Talk to your child – all the time – about everything
Determined more by opportunities for communication within the home than any other factor, your child’s grasp of language is going to be of great importance. If you imagine the experiences faced by a child with limited language in the realities of the school classroom, compared to the head start experienced by a confident speaker, the resulting outcomes and class dynamics are clear.
A child struggling to understand or to make themselves understood may seem overly reluctant to engage, or to have behavioural issues if they are experiencing frustration. Either way, a sense of isolation is likely to develop. Unchecked, misunderstanding may become confused with lower ability. Support your child’s access to rich, two-way dialogue within real social interactions.
Help them experience the world through their senses
When they were babies, it was clear that they were learning everything through their senses – but this is a learning mechanism we retain throughout our lives. Now, as your child is increasingly mobile and self-sufficient, avoid overlooking such fundamental methods of enriching their learning experiences.
Could you exchange the plastic fruits and vegetables in their toy box for some sensory experiences? Next time you go shopping, find a fruit or vegetable that neither of you is familiar with. Instead of paints, could you get creative with chocolate spread and yogurt?
Think about the sounds they hear – is it constant background noise, or different tempo music for differing effects? Do they have chance to hear the subtle differences between the birds in the trees, or between a car or lorry passing by? Without these abilities they are going to struggle understanding the difference between spelling similar sounding words such as ship and chip.
Read to your child every day
While their favourite rhyming picture book may have limited appeal to you on the 36th read through this week. But for your child, its rhythm, pictures, words, colours and story all offer so much. As they notice new features with every visit, this is helping them connect the written word with meaning, to appreciate the rhythm of language and the enjoyment and purpose of a book.
Let your child see the results of their efforts as they work towards a goal
Through these experiences your child is developing a belief in their own abilities. Offer them authentic opportunities to investigate, providing them with the right tools for the job. Allow your child to get stuck into the learning process – measuring the flour rather than watching you do it, waiting for a token stir.
And let them see something real come of something they have talked about as you enhance the connections they are making between their abstract thought and what this means.
Support their desire to know and understand
If you can provide your child with creative and tangible experiences, their intrinsic motivation, curiosity and independence will bloom. Support their curiosity by offering items they have seen adults use – a book of 1p stamps can go a long way! Allow your child to own their environment, responsible for where things might go and able to access what they need. And relate their experiences to what your child is interested in, supporting what they know, challenging what they think they know and developing what they want to know.
This article is taken from our course: The Learning Child
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
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