Learning opportunities are everywhere, we just need to seize them. Sometimes people get caught up in the numbers, reading, and sitting still, that they miss out on the real learning opportunities. When we get so hung up on benchmarks and “requirements” we lose the love of learning and the innate ability our children have to learn. Sure, reading and writing are important, but if you can encourage learning throughout your day those will come almost naturally.
Besides, frankly I don’t care if my kids are geniuses. I do care that they become loving and kind humans that people enjoy being around. I hope they love to learn and never cease to seek out understanding. And I have never met a dumb person who continually seeks out learning. So here are a few ways to incorporate more learning throughout your child’s day. So you can raise a life long learner.
Teach Your Child Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes are great learning opportunity because they are quick, fun, and stick in your child’s mind. If singing is not your thing, there are great nursery rhyme books out there so consider purchasing one. We personally do a mixture of singing and reading them aloud to the kids. Your thrift store probably has an old nursery rhyme book somewhere in the book section.
How nursery rhymes contribute to learning:
- Nursery rhymes teach rhythm
- Increases vocabulary
- Includes a good lesson or funny tale
- Teaches rhyme
If you do not have the means to purchase a nursery rhyme book, or are not sold on how beneficial they can be, look up some online. You can find a favorite of yours. As you continue to read or sing the nursery rhyme your child will commit it to memory. Once memorized you can start asking your child about the meaning. Breaking it down to smaller pieces or focusing on the lesson it teaches. You can be as thorough or straight forward as you want. Just remember nursery rhymes are fun, so laugh a little.
Observe with Your Child
Observation is a skill all kids need to learn. Why not start early? I particularly like to use observation as a tool for learning while outside. When we go on walks I take time to point out the lovely flowers, mountains, and other lovely things I notice. This helps me to teach my children about what they are looking at, while simultaneously focusing them on what is beautiful. It does take a little extra effort to stop the stroller and chat with the kids, but it is worth it to stop and notice the flowers.
Observation is also a great tool for our grocery store runs. I often have all of my small children when I do Costco runs so I use this time to practice the skill. Since we do not do screen time (read more here) this is a way for me to entertain my children. We look at the different items and they help me find certain foods on our list.
In both scenarios walking and grocery shopping there is lots of potential for whiney children. Purposefully directing my children’s attention away from their complaints such as wanting to get out of the stroller/cart provides an opportunity to learn and prevents bad attitudes.
Incorporate Signing with Observation as an added Learning Opportunity
When my kids are preverbal I try to observe outside through the window with them and incorporate sign language. We look at the birds outside and I will teach the sign for bird. So whenever we see a bird I will do the sign and once they are a little bigger they start to do it too. Baby sign language is a great chance to communicate and teach your child. It serves as an indication that your child is comprehending what you are saying. Which is a great reminder that our kids who cannot speak yet are constantly learning so why not teach them?
Our family does not do a whole bunch of signs but a few that we have enjoyed using are:
- thank you
Learning the baby sign language is just observation and mimicking. I am not an expert in any type of sign language but looking up a few signs for baby online can be a great tool for learning and communicating more easily.
Read to Them to Encourage Thinking
Reading is a great learning opportunity for your child. Get books you enjoy reading. You will not want to read to your child if you are reading awful books. Seriously consider just throwing away the terrible books. Do you really want to donate the horrid book you despise reading and subject another parent to the reading it?
When you enjoy the books in your child’s library, you will want to read more. If there is a book my children really like that I dread reading, I do what I call the hide-toss-divert method. I will first hide the book for a little and then throw it out or donate it and if they ask about it divert their attention to a book we all enjoy. Do not feel bad for getting rid of a book that does not bring any enjoyment to you.
What we read to our children forms their tastes as well, we don’t want to encourage a bad taste in literature by keeping an obnoxious book. Reading with our kids should be an experience we want to repeat, so just toss the books that suck.
Read Age Appropriately
Enjoying reading to your child is important, but make sure you are reading age appropriate books. It’s a great idea to read more advanced books every once in a while. However, be sure to have some books right on level for your child. He will need to build stamina when it comes to sitting still and listening to a book. So short and sweet books will do the trick in the beginning.
Take Creative License
You are allowed to add to the book you are reading to your child. You are not bound to the words on the pages of the book. Feel free to add lib as you see fit. If you see ways to connect a book with your child’s personal life, this will help to increase her understanding. Sometimes taking the creative license to add a little or stop and talk about a subject more thoroughly will greatly expand your child’s capacity to learn.
Talk Them Through Your Day
Talk about what is going on around you, to promote learning. As you go about your day talk your child about what you are doing. Even when your little one is preverbal talk to them as if they understand. Chances are they will catch on faster than you expect. Every moment is a learning opportunity when you are communicating with your child. Speaking and listening are the main ways children learn in the beginning so use every moment you have.
Behavior and Learning
When we are constantly communicating what we are doing to our children we not only teaching them, but we are preparing them for what is ahead. Talking through what our schedule can benefit behavior as well.
Kids thrive when they know what to expect. This is why some children with less stable home life have a harder time behaving properly. They have no idea what will happen next and are in constant limbo. Informing your child on what is to come, can help them to know what to prepare for and in turn help her behave more appropriately.
Learn Through the Socratic Method
Okay maybe the socratic method seems a little advanced, but when I read about the socratic method it described the teacher as the “guide on the side”. This is a perfect picture of how to make a learning opportunity out of anything. You guide your child throughout each day. Instead of telling your child, ask questions.
Spend time during the day asking your child questions. The questions do not have to be complex. For instance you can start with asking your child about what they like and how their day went. At dinner we like to ask the children what was the best thing that happened today. This creates an opportunity to focus on the positive and teaches our kids to look for the good.
You can also ask questions that you know the answer to. Often times the recall for kids helps to solidify what they learned. I try to frequently revisit questions relating to what we are learning in homeschool.
Questions are wonderful opportunities for guiding learning without forcing our children to only regurgitate information. This encourages critical thinking and allows our kids to express how they feel. We want our children to tell us how they are really doing not what they think we want to hear.
Is there such a thing as too many learning opportunities?
You will never look back and say I wish I spent less time intentionally teaching my child. The opportunity to learn for your child is also a unique opportunity for you to spend quality time with your child. Cherish these moments.
You do not have to have full on lesson plan every time you want your child to learn. Often time it requires little to no extra effort just some intentionality.
How do your create learning opportunities for your child?
I would love to hear how you encourage learning in your children in the comments below.
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