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Early Learning: It's All Fun and Games

Part 1: How children learn at home

Do I need to teach them how to write? When should they know how to count? Am I doing enough to support their learning? What do they need to know for school?

These are often the questions I hear from other mums. For some reason they believe that because I am a primary school teacher, I sit my kids down and run maths lessons on a daily basis. This is most definitely not the case. I am a real believer of learning through play and allowing kids to be kids. They have many years of formal learning ahead of them, why do we need to push them from so early on?

My approach, if I had to label it, would be Child Initiated, Incidentaland Play Based. You will be amazed by the number of things children learn through every day play. My aim in this article is to make you aware of this learning and how you can then further support it by asking the right questions or exposing them to the right situations. This does not mean timetabling activities in order to fit in a certain number of hours of learning a day.

Let’s look at these styles of learning a little more closely.

Child Initiated Learning

This is exactly what it sounds like, learning that is guided by the child. Cristian was never the type of toddler who would like to be told what activity to do next. Therefore, the idea of telling him that we have to do number activities at 10.00am on Monday morning never crossed my mind.

However, he may choose to take out his number magnets to play with on the fridge. And herewe are, a perfect situation to do some learning. Instead of just leaving him there to throw the magnets around, I would sit with him and we would talk lots about the numbers. I don’t even think he’d even notice that I was trying to teach him anything. In his eyes we were just playing together.

Children are naturally inquisitive and will often ask many questions. These ‘wonderings’ are a great way to follow your child’s lead. For example, they may ask a question about the weather and you might become ‘researchers’ together to find out an answer. You may look through books, watch documentaries or even just come up with your own crazy theories. This will often lead to children developing a passion and then doing some ‘inquiry learning’ on their own. All you need to do is provide them with some materials such as a shoe box, playdough, stickers, counters etc and then watch them explore.

So how do you make the most of the situation?By asking the right questions. Here are some examples of how you could embrace this moment and the types of questions and conversation to have.