Over the past decade, there has been growing emphasis on academics. Expectations and academic “pre requisites” have trickled down to our youngest kids. Let’s be honest. We push our babies and toddlers to excel; we expect our children to know more literacy and math concept at a younger and younger age. And, as a mom, if my child doesn’t know how to spell his name, recognize letters, count to 30, know Spanish and English, I feel like I am failing. So we do flash cards and kindergarten worksheets. But are these expectations realistic? Is our “typical” learning environment?
I don’t remember these types of expectations and pressures as a kid. Do you?
Children are naturally inquisitive and learn through experiencing. Play is a natural way for children to explore and make sense of their world. Play-based learning DOES NOT mean free and unstructured play. It relies on purposeful interactions that encourage children to stretch their thinking. We ask “why?”, “how?”, or “how does this relate to home/a field trip/etc?”. New concepts, discoveries, and vocabulary is built naturally or within a meaningful context.
Play at Home
Encourage your child’s curiosity and learning naturally through play. You can create scenarios to help foster different learning experiences. A few ideas to jump start your creativity are below:
Create a restaurant: Develop a menu and price list together, practice “cooking” meals, invite “guests” (stuffed animals) to dine. Have your child set up table settings for the number of guests eating at the restaurant. Talk about vocabulary waiters use and practice.
Explore outside: Find collections of items. Sort items in a variety of ways. Feel a variety of natural items and talk about why they may feel different. Ask questions that get your child to think about why leaves may change colors, why it may snow instead of rain, etc. Build a fort with natural materials and talk about problems you encounter while building.