Give your toddler a head start on classroom learning with these handy parenting hacks.
One of the biggest challenges parents face is making learning appear fun to their kids.
With electronic distractions an increasing part of modern life, getting your little one to sit down in front of a workbook isn’t always an easy task, but new research has found that many families aren’t doing enough to engage their children at home.
A poll from the Department for Education has found that around 100,000 children under five have never done activities at home with their parents to boost their learning skills, such as reading, singing or playing games.
The study, which looked at 2,685 parents of children aged five or younger, found almost a third (31%) of their children don’t read with someone at home daily.
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want to create a generation of confident learners – and parents are a child’s first and best teacher, helping to get them talking and communicating before they reach the classroom.
“You don’t need expensive books or toys to help children develop literacy skills. It can be as simple as reading a library book together or making up your own stories – little interactions can have a huge impact.”
Every child learns differently, but a few simple strategies can make all the difference when it comes to sparking a child’s natural curiosity.
We spoke to experts to find some top tips for making learning at home a fun, engaging and positive experience, for both parents and kids…
Tip 1: Build a maker space
“Children love making things as it gives them a chance to be creative and resourceful. A ‘maker space’ is a great way for children to be creative,” says Graham Brown-Martin, chief education and product officer at creative learning company pi-top (pi-top.com).
“Having an area of the house that they can use, whenever they want, gives them the ability to get creative. You can fill these areas with different materials so children can make different things. Whatever they choose to do, they will be thinking outside of the box.”
Tip 2: Integrate technology
“The jobs of the future are yet to be created, but what is clear is that they will be integrated with tech, so it is important for children to be around creative technology from a young age,” says Brown-Martin.
“I’m not saying they should be on their phones all day every day staring at a screen, but technology can be used to enhance learning experiences.”
“By giving children a product that allows them to both choose what they want to make and work out how to make these products, using code and programming, we are ensuring that children are actually thinking and being creative and imaginative,” adds Brown-Martin.
Games like the Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar (£54.99 RRP) make coding easy for children under the age of five. The toy breaks into nine easy-to-connect segments that kids can arrange and rearrange to tell the toy how to move forward, left, right, wiggle, dance or even wait a of couple seconds before moving again.
Tip 3: Create homemade games
“There are a number of games designed to help young children learn, but these can be pricey and ultimately fall out of use after a year of development,” says Stephen Spriggs, managing director of William Clarence Education (williamclarence.com). “Try making your own games instead, and include your child in the process.
“The ‘fish hook’ game is a good example – find a stick and string, attach a small paper clip then cut out some fish and attach rubber bands. Write various topics, letters, numbers or whatever else you’re trying to teach onto the fish and get fishing for the right answers with your kids.”
Tip 4: Get outside
“At school or nursery, children are inside for the majority of the time. So in contrast, your garden, for example, will offer lots of opportunities for children to learn,” says Brown-Martin.
“You could give them a patch to manage – that could be by planting seeds and growing plants – this incorporates science but also teaches them responsibility because they will have to look after and water their plants every day.
“Children are naturally inquisitive and will look around and ask you questions. Getting them learning in a different environment to their nursery is hugely beneficial – being in the fresh air is also an added benefit!”
Tip 5: Let children take the lead
“Children are naturally curious and it’s likely that they will already have an idea of what they want to do,” says Brown-Martin. “Exploring is a natural activity and when children trust themselves, they develop self-confidence.
“All children learn differently, therefore some may not learn the best in a traditional classroom setting. By giving them different options at home, you will allow your child to play to their strengths and imagination.”