How children learn and what parents can do at home

Learning in young children is socially mediated

Engage in role play with your children/play pretend schools/ libraries/ “goodies and baddies”/ families – use vocabulary that these real life characters would really use: For e.g. as the librarian you might say: ‘ I’m afraid you are 12 days late returning your book madam ..You have to pay a fine of £1.50’ Use ‘real life’ props as you play and enjoy the chance to use your own imagination. Invite your child to literally ‘bring their ideas to the table!’ When you are having adult, light-hearted conversations at the dinner table ~ involve your child as soon as they can talk. Show them that you value their opinions and by playing this game you will encourage them to “listen in” to adults modelling language and talking about the world.

The QUALITY of the learning environments created by families, schools and the wider culture is CRITICAL for children’s development.

Give your child a clutter free working area for their home-work. Provide comfortable chairs for sitting at a surface to do homework. Think about the height of the chair – does it allow your child to be able to write comfortably? A non-slippy cushion placed on the seat can make a big difference to posture and thus writing. Observe your child’s natural preference for being comfy and relaxed to read /write /play with Lego, etc… Lying on their tummy/sitting at a table and tucked in properly? / Settling on a wobbly cushion if they are a fidgeter? Audit the noise levels/the smells/the human traffic /your voice (volume and quantity) in the space where your child is trying to concentrate – Is their learning space providing sensory over-load?. Try to resource your child’s learning and play environments to allow them to really immerse themselves in exploration of their world without needing to ask for your support too often.

Children need to be exposed to lots of different experiences to help them develop these important skills, both in the classroom and in their home life.

Play with puppets – make a puppet theatre and your own puppets then watch and listen to your child’s puppet shows – allow them to refine their shows over time as their knowledge and confidence grows. Praise their efforts! Ask your child questions that start with the word ‘how….’ Get in to a habit of taking a moment to engage in a parent / child appraisal type conversation -where you take time to encourage your child to reflect on their own behaviour or choices and try to think of a way they could develop or improve them the next time Also ~ importantly ~ Tell them what you appreciate about them and how they demonstrate their uniqueness to you. An example might be ;’ I was so proud when I saw you offer to run upstairs and bring grandma’s purse down for her. You know that her knees hurt don’t you. You are a kind and thoughtful person ‘. Remember attitudes / dispositions and effort are the things to praise and try to be specific in your feedback.

Children gain knowledge through active experience, pretend play, language; good teaching and parenting help children make sense of all their experiences.

Simple – be your child’s play partner! You can teach your child SO much by being in their play with them. You can scaffold (support development of) their playing and thinking by asking ‘how’ starting questions and learning new things WITH your child at the same time as your child. Letting them lead and choose the place/time/resources for play and exploration. Engineer play dates with different aged children. Provide outdoor playing and learning resources and time – in all weathers – Sticks, Mud, Water, Buckets…can teach them science skills/Cooking skills/Painting skills/Help their fine and gross motor skills development…Not to mention develop social skills if they are playing with others outside.

Language is crucial for development

Sing to and with your child & make up silly songs. Let them make up the lyrics and accept their ideas. Read signs and point out to them any that you see in the environment. Let them attend activities with children who are older than them. Play board games in your family. Don’t jump in and talk for your child when they are asked a question …Give them time to formulate their answer having thought for themselves.

Incremental experience is crucial for learning and knowledge building in children. The brain learns from every experience and the more regularly an activity is experienced, the easier it is for the brain to learn from it. This is called “cumulative learning”.

Break every new learning experience into smaller units of action. Allow them TIME to refine and master a skill or to embed their learning. Try to allow them to learn in a multi- sensory way – Can they See it/Touch it/Smell it/Hear it/Taste it /Do it?

Children’s learning is enriched by experiencing knowledge in different ways or being exposed to language in different ways.

Do not limit their experience of print to school reading scheme books! Why not spend a day recording on a clipboard….WHERE you both notice print in your worlds. It’s everywhere and used for all types of purposes.

Genetic differences between children influence development.

Boys and girls learn in different ways and in the same ways A very, very general rule – Boys like active and “hands on” learning with minimal verbal instructions. Girls respond well to kind, thoughtful conversation and lots of resources with which they can create and design.

Imaginative play is critical for cognitive development in children in the early years. See ideas above

Children’s learning goes so much further when supported by a teacher, parent, carer or peer. See above ideas.

Teachers and parents should praise effort rather than performance.

Thanks to Let Me Be Me for this blog:

Shirley Hayman B.Ed(hons)/EYP, Early Years Education Consultant & Trainer 077588 73734

 Let ME Be ME; An Adventure Club for Children