In the case of young children, parents are often the people who spend the most time with their child. Although your child may participate in classes, attend childcare programs, or take part in playgroups, it is likely that your child spends a large portion of his day or week with you. What this means is that you are your child’s most important teacher!
Given this, consider what would happen if parents and nannies learned to think like teachers! What if you were able to multiply your child’s learning opportunities every day? What if every moment became a teachable moment? Imagine the possibilities!
To be clear, we are not suggesting that you sit your young child at a desk and drill him or her with flashcards (that is simply not good teaching anyway)! We are also not suggesting that you do not allow your child down time, or time to simply be a child! And finally, we are not suggesting that you, as a parent, never take a break! What we are suggesting is that we work to maximize the teachable moments within our daily lives! We do not need to add more to our days—we just need to make more of what is already happening! Simple activities or unexpected events are often some of the best times to foster your child’s learning. Think about the things you and your child do every day, and then brainstorm how you can turn those into effective teaching moments (without adding too much stress or hassle to your already busy day!)
Here are some ideas to get you started…
Each day, we all engage in activities that lend themselves to child development—we just have to learn to view them that way! One example is bath time – an event that is built into most of our days. For many of us, this is a routine we rush through in order to move on to the next event. But, if we take a moment to view bath time differently, we can see that it lends itself to a wealth of learning opportunities! Bath time is an excellent time to teach your child to identify body parts (e.g. “put the soap on your tummy”), to follow simple instructions (e.g. “pour the water!”), to understand prepositions (e.g. “put fishy in the bucket”), or even pronouns (e.g. “put the sponge on your nose” vs. “put the sponge on my nose”). If we simply rush through bath time, scrubbing our children down, then getting ready for the next thing, we may be missing out on some great teaching moments! This is true of many of our daily activities—take a few moments to think about your other routines!
In addition to activities, we also can begin to look at toys and materials differently. Rather than viewing toys at face value, we can look at toys and begin to ask ourselves: what can this help me teach my child? Often we make the mistake of viewing toys as serving only one purpose. For example, most of us see Legos as items that are meant to teach building skills. While this is certainly one skill Legos may address, there are countless others! When building with our children, we can be teaching colors (e.g. “can you find the red one?”), sizes (e.g. “where’s the small block?”, “which one is bigger?”), prepositions (e.g. “put it on/under/next to”), following directions (e.g. “give the block to ___”), counting (e.g. “how many do you have?”, “pass me 3 blocks”), and imitation skills (e.g. “try what I’m doing!”)…just to name a few!
The point here is not that you should build a formal classroom in your home or should focus every moment of your day on being a teacher. The point is that we can try to recognize that every environment is a classroom! All activities are lessons! All toys are teaching materials! We can exponentially increase your child’s learning opportunities just by changing our perspectives. We do not need to add extra work or activities to our days—we just need to maximize what we are already doing! When we learn to make every day moments teachable, our children are provided with endless opportunities to expand their skills and minds!
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