These simple activities are fun for the whole family and will greatly impact your child’s early childhood education.
Early childhood education is arguably the most important time in a child’s life when it comes to academic development. Your child will learn more in these years than they will learn the rest of their lives. Now, don’t stress. This doesn’t mean that if you haven’t already been doing the things below, that you have ruined your child’s chances or that there isn’t time to help them flourish academically and socially. Just find the activities that work best for your family and get started today.
1. The first thing you need to do is read, read, read!
One of my favorite quotes is, “a child is made a reader in the lap of his parents.” This is absolutely true! You may think your child will learn to read in school, but the foundation you lay will most likely determine how easily this happens. There are so many benefits for you and your children when you read together!
One of the greatest things about reading is that it can be an absolutely free activity. Utilize your local library, do a book swap with friends, or ask around, people are always getting rid of books and will be more than willing to pass them along to your kiddos.
Your child will learn about language, communication, letters, math, social studies, animals, science, characters, make believe…the list is endless. Reading will open up a whole new world for your children. You can use books to teach them about places, people, animals, etc. that otherwise they would not be exposed to. You will start to learn what your child’s interests are and how you can foster these interests to keep them interested in learning.
On top of all of that, being read to is the first step in a child learning how language works. Hearing the sounds you say as you put the words together will teach your child to communicate with you and his/her peers. Your child will learn to problem solve and how to use language to express ideas and work through differences. As children listen to stories, they begin to understand the relationship between cause and effect. Children learn to handle and express different emotions as they engage with different characters in books and begin to transfer that into their own lives.
As your child listens to you read they will see how letters correlate to sounds and how these sounds go together to make words. They will begin to hear sounds, syllables, rhymes, and see patterns in them. These are the very first steps in being able to read. You don’t even have to teach…you just need to sit and enjoy books together! Now it never hurts to also teach letters, sounds, or simple words, but you will be surprised with how much they pick up on their own.
Here are a few tips to get you started;
- Read books your child is interested in.
- Find repetitive text that your child will pick up on and want to read with you.
- Read the same book over and over and over.
- Point to the words as you read them.
- Choose a variety of genres when you get started.
- Read books with rhyming words.
- Talk about what you are doing as you read. “I look at the words as I read so I know what it says.” “When I turn to a new page, I always start at the left and read to the right.” “Sometimes I look at the pictures to see what is happening.”
- Talk about the story as you read and ask questions.
For ideas and information about reading to babies, check out this great article on the awesome site, Planes and Balloons.
2. Use ABC Mouse
You could find 500 great learning apps to download OR you could try ABC Mouse.
If you have not heard of or just never tried ABC Mouse, you need to give it a try. It is geared towards children ages 2-8. I first tried it with my son when he was 22 months old and he loved it! ABC Mouse has a comprehensive curriculum that covers everything your child will need to know and teachers helped create it. You get to choose what level to start your child on based on ability, rather than age, and it will track his/her progress for you. You can move him/her around at anytime. Your child will love it because it is full of games that are fun and engaging and they get to earn prizes as they go. Another great benefit is that your child will learn quickly how to navigate through the program all by him/herself. It is super kid friendly. You can sign up here to try ABC Mouse completely free for an entire month to see if it is right for your child and your family! Oh yeah, and since it is mobile, your child can play with it from anywhere!
3. One of my favorite early childhood learning activities is to play games.
And I really mean games. You don’t have to go to an education store and buy learning games that you might see in a classroom. Just sit and play all the games you loved as a kid. Here’s my favorite list of games and an explanation of why I always (as a teacher) recommend playing games to parents. The educational benefits are amazing and your kids will love learning!
4. Another great way to expand your child’s mind is to take field trips.
This does not have been be anything extravagant. Children learn so much by exploring and seeing new things. It can be as simple as going for a walk. Examine all the rocks, sticks, pine cones, bugs, buildings, etc. that you see. Take it slow and really engage in your environment. Or drive though a city if you live in the country or through the country if you live in a city. Go on a picnic, to a playground, a free day at the museum, the library, a friend’s house, a nursing home, a local event, or anywhere you can think of where your child will have a new experience.
5. Talk to your kids and let them hear you have conversations with others.
When children enter kindergarten, they will need to be able to communicate with others. This will be a big part of their learning in those first few months of school. Prepare them by modeling what you do naturally. Talk to your spouse at the dinner table or another parent at the park and allow your child to listen. The other great learning that will come from this is how to wait patiently to talk when someone is already talking. Children need to learn how conversation works. That it is a give and take and to effectively communicate you have to stop talking sometimes and listen. They will also notice how you do not start talking until someone is completely finished with their thought rather than beginning to talk as soon as an idea pops into your head.
Take time to talk with them. Really engaging in a conversation. Asking questions and really listening to what your child is saying. When you talk with your child like you value what they are saying, you are teaching them to value what others are saying as well to feel confident when engaging in conversation.
6. Pretend play, imaginative play, dress up, whatever you want to call it, it is super important.
Pretend play allows children to use what they know about something and apply it to a new situation. They will be doing this for the rest of their lives as learners in and out of school (just in a different way). This is what learning is all about. Making connections and applying what we know to new information so we can learn something new. Start playing pretend and role playing together. Set up a pretend house, kitchen, bank, restaurant, police station, or anything else and see how your child’s imagination takes off.
7. Have play dates
What better way to learn how to get along with others than to play with others. Before you send your child off to school, give him/her a chance to practice by playing with other kids. You will want your child to be able to stick up for him/herself in appropriate ways, share toys, and communicate effectively. If you do not know any families with young children, take your child to story time or other activities where your child can interact with other children.
You have opportunities everyday to play and laugh with your kids. Take a few of the ideas above and try to mix them in with your everyday routine. You will be blown away with how these simple things can impact your child’s learning. Don’t forget to sign up for 30 days of ABC Mouse, absolutely free, and see how engaged your child becomes in the lessons!
If you loved this post, don’t forget to pin it! And if you need more to read, I think you will love this, How to Use Your Child’s Love Language to Connect.