Parents often ask what they can be doing at home to encourage their child’s education.
First, can we clarify what you should NOT be doing? That would be any activity where a young child is expected to sit still for any length of time against their will!
Our primary goal is simple – promoting curiosity in kids! Secondary goals are to encourage focus and concentration for any length of time, create opportunities to enhance gross and fine motor skills by encouraging movement and independence and finally spending time together with your children.
Any activity that get kids thinking about their world!
Here are a few ideas:
Place things of beauty where your child can enjoy and experience them.
Child-safe art such as sculpture that kids can touch and investigate.
A book with beautiful pictures on the cover – on a subject that your child may find fascinating (bugs/ trains/ fairies) – on a table where your child will see it. Any book that can entice your child’s curiosity and focus for more that a few minutes is a success! Creating a situation where books are a source of joy when children are young sets you up for having children that find books joyful as they grow up.
Why are books important? The obvious reasons are the information they contain. Books and reading also encourage imagination. The stories and characters teach us about human nature. Not to mention the increased vocabulary gained from reading will have a positive impact on future test such as college entrance exams.
Have markers, paint, crayons and paper where your child can create their own works of art safely. To protect your tables we always have a few large plastic trays that the kids use to create their art on. Then hang them up where everyone can enjoy and appreciate their creations.
Teach your child about the great artists by taking them to the library for age-appropriate books and also to museums if you have access.
Music is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the beauty of their world. Play different types of music from various cultures and countries.
Pre-readers: Throughout the day ask children what sounds different things begin with. We use phonetic spelling – “cat” begins with a “cuh” sound. If you are driving and see a tree, “What is that tall green thing outside your window?” then when they name it…“What sound does it begin with?” “t”
When they are getting themselves dressed in the morning, “what is that you are putting on your foot?” …. “sock” what sound does sock begin with?” Do this periodically throughout the day, when they are getting tired of this game you will know to stop. (Observation!)
Grocery Store “I-spy”: Keep kids content and curious when running errands. Take turns as to who does the guessing. You can do I-spy with colors or shapes to keep it interesting. “I-spy something shaped like a triangle!”
Readers at every level: Reading signs around town or at the store. Have grandparents and friends send postcards that child can read and enjoy.
Keep it interesting by finding books on subjects they are interested in! When younger my boys loved “Captain Underpants” or anything silly. My daughter loved Harry Potter but hated other science fiction. Middle son has always liked mysteries (The Westing Game) Youngest son loves fantasy. Find what they like – at each age!
Cooking together is so much fun! Child will need to count when measuring each item. Listing off the ingredients helps to create both order and focus in their minds. Cooking is a great opportunity to discuss and explain fractions with different age groups.
Basic counting at home: How many shoes are in your Mom’s closet? (try individual shoes one day then eventually ask them how many pairs of shoes!) How many legos are in that pile? What if you took two legos away?
Airport Math: I heard an amazing dad with his two sons waiting in the airport check in line. He was asking them; “If we have six suitcases, how many will each of us have?” and to his older son; “If our plane takes off at 3 pm and it takes 2 hours to get there, what time will we arrive?” He was REALLY making them think about each question! Instead of bored and antsy kids, he was engaging them them in the process!
Advanced math concepts: Place small items (marbles/ legos/ cheerios) in groups of five and count by fives. (Then 10’s)
Eventually you can explain that multiplication is adding groups of numbers while division is subtracting groups of numbers.
Estimation jar: See our My Works Video! This is one of our favorites to create curiosity with numbers!
If your child likes frogs you can go to library or on computer and discover the different parts of a frog. Where do they live? What do they eat? Draw pictures of the frogs in their natural habitat. Write stories about frogs if the child is able to write. What is the difference between a frog and a toad? Enjoy the direction that each of these questions/ explorations takes you.
We teach concepts to encourage critical thinking. What is living and what is non-living? (Is a rock living? What about a flower?) (See the My Works video on Living/ Non-Living)
Animal or plant?
A guessing game with animals – Does it have scales/ fur or feathers? Child says “fur” and adult guesses animals with fur! (I have a family in my classroom that plays this game every night at dinner.)
We have continent boxes in our classroom with items from different continents. This could also be done with different countries. Items in the North America box have photographs (many times laminated from magazines) of food, people, animals, buildings and climate. Rain forest in South America, dessert in Africa, pyramids in Egypt, Great Wall in China. You get the idea. Before discussing a certain area of the world we always get out the globe to show the perspective of where we live vs. where the area we are exploring is. The world is so cool! (See the My Works Video lesson on continent boxes)
Listen to music from different parts of the world. Indian music is so peaceful, unique and relaxing to listen to! Mexico, Russia, China… every area has it’s own sound.
Maps: first of a room in their world (with furniture and items that are important to them), then their house, eventually of their street, town, state, country, continent and eventually – when the are ready to grasp it – a map of their word. Don’t forget to have them place a sticker or a star where they are in the world!
Cooking: Foods from different countries. Kids enjoy cooking so much! Get out the globe to show where in the world that food comes from.
And so it goes….
By the way…Where do the bananas we eat come from? What about milk? How about apples – there are so many different kinds!
There are some wonderful web sites that have amazing activities for you to do with your child such as: www.montessoriprintshop.com Many of these are free!
Asking questions just creates more questions… it’s a beautiful individualized curriculum for your family to explore together for many years to come.
So unplug the passive electronics and actively plug into the world – with your children!!!