If you want your child to learn through play, you have to play with her. Educational toys exist in spades, but these toys are not actually educational in their own right. Most require a parent or other adult working with the child to really gain the educational benefits. To help your child learn as much as possible during her years of play, enjoy the time together.
Blocks and Wooden Toys
Wooden toys are terrific for children as are any sort of block. These simple toys are truly education and will allow children to use problem solving and critical thinking skills. Building towers and bridges, putting together puzzles and pulling along wooden creatures all stimulate different parts of the brain and aid in developing creativity, practicing imagination and overall growing and learning.
Of course to understand how to put together a bridge or learn to build block houses for action heroes and dolls, you have to show your children how to manipulate the blocks. The same is true for other toys. But before you jump into to start building, allow your child to play with the items in her own way. You might be surprised at how she interprets something and it’s always fun to watch a child with a new toy. When she seems to be tiring of it, jump in and show her how much more fun she can have using the blocks in a particular way.
Board games such as Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are terrific for math purposes. Any game that makes your child count spaces at a very young age will help tremendously with math in the coming years. These games teach number skills as does any other kind of counting that involves spaces or objects. Other board games can test fine motor skills such as Operation and Monkeys in a Barrel, and still others test the memory and critical thinking skills – Guess Who and Memory games are the perfect example of this.
Set up a family game night where each member of the family gets to choose a particular game. If you’re playing with a very young family member, the options will be limited, but playing the games together and being careful to follow the rules, even if they are modified from the actual ones, will help your child develop critical social skills as well.
Reading books shouldn’t just be reserved for bedtime. Reading together helps your child is many ways including comprehension, speech and vocabulary building. Read stories and look at books full of pictures for fun and then as your child gets older alternate reading to give him a chance to practice her growing skills. Even older children enjoy listening to a novel read, so don’t be afraid to read aloud at bedtime with a child in the upper primary years. Secondary students can still enjoy reading books, but you’ll want to find the right kind of book to enjoy together. Reading throughout the years is shown to be one of the absolute best ways to learn.
Electronics and Television
If you’ve watched cartoons and educational videos lately, you’ve seen the characters talking to the viewer. This is an attempt to have the child interact with the television in an effort to learn by watching. While you can learn certain things just watching television, most children aren’t going to naturally clue into what they should be seeing just by having a show on.
To make any video or show educational, including the most touted of the baby videos, you must sit with your child and explain what it is your child is seeing. Put words with the pictures and keep her engaged in what she’s seeing on the screen. Pull her into your lap and practice counting along with her favorite cartoon characters and follow instruction such as, “Stand up, everybody” and “Let’s all say, Wake Up! Wake Up!”
While you can make television instructional, you would do far better to find quiet time allowing your child to play preapproved and screened educational games on the computer instead. Playing video and computer games requires your child to be involved in what is happening on the screen and actively engage her brain in what’s happening in front of her eyes. Moving a mouse and catching falling items, discerning between colors, making music using honey pots and any number of other activities can encourage your child’s imagination, teach problem solving skills, build hand-eye coordination and build creativity.
Playing outside is one of your child’s favorite activities, and as often as you can you should encourage your child to do exactly that. You might have to put down your project of the mument and pull on some outside shoes, but playing outside has tremendous benefits for your child’s heath and her education. Running, skipping, jumping and climbing are all great forms of exercise, and the lesson on the playground and backyard are taught simply by doing.
Your child can learn about mumentum, pendulums, energy, forces, nature, animals, plants and soil composition without even being able to pronounce the words much less understand what they mean. Swinging on a swing or climbing a tree gives them much to draw from in their later years when they begin to study these topics in earnest as they will have plenty of experience.
Discovery of all the creatures, rocks and plants outside requires your help. Not only do your need to supervise your child to be sure none of the rocks and creatures are going into his mouth, you’ll also want to avoid touching bugs and spiders that might be dangerous. Tell her the names of what she’s seeing and show her how things come together. Point out how much ants can carry and give him a peek into how the ants build a colony by working together. Watch leaves falling in the winter and then watch again as plants burst forth in the spring. There are endless ways to learn just outside your backdoor. Explore them all.