Blog / Using popular culture as a path way for inquiry-based learning

February 9 2022,

Using popular culture as a path way for inquiry-based learning

‘Pepper Pig… oink oink!’ 

 ‘No job is too big, no pup is too small!’

Sounds familiar? 

Yep, these are from the famous ‘Pepper pig’ show and ‘PAW Patrol’. .You probably have heard your child recount these lines over and over or even as they play with their friends (real or imaginary!).

These are examples of popular culture and our kids love it! We know what’s going through your mind right now… ‘My child is just watching it on TV and the iPad, they don’t even move’!!!!!!!

What if we tell you that popular culture is educational and beneficial to children? It all depends on how it is consumed and used! 

Traditionally, literacy has been viewed as reading and writing while research has shown that people view popular culture as a ‘problem’. (Arthur, 2001).

It is true in a way as not all shows are perceived as educational given the commercial and entertainment value they are designed for . However the remote control is in our hands, we have the ability to make meaningful decisions in exposing the ‘right’ content to our children and for the right amount of time

Let’s talk about Bluey (image courtesy of the ABC)

You probably have seen this little blue figure everywhere in the shops and when your child says ‘I want to bring Bluey for show and tell’, it is this blue character they are referring to. There is a reason why Bluey is so popular not only with children but also parents like yourselves. 

The overarching themes in Bluey resonate so well as they relate to how we think and act. One example from ABC kids news states ‘One of the character’s parents instils the importance of play as he advises his daughter to dress up and think from different character’s perspectives…’ Early childhood practitioners have always believed learning through play is paramount compared to just learning and playing and the way characters build a connection with each other is indeed one of the fundamentals to any relationships whether it's with families, friends or educators. 

Remember that little girl with a monkey that says ‘Hola?’ Yes we are talking about Dora the Explorer here. Popular culture also provides children with opportunities to enhance their vocabulary and even learn simple phrases in an additional language. If you are familiar with Dora, the show captures a journey she makes with her friends where they encounter various obstacles and through team work and persistence, the final destination is reached.

Themes such as

  • friendship
  • dedication
  • persistence
  • imagination
  • counting
  • repetition of new words

just to name a few, are all beneficial to children’s learning. Parents can also revisit these concepts with children after they have finished the show as this allows children to make a connection with their learning and have some fun along the way.

Whether it's personal experiences, beliefs or values, not everybody is going to embrace popular culture in the same way. Despite this, let’s not deflate children’s interest in popular culture as we might be overlooking the effectiveness of this valuable opportunity to engage and extend our children's understanding of the world they live in. (ABC kids, 2020). Remember you are the ‘remote control’, and you have the ability to expose children to popular culture in a meaningful way. 


Arthur, A (2001). Popular culture and early literacy learning, 2(3), 295-308.


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