Children learn by getting stuck in. When you can offer your child practical experiences, with opportunities to reflect and try again, you are encouraging their physical and mental skills to flourish. Especially when you utilise all the authentic, meaningful opportunities you have around you.
How can I make this stick together?
Why does this keep falling over?
How can I make it better next time?
When children are given the chance to solve their own problems they can experience the joy of success. Learning that they can meet their own challenges, perfecting techniques for when these become more difficult. Practical play offers children the authentic motivation to apply their developing skills and shows them what they can accomplish. With every experience informing the next, they do more than repeat experiences of the past. They learn from them.
Problem Solving Professionals
From retrieving the toy just out of reach to building the perfect den that doesn’t fall down around them, children are utilising their practical problem-solving skills every day. But when we offer an activity we can also fall into the trap of giving children just what they need. So from a very early age, offer your child opportunities to try different things for themselves. Offer your very young child a range of containers to play with, making sure some toys won’t fit. A little older and have dressing up games with clothes for all seasons. And if they are wanting to build a den, include all kinds of materials, including tape to hold the heavy drapes together along with pegs and more suitable alternatives. This offers a much wide range of practical skills along with deeper insights into what they need.
Build a Busy Board
Gather together a range of zippers and snaps, buckles and buttons for your child to practice with. You can also add bolts, keys and padlocks. You can buy some great “Busy Boards” for your child to practice all these things on or get creative and make your own. Especially if you have a practical family member or friend with a garage full of “just in case” items or a sewing kit full of wonders.
Being reflective is all about thinking back on past experiences and using these to tell you something about what you are doing now. For a baby, offer them familiar bright and colourful objects in various shapes. As they explore their shape and texture they are storing the memories for the next object they hold. If the first one rattled, they will try giving the next one a good shake. As they get older, offer them similar items as they play with different ideas. For example, all different kinds of brushes or objects that roll. Extend this play by encouraging your child to find these similar objects for themselves. “How many different kinds of bushes can we find?” take this to different locations around your home such as the bathroom, the kitchen or garage. “What can we find that is green?” “How about things that Float?”
Help your child to reflect on the things they see all around them. When you are in the supermarket, see if they can spot the cereal you have at home. How about the bread you like to buy? When they
get a little older, see if you can spot familiar letters on labels or around the community on the signs you see displayed. From a very young age you can support their reflections by doing familiar things in the same way. Sing the same song as you put them in the car seat, “Right arm in, left arm in and click!” Count the steps as you leave the house, jumping down the last one.
This article is taken from our course: What Every Parent Should Know
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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