Children learn all the time. Regardless of where they go to school, creating a learning-rich environment awakens the children’s curiosity and facilitates the learning process. By implementing the following steps at home you will make sure your kids are learning in a fun, playful way.
1. Limit electronics. Electronic games and screens teach the kids how not to be curious learners. Electronics ( even the “educational” programs) teach children how to be passively entertained. This is against the nature of a child, who is born to discover, to learn, to master.
2. Provide sensory materials to small children. Even 11-year-olds enjoy digging through piles of beans sometimes. Sensory materials, such as sensory tubs, play dough, etc, teach measuring skills and early math.
3. Cultural trips. Of course, you can go to the beach as a family, but there is a lot value in trips to museums, science centers, libraries and other places, which encourage the learning process. It’s good to schedule these educational trips at least twice a month.
4. Provide accessible art materials. Children learn a lot through being creative and there is no crime if your small child spills some paint. Setting up a creative station within the child’s reach promotes the creative learning process.
5. Books. Buy as many books as you can afford. Of course, you can go to the library, but there is no better service you can provide for your child than teaching them how to cure boredom with a good book. This can only be done when they are bored at home (limited electronics provide for that) and when there are good books at home. Reading increases the amount of language the children are exposed to. Search the internet for book lists and create a library at home. Even a small library can be very educational. Be sure to buy a few children’s encyclopedias on the various topics, as well. Fill your library with a variety of picture and chapter books, magazines, graphic novels, travel narratives at varying reading levels. Teach your child to read and help them to love reading, as reading opens a completely new world of learning.
6. Read and discuss the biographies of famous scientists, artists, political leaders and historical figures together. This invokes questions, plans and the desire to imitate greatness. It also teaches history in action.
7. Learn new words daily. Read new words in a dictionary together with your child. Explain the meaning of these words. Write these words on a board or on paper and put this paper on display. Rich vocabulary is a key to literacy and literacy is a key to learning. Research by Robert Marzano (2004) indicates that, “. . . students’ comprehension will increase by 33 percentile points when vocabulary instruction focuses on specific words important to the content they are reading as opposed to words from high-frequency lists [teaching frequently-occurring words out of context].”
8. Show them greatness. An average 3-year-old can remember the picture of Mona Lisa by Da Vinci as effectively as he can remember the face of Elmo or some princess from Frozen. Which one would benefit the learning process more? I understand that both can co-exist, but think about where the majority of your child’s interest and attention is going. I show my kids the works of great artists and play the music of great composers from the very early age. If they need to see something and hear something, let it be something beautiful, historically significant and conducive to learning.
9. Play word and trivia games. Rhyming games, board games that test general knowledge- bring it all on. Word games like Pictionary, Scrabble, BINGO, and Boggle are a good start. This teaches the children to equate learning with fun.
10. Speak like an adult and speak to your children often. In restaurants, I frequently see families staring at their phones, instead of conversing. I also frequently see children, who are unable to speak in clear sentences, yet able to type terrific text messages. Children learn so much from simply taking to you! Tell them how to repair a tire or tell them how photosynthesis works. In fifteen minutes a day, you can teach your children so much by just having a conversation.
11. Get some books on tape on varying subjects and play them. For small children, some fairytales are great to play in the background, while the kids are drawing or building with blocks. For older children, historical narratives and harder, classical books while on long car drives are extremely educational.
12. Involve your children in your life. Simply going to the grocery store with Mom can become a lesson in home economics. Why do we buy this brand instead of that one? What does money mean on our grocery trip? How should I interact with the adults I encounter? Should I help Mom carry the bags? Just living alongside you is ten times more educational than the fanciest extra curricular learning activities you can provide for your kids.