Children all learn in different ways and there are various parenting philosophies for each method. However, certain basic learning principles apply to all children, at each age and phase.
Here is some guidance for each of the five main learning principles.
Interact with your child
If you do nothing else, interact with your little one as often as possible. Talk, sing and read together. Experiment and explore together! Research has shown that babies retain almost no information if they are simply exposed to educational content without any adult interaction. Alternatively, babies who spend a lot of time with caring adults, learn rapidly even if they are not exposed to such content at all.
Involve all their senses
What does a lavender flower look, smell and feel like? Do you know the answer because you read it somewhere or because you’ve experienced it? The more active a child’s senses, the more they experience and the more they learn.
Get the timing right
When a child is overstimulated or tired, even your best efforts to teach and stimulate them will go to waste. If you and your child are both in the right mood to do activities, go for it. If not, rather leave it for another time. The frustration likely to result from forcing a child to do an activity is potentially more damaging than the effects of missing a learning opportunity.
Try some repetition
Repetition is the key to success! Try several different ways to reinforce the same concept with your child. For example, when your little one learns to write, let them write a letter on paper, write it in a sand tray with their finger or trace it on your back with their finger before you do the same to them. Then play ‘I spy’ and find objects beginning with that letter before finding words in a magazine that start with the letter.
Fun is the magic ingredient to learning. You can teach your child almost anything when you present it as a game. Keep it light and encourage your little one to follow their interests because laughing kiddies are learning kiddies.
Slow down and stimulate learning
Try these age-appropriate activities and help your little one to learn.
Create a calm sleeping routine for your child. At first, this may sound contradictory to a programme that aims to stimulate a young child’s development, but scientists say that children consolidate all the information they take in while awake, during sleep. The world can be an overwhelmingly busy place for a little baby and there is a whole lot to learn and take in. Watch your child for signs that they are tired or overstimulated and help them sleep easily. This way you enable them to store away newly acquired information in the right spot within their memory so it can easily be retrieved again when it is needed.
Now that your little one is more mobile, it is a great idea to explore as many different environments as possible. Make use of nice weather to play in the backyard, take a nature walk, visit a botanical garden or local park or spend some time at the beach. Point out interesting sights and sounds to your child. This will help grow their vocabulary as well as aid the development of their auditory and visual perception. Let them touch different textures like the bark of a tree or fine beach sand. These activities also develop tactile discrimination and fine motor skills. When possible, take some of your newfound treasures, like pine cones or interesting stones, home for further inspection.
Slow down! Let go of the power struggle and avoid temper tantrums by simply making some time to follow your child’s lead – especially during playtime. There is no need for you to constantly lead your child in social situations and while they are playing. Join in the fun at your child’s level by allowing them the opportunity to give directions. This will encourage their successful interaction with the world and build their confidence in their own abilities.
Learning is an adventure
These fun-filled activities will help your clever kiddie experiment, explore and learn:
Experiment! Nothing improves a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world more than actively engaging with their environment and observing the results. Here are a few fun-filled ideas:
- Rub a ruler in against your hair to create static electricity and show your child how they can pick up small pieces of paper with it.
- Put water and oil in a glass and let your child try to mix the two.
- Add small drops of food colouring to a bowl of milk and let your little one watch it slowly mix and make colourful patterns.
- Experiment with toys that float and sink in the bath.
Don’t worry too much about explaining the experiments. Instead let the magic of this special playtime tickle their interest in science and the world at large. If they are adamant about a clearer explanation, find the answer together. Remember to always supervise your child’s experiments and clearly explain why it is not safe and out of bounds for them to use certain items and chemicals on their own!
Write and send some postcards or letters to friends and family near and far. Encourage your little one to draw a picture or write their name on these. Use a map to show your child where your notes are going and chat about the modes of transport that could be used to deliver mail all over the world. This activity will develop their literacy skills, but will also help them learn about the world and how we interact with others. Of course the excitement of receiving a letter back is a wonderful bonus!
Article Compliments of Mysmartkid