move everything around, switch it up & give it a fresh feel.

Introduce a new material or sensory experience: Have you tried Oobleck? I love it! Or how about Flubber? Ditto. These are two great sensory play materials, easily made at home, that are worth a try. Or switch to a natural version of a familiar substance to see the difference. For example, introduce real clay instead of Play-doh and listen to your children as they explore, see what new ideas come out if their discoveries.

Use an old material in a new way: Have your kids ever helped you make a salad? Have they enjoyed using the salad spinner? What if instead of lettuce you put in paper and drops of paint? Spin-Art is so fun and a surprising way to use a common household item.

My students surprise me every day, the best thing I can do is to return the favor and always keep our learning fun. How do you incorporate surprise into your classroom or home? I’d love to hear your ideas!

For more information on Tania and her tips for incorporating surprise into your life, check out


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