5 Suggestions To Consider This Fall
“Learning is creation, not consumption. Knowledge is not something a learner absorbs, but something a learner creates. Learning happens when a learner integrates new knowledge and skill into his or her existing structure of self.” –The Center For Accelerated Learning.
My passion is early childhood education, supporting educators, children and families during the early years. A month ago, I set out to write a blog about how to make learning engaging and fun for young children. I quickly realized that most of us are currently teaching and parenting in ways we never could have imagined. Therefore, I determined that the most appropriate use of this post would be to share some ideas that may be useful, and hopefully, uplifting for all of us that are literally doing the best we can to take care of ourselves, and our families. I arrived at these words: keep it simple and be flexible. Don’t get me wrong, routines, visual schedules, and predictability are important, especially for meals, naps, and bedtimes. Perhaps letting go of high expectations and lengthy to-do lists during these topsy-turvy days would be beneficial? Consider slowing and simplifying.
I believe play, presence, and grace opens up opportunities for learning. Let’s consider slowing down, breathing, connecting through fun, and making well-being the priority.
Here are 5 suggestions to consider this fall:
PLAY. The natural world is a wonderful place for children to explore, move, and discover. Notice the details through sight, smell, sound, and touch. Using our senses brings us to the present moment. The present moment is where connection lives. Let them lead while you follow, ask questions, engage with their wonderings; “Show them where to look, but not what to see.” You may be surprised at their complex thinking, questioning, and understanding. Children are innate observers of the natural world. Time outside can be a learning experience.
Outside is a perfect place to build language skills: listen carefully, ask questions, reflect their words, and offer new vocabulary. Just be in the moment with them.
PRESENCE. Being with children as they play, sharpens our presence. When we notice and use simple language to narrate children’s play, they know we are paying attention. Noticing and narrating means using a nonjudgemental tone of voice, soft facial expressions, and stance of “I wonder…” This creates an atmosphere of safety. Safety means they are seen, supported, and secure as they play. And yes, this is an exercise in slowing down. As children play, create, move, pretend, watch for themes, topics, and interests for further exploring.
Children appreciate uninterrupted time to play and connect.
READING. As an early childhood educator, I researched and collected children’s books. The public library is a great place to go with children. I screened books, studied pictures, and examined word choices. Some books were great for picture walks, just talking through the photos while telling a simplified story. Others were great for bringing up a topic to discuss further. Children’s books usually have an age range, so pre-screen before you share with your child. Reading together can be a special time to connect. If a child isn’t interested in reading, never force. Placing books at child’s level allows them become interested naturally. Board books are delightful.
Reading is wonderful way to soften and connect, especially at bedtime.
RITUALS. Some days are just challenging. Creating moments of connection during daily living tasks requires slowing down and being creative. Adding a connection moment can make a world of difference. Not all our routines have time and ability to contain a playful ritual. As an early childhood teacher, I was mindful of transitions (there were many). We took 3 deep breaths before our transitions. I modeled the breathing options: balloon, drain, or a rainbow breath. Over time, children began to offer a new ideas for breathing, and a fun ritual began. Our transitions contained a fun, and sometimes funny, child-led activity that was connective for us all.
In my experience, children love adding fun, even silliness, into daily routines.
CREATE, MOVE & SING. Do art, sing, dance, and let your inner child out. Don’t worry about fancy art materials. Coloring and drawing are often what they prefer. Use what you have around the house; paper, boxes, markers, crayons. What matters is the moment of connected creativity and expression. As the parent, you determine what is safe and developmentally appropriate for your child: supervise, participate, and enjoy.
Get creative together and display art work around the house, even the grown-ups.
Give your children the gift of connection. Keep it simple. Be flexible. Stay present. Make the moments count. Learning is happening, it just may not be the kind of learning we have prioritized.
Photo credit: Markus Spiske at Unsplash.com