August 11, 2008

Learning through play

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - W. B. Yeats
From their early days, children learn to develop and use their mental, moral and physical powers, which they acquire through various types of education. Education is commonly referred to as the process of learning and obtaining knowledge at school, in a form of formal education. However, the process of education does not only start when a child first attends kindergarten but at home. One does not only acquire knowledge from a teacher, one can learn and receive knowledge from a parent or care-giver.

Imparting education to your child is not merely teaching them their basic ABC’s but instilling in them the love for acquiring knowledge. You need to make it a form of maintaining or even engendering their interest in learning because then they will automatically become a lifelong learner.

"The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change." - Carl Rogers

Children need continuous stimulation and this can be done from a very young age. You need to create an atmosphere at home where learning is made fun. Here are a few simple steps on how you can enrich your child’s environment and make it a place for learning through play:

  • Set the stage for enriching their inner self by first providing a steady source of positive emotional support – love, encouragement, warmth and care.
  • Provide a nutritious diet with enough proteins, vitamins, minerals and calories. A diet low in proteins during the developmental stages of a child’s life can be detrimental to their development and they might not be able to flourish and respond to an enriched condition. A healthy body will have the energy to become involved.
  • Make use of a range of activities/toys that stimulates all the senses, but not necessarily all at once. The more diverse the activities the better their chances of excelling overall.
  • Get rid of all undue pressure and stress and replace it with a degree of praise and encouragement.
  • Be aware of your facial expressions, eye contact and mood. Let them know that you enjoy watching them learn and are excited about their learning.
  • Do not make it monotone, but present a series of challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult for a child at their stage of development. If they complete the task then make sure you ‘celebrate’ and if they fail, console them and encourage them to try again. Never give up should be their motto!
  • Wherever possible allow social interaction. This will help them develop their social skills and also expose them to different personalities & emotions.
  • Let your child be in charge. Give them the opportunity to choose their activities.
  • Teach your child and give them a chance to assess the results of their efforts and how to modify them. Allow them to be an active participant rather than a passive observer.
  • Above all, make it an enjoyable atmosphere that promotes exploration and fun of learning.

In the process of participating in various activities your child with a little help will learn that they can exert control over their learning. When we make learning fun, they realise that they too have some responsibility in making learning fun!

Here is a list of some specific activities and games kids can play for making learning fun at home:

  • Read interesting stories. Kids like stories about people or things that motivate them to learn (eg: dinosaurs, famous people, astronomy etc).
  • Daily crossword puzzles to improve vocabulary and reading capabilities.
  • Encouraging them to take up hobbies (eg: rock collecting, stamp collections, gardening, pets etc).
  • Take them to planetariums and museums to engage their curiosity. Go hiking and exploring and teach them about nature and its inhabitants along the way.
  • Encourage them to share your bliss by introducing them to activities that you enjoy doing personally – eg: sports. This illustrates the fun in learning by modelling it.
  • Have thought provoking conversations on the dinner table and surprise your child by asking him what he thinks and encourage him to express himself and develop an opinion of his own.

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