Understanding how learning at home can give your child the best start
As parents your children are learning from you all the time. For example, your child will learn how to speak and communicate, by how you speak to them. We all communicate in many ways not just with words but with the tone of our voice and our body language. Therefore, as parents it’s important that you show your children, love, kindness, fairness, and respect so that they learn to recognise it, expect it from others and show it to others. It’s also important that we show and support our children to look at things from another person’s point of view. This helps children understand and be aware of the feelings of others and supporting them to develop empathy.
What the research says:
The first six years of a child’s life is a very exciting and important time for both you and your child. It is a time where your child reaches a lot of milestones, first words, first smiles, first achievements; it is a time with many firsts. At this time children will naturally learn, grow and develop faster than at any other time in their lives. As parents you can boost this this growth rate by responding to your children with love and affection and giving your time to them. It is widely understood that when parents are interested and involved in their children’s early learning and provide a warm, loving environment where children feel secure, children will have more success in school. This means that what you do now, can help your child a long way into the future.
Listed below are a few ideas that could help you to be actively involved in your child’s education.
- Get out and about! let your child see and experience the world with you, visits to parks, train stations for example. Open your child up to sensory experiences including different sights, sounds and smells. Talk to your child about where they are if you are out and about, and answer any questions they may have. If you don’t know the answer, make it a game to find out together.
Play: As parents it is important that we provide opportunities for play at home. Play is how children learn and find out about the world around them. Children can learn most things through play, they make friends, learn and experiment with words and build relationships and friendships. Through play children are always learning.When children are playing they are testing out things they have seen or been told or seen experimenting and constantly learning in a hands-on way that makes sense to them. In a way child use play to put experiences in their own words. Everyday items from around the house often provide the best play opportunities such as pots and pans and dress up clothes from your wardrobe, cardboard boxes. Try and ensure that your child has access to pencils, colours, paint and paper because it will help your child’s learning and development if they have regular and spontaneous opportunities to be creative.Painting and drawing can also be a lovely shared activity to do with your child.
- Read: As a parent you can help your child develop a love of reading which will help them all the way through school. Read to your child or look through picture books with them and talk about what is going on in the pictures. Try and make sure there are always one or two books for your child to look at. Bed time stories can make up part of a great bedtime routine, with many developmental benefits. Even as little as five minutes a day to look at books together or read and make up stories can make a difference, and it can also bring about feelings of wellbeing and security around reading activities as children are reminded of that special time with you. Joining the local library is also a good way to nurture a love of books, it is free of charge and is an activity you can do together. Children whose parents read to them and tell them stories with they are young are more likely to do well at school.
Spend time talking and listening to your child, not only does this have huge benefits to your child’s language and literacy development (reading writing, speaking), but it also supports your relationship with your child if they feel loved and listened to. When this relationship is built early on in your child’s life, children are more likely to continue to talk and listen to you throughout their lives.
- Take an interest in what your child is learning about in pre-school. Today in pre-schools activities which take place each day are often developed around what children are interested in rather than a fixed time table. This is because it is now widely understood in pre-schools that for activities to be worthwhile children need to be interested and excited about what they are doing. This can offer many opportunities for you to become involved in your child’s pre-school education and share information with your child’s pre-school teacher. For example, a trip to the vet with a family pet, could result in your child playing vets in pre-school. By sharing information about experiences that your child has enjoyed or wanted to know more about, gives the teacher a chance to start conversations or provide activities for children that they will be excited about and learn from and importantly share their own experiences. If you regularly have conversations with your pre-school teacher, even a few minutes here and there, it’s quite likely that you will also learn new things about your child. The Pre-school and all the new people and experiences it brings will give your child the opportunity to practice new skills, make new friends and develop new interests.
- Look for the learning in everyday experiences. For example, playing with water at the sink, or in the bath opens your child up to science and maths experiences as they splash, pour and measure the water. Games like “eye spy” supports language and literacy development (reading, writing & speaking). Start with eye spy colours, pre-school children find this easier to start with than letters and names.
Second Language Learners: If English is not your first language you might wonder what the best language for you is to speak with your child to support them to communicate with their friends and teachers in pre-school. In homes around Ireland today there are over one hundred and eighty different languages spoken, so you and your family are not alone. There are many things that you can do at home to support your child while they are learning English at pre-school. Firstly, don’t stop speaking your own first language completely, this may be the only place where your home language is spoken. By continuing to use your home language it will support your child’s identity and belonging within your familiy's community and give a sense of comfort and familiarity while your child is learning a new language. It may also be the language that you are the most fluent in, so you will be more comfortable reading and writing with your child in this language.