During my years as a daycare provider, I heard from many parents who were concerned that their child was falling behind the mark when it came to knowing the basics they would need when entering kindergarten. Now that I have my own children, I understand even more that the pressure from outside sources, whether it be family, friends, or pediatricians, can be overwhelming.
I remember when my youngest child would go in for his yearly appointments, I would be so nervous about the developmental questions the nurse would ask. Would I have the right answer? The truth is that there are no right or wrong answers. Just as height and weight varies from one child to the next, knowledge can vary from one child to another based on their interest and maturity at the time. The most important step we can take in our child’s education is to show them how much fun it is to learn something new. There is nothing like the moment when a child really gets a concept for the first time.
In keeping with this thinking, here are a few tips on how to keep learning fun and interesting:
My son is a very hands on learner, so for each new thing I want to teach him, I try to come up with a tactile way for him to take in the concept. A great way to do this is with modeling clay. We start out by making snakes, not sure what it is with boys and reptiles, but it works. Next we form our snakes into letters or numbers depending on what we are working on at the time. A fantastic way to learn something by both seeing and building, which will help later on when it comes time to learn to write.
Make it edible
Cookies are a favorite snack in our house, but building letters out of any food will work. The possibilities are endless when you really put your mind to it. For example, if you are working on the letter A, make a healthy snack of celery and peanut butter with “ants” (raisins) shaped in that letter. Associating the letter and a word that begins with the same sound is just one more great way to put fun and learning together.
Most children love being outdoors, so why not work a little learning time in while you are at the park? Bring along a paper sack and instruct your child to find things that begin with the sound of your current letter. For example, pick a flower for the letter F. Be sure to give instructions on things that are not okay to pick up. Food from the garbage might be a right answer, but it is not a desirable one.
The best time to learn something is when you are already having fun. Whether you are drawing in the sand, finger painting, or just gazing up at the clouds, work something new into their day. Eventually they will remember the letters of the alphabet and the numbers one through ten. By keeping it fun, they will also know that learning new things can be exciting too.
More by this contributor:
Free Outdoor Activities to Entertain Preschoolers
Five Free Educational Activities for Your Toddler
3 Tips for Helping Children Manage Their Fears