Question: I want to help my child learn and be ready for school, but sometimes I feel like the day is so busy I can’t fit in one more thing! Do you have ideas for activities we can do together that won’t take extra time?
Answer: Every day errands and chores are a great time to involve your child and help them learn and grow. Parents and caregivers often think they need to use computer software, videos, or workbooks for “learning” but actually, young children learn from every day experiences and learn best when they are involved in hands on activities. Plus, they love to help and be part of what you are doing.
Here are some ideas to help you get started with suggestions for different ages of children.
Talk about what you are doing
It may feel funny at first, especially with a small infant or toddler who cannot talk back to you or ask questions. Try to pretend you are on a cooking or “do it yourself” show while your infant or toddler is watching you or playing by your side. You can describe the actions you are doing while cooking or working in the garden. Describe what you see around you as you are driving in the car or at the grocery store. Your child is learning new words and concepts just by hearing you talk.
Read signs and words around you
Children learn that printed words carry a message from the signs and words that are in their world. Try pointing out the signs of familiar stores, traffic signs, and signs with information. You might be surprised at how quickly your child learns to point out “S-T-O-P Stop!” Through these experiences, children learn that letters come together to form words and these words carry a message…key things for readers to know!
Laundry time as math time
Even toddlers can sort out all of the socks from a basket of laundry. Preschoolers may be able to match the socks into pairs. Young children can fold simple things like pillow cases, washcloths, and towels. Try giving your child their own little basket and asking them to sort or fold a certain type of laundry. They are learning early math skills of classification, shapes, fractions, (learning to fold in halves and quarters) and building their sense of competence as they help you.
Dusting, picking up, and direction following
Try giving your child a damp rag and asking them to dust certain surfaces. Make it a game by giving interesting directions… “Can you dust three things that are green? Can you pick up all of the purple blocks and put them in the basket?” Then encourage your child to look for furniture or the toys that you have described. Being able to follow directions and use clues are both important early learning skills. Children may be motivated when you make a job a game.
Let’s watch things grow together!
Your child will enjoy working by your side in the garden. They may enjoy planting seedlings or flowers with you. They can learn important science skills about their natural world when working by your side. A small child sized rake can be fun to use in the fall. Children can help bag leaves, pickup sticks, and dig up weeds in the garden if you show them how to identify plants that are weeds.
Work and play side by side with your child and they will be learning every day!
Author: Rebecca Swartz, Extension Educator | The Learning Child
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