It’s no secret: Children learn faster and retain more when they’re having fun. Though most public educational institutions are dry and stale in their approach to conveying concepts to children, kids somehow find a way to overcome the standardized testing and boring teachers.
At home, it doesn’t have to be that way. Parents – the real educators in children’s lives – can take the time to make learning an exciting, enjoyable experience. You are the best teachers they will ever have, and you should use that power wisely. Here are three suggestions for helping young children get into the process of learning. Even better, they can make a mess while doing it.
1. FLOUR NUMBERS & LETTERS
This method of teaching the ABCs and 123s is perfect for kindergarteners who are having trouble forming alpha-numeric symbols. Take a handful of flour, spread it out over a smooth surface (a counter or dining room table will do), and begin to make letters, numbers and even short words. Let the little one experiment. Remember, getting it right isn’t as important as trying. The “right” part of it will come. Draw pictures, too. Then write the names beneath them. Dogs, cats, cars, kites. Keep it simple and have fun. Encourage the child to make a mess. And make clean up fun. Bonus: Teaching responsibility. If we make a mess, we have to clean it up.
2. LOOSE CHANGE COUNTING
Most of us have a bottle, bank or other container full of pennies or small change. Dump a bunch of it out on the table and guide the child through creating the shapes of numbers (and letters and words) by connecting the coins. Try making a numeral with that number of coins. In other words, count out 30 coins and use them to make the shape of a 3 and a zero. For kids a little older than kindergarten, this exercise may also start a conversation about money and its value. Again, clean up should be fun, and this might be a good time to roll those coins, take ‘em to the bank, and put them in the kid’s college fund … which you certainly opened a long time ago. Right?
3. STRING THEORY
Kite string, yarn even pipe cleaners are great for this letter- and number-making game. Colors add to the fun. Again, manipulate the string to create words and shapes. Better yet, try to make a full “string drawing” with one long piece. This is a great was to push abstract thinking and hand/eye coordination. The more tangled mess the string becomes, the better. If the child gets frustrated, start over. The golden rule is: Have fun and make a little mess. If a kid is smiling, he or she is probably learning … something. At the very worst, you are spending quality time with your kid – something all of us could use a little more of.