Have you ever watched a toddler play? They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore. But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things? Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.
Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning. Moms, you can relax. Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.
Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc. Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts. And read to them every day.
When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity. Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on. If they are not interested, they will move on. Follow their lead.
Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water? Which objects will float? How can we pour this into that? Which object will fit on top? Hint ~ don’t be a teacher! Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.
Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn. E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play! Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience. (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!) Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.
What kills a child’s natural curiosity? A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result. Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.
Socialization for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group. Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child. Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic, or outings to the zoo or petting parks, or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc. Remember the golden socialization ratio for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.
Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform. Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball, horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc. Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ). I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday! I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities. When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities. You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!
A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season. Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule. Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule. This freedom encourages curiosity.
When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach. Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:
- Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
- make music
- play and climb
- time in nature
- make-believe games and dressing up
- learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
- reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
- Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.
I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.
(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)