We do so much to enable our child’s learning. We get them the best books and learning aids. We research schools and meet their teachers. But we often forget the most important teacher in the child’s life; the parents. Yes, you!
Parents spend a lot of time with their child, especially if the child is young and this gives them the perfect opportunity to be the ultimate educators. Parents build the child’s initial schema; the shelves of the mind where information and knowledge are stored.
However, being an educator is not part of the standard parental onboarding package. You might learn to change diapers or make meals interesting for your child, but structured learning is another matter. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Identify your educator profile: We are all educators in our own way. Some of us are great at simplifying complex concepts, others use great example stories to bring concepts to life. Which of these skills do you already have? Identify these from your work experience or conversations that you have with friends. What about your instructional style do your friends or colleagues find effective or fun?
Hone these skills and use them while talking to your children. Don’t get frustrated because you can’t help them in one particular way. Figure out what you do well and use that to help them.
Identify your child’s learning style: Learning is an organic process. Your child’s development is more like a tree’s growth and less like a building’s construction. Just like new branches and leaves appear, your child will exhibit new skills. Look out for them.
Does your child learn by asking questions? Or do they learn while listening to others talk? Do they learn as they figure things out? Or do they learn once they are shown how to do things?
Each style is unique. None of them are good or bad. You don’t know the full story of your child’s learning path so don’t try to shape it. Rather, identify it and nurture it. Encourage your child to become a natural learner.
Make learning an integral part of your routine: Don’t set aside time for learning with your child instead make it an integral part of their routine. The easiest way to do this is to make learning a part of mealtime conversations. Discuss what they learned from the latest TV show or book and encourage them to look for learning in everyday things.
If you want to teach them about numbers, it doesn’t mean they have to sit down to study. Life is filled with things they can count. Similarly colors and shapes are not just in coloring books or toys. Every object around them has color and shape. Get them to apply their learning wherever possible.
Don’t forget to make it fun! One task could involve pasting colored post-its around the house on objects with the closest color. Be creative, and the experience will become all the more rewarding.
Every conversation is a learning opportunity: With our busy schedules and distractions, we often brush aside conversations with our children. Even our dedicated time with them slips into baby talk or mindless playtime fun. Your child responds to how you interact with them. One of my friends always speaks to her daughter as if she were an adult. She started this when her child was an infant, and today, my friend has a deep and satisfying relationship with her precocious 10-year-old.
Talking to children like they are grown-ups does not mean loving them less. It means that you acknowledge and respect them as real people. It helps them to start learning about the world and life much earlier than other children their age.
Don’t keep them occupied; keep them learning: We are often guilty of keeping our children ‘occupied’. This includes more TV time or worse, unsupervised smartphone or tablet time. You might get the rest you so badly need, but at the expense of your children’s development.
With a little forethought and planning, you can turn this alone-time into great learning. Children love tasks when they get to show off to their parents. With TV, ask them to tell you about their shows while using new words that they learned. Ask them to count things that appear on the show. For phones and tablets, check out our blog post on Benefits of Gaming: What Research Shows, here you’ll find several ideas that you can use to engage your child further.
Don’t say you don’t know; use the Internet: Children always have questions. Questions are good. They give you opportunities to expand your child’s understanding of how the world works. Take these questions seriously. If you don’t know, look it up. Even if you think the question is silly, look it up. Use the internet liberally, and you will always be able to answer your child’s questions.
If it isn’t convenient to do so right away, park questions for later. Ask your child to remind you. Look up the answer and wait. If they forget, remind them instead, and then answer the question. It will show them that you value their curiosity. It will also encourage them to ask you more sensible questions.
Collect learning experiences for later use: Most writers scribble down great ideas as they occur to them. This is how your favorite books are crammed with so many great moments. They have been collected over lifetimes! Coming up with learning ideas is very similar.
The moment you read something or hear a new way to teach a concept or engage your children, note it down. Use an online diary, blog or one of many note-taking apps.
Add links or screenshots. Structure your notes with keywords and age-tags. Sometimes, these ideas could be used for an older child. Note them down. Future-you will be very thankful for your foresight!
It is never too late to start on these ideas, but earlier is always better. Your child will come to you for answers, and you can help your child become an inquisitive and enthusiastic learner.
A few years later, when someone asks your child about their favorite teacher, they just might answer with complete certainty that it was their parent, you!
Arpan Panicker loves teaching and started coaching younger school children when he was 16 himself! Now he provides training and consulting to schools on teaching methodologies and is also a part of the corporate learning world.
Arpan loves teaching and started coaching younger school children when he was 16 himself! Now he provides training and consulting to schools on teaching methodologies and is also a part of the corporate learning world.