5 Best Ways to Support Your Childs Learning
I can hear the magical sound of giggling coming from the kitchen as I walk down the hall. When I peek my head around the doorway I see my twins sitting on top of the table. In between them is some packaging that they rescued from the garbage yesterday to "recycle." They are currently cutting and attaching tape to it while they discuss their plans with animated arm movements.
I listen for a couple of minutes without them noticing enjoying the happy sound of their voices and their plans.
This is play. Great, creative, child-led play.
It would easy to walk away, thinking I had nothing to do with this. That I didn't create this moment and while I don't own this moment I did help create this play.
Your role in your child's play and learning is crucial it just might not be what you expect.
When we picture "teaching" a child, we are usually thinking of direct instruction. This has it's place.
When my husband does a wood working project with our kids, for example, there is a lot of direct instruction. Our kids help plan the project and do a lot of the actual work, but he also teaches them how to use the tools.
He shows them how to hold tools safely and where to put their hands. He tells them what job each tool plays.
How to use a new art material, how to cook with a recipe, and how to complete a chore are some more areas where direct instruction is key.
There is a time and space for direct instruction, but it is only a small part of your job.
The environment is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of learning. Is your space easy for your child to be independent? Do they have access to a range of materials that you have taught them how to use? Are their interests reflected in their room or play space?
Whole courses are taught on creating environments, but the point is to thoughtfully create an environment to meet your child's current needs and interests. Much of that can be figured out by watching them play.
Setting up activities or invitations, like the ones of the PLAY calendar, are another way to add to your environment.
Much of the time I take a more passive role in their learning. I watch. I listen. I tinker with what we have on our shelves. I wait for them to ask me for help.
By listening I hear their questions.
By observing I see what they are trying to figure out.
I had a teacher that said to wait 10 seconds after you ask a question. I think that applies in many situations. Wait to let them figure it out. Wait to let them think of an answer. Wait just a little longer than you normally would and see what happens.
Relationships are key to learning and a big part of this is conversation. Children can learn a remarkable amount just by asking questions and having an adult answer them.
I collapse in bed every night exhausted, not from the physical energy of my kids, but from the mental work of answering all of their questions. Kids are curious about everything and if you take the time to answer their questions their curiosity only expands.
Don't under value the conversations or why questions you answer in the car or while you walk to the library. Those moments are precious and vital to learning. You do so much in those moments.
Follow your child's lead. I am a firm believer in rules and routines and schedules and structure, but where you can, follow their lead.
Plan your environment and activities to match their needs and interests.
When you set out an activity or invite them to go for a walk, be okay with them having other ideas.
If they want you to be the mama Walrus, be the mama Walrus.
I know I have sometimes gotten frustrated because I took the time to add something to their environment or set up an invitation only to have them destroy it or use the game pieces as train passengers.
It is in those moments that I have to step back and remember the point of the activity. What am I really trying to achieve here?
Often my goal is for them to play and learn and be engaged. My goal is for them to think for themselves and have creative ideas. Those are the kind of people I want them to be when they are older. I want them to think outside the box, so to speak. So if the game pieces are train passengers in their imagination, I try to go with it.
There are, of course, times that they need to do something a certain way. Your lines will be different than mine, but you have them and you should stand firm. No, my kids can't eat lunch while standing on their chairs. They are not allowed to hurt each other or run into the busy street. There are times they have to learn the rules and follow them. But there is also a lot of flexibility to respect their views.
At the end of the day, when I think back about our moments it is the ones I didn't follow this advice that I was most frustrated. When I didn't let them follow their interests. When I didn't have patience for their questions or their ideas. When I insisted that things be done only my way - that's when we had conflict.
That morning when I followed the sound of giggling I could have been upset. I could have yelled that they aren't supposed to sit on the table. I could have pointed out that they were supposed to be getting dressed. I could have been frustrated that they had suddenly become interested in castles when just yesterday they were all about being vets. But that wasn't the point.
The point was they were doing exactly what I have been teaching them to do.
Together we had practiced working together on projects and listening to other people's ideas.
Together we had learned to use the many art supplies on our art shelf.
Together we had used books and conversations to learn about new topics.
Together we had expanded and created based on those ideas.
Now they were talking about the moat we made around our sand castle at the beach yesterday and trying to figure out how to make that out of paper on their own. They were collaborating and listening and thinking creatively on their own. They were learning on their own.
They had taken all those things we had been learning for the past five years and were putting them to use on their own. So I walked back down the hallway to the sound of giggling and earnest conversation with a big smile on my face.
Below you can access a FREE printable with 365 Ways to Play. One for every day of the new year. These are simple ways to make little moments every day and even routines and chores more fun.
Obviously we aren't going to spend all day every day gleefully laughing and smiling, but I hope these ideas will help add more fun to your new year.
Subscribe below and I'll send you this FREE printable. Print it out and hang in up somewhere handy for those moments when you need a little inspiration, need help surviving a rainy day, or just want to put a smile back into a crabby day.
The areas in this collection of play ideas include;
*Simple things to add to your playroom or play space
*Quick prep, minimal materials activities
*Short ways to interact playfully with your child
*Fun ways to play on the go
*Subscribe to the Bambini Newsletter (If you're already a subscriber - the printable is on its way to you now)
*Print out the FREE 365 Ways to Play
*Keep it handy for whenever you want play inspiration
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