Babies and small children are incredible in many ways, but one of the most astonishing things about them is their natural ability to learn. Right from day one your child will start absorbing knowledge and learning how the world around them works.
Image Credit: Toddler With Ball
For a child, things that seem mundane to you are an exciting new thing to discover, so as a parent it is important that you encourage your children to learn through play and to appreciate the adventure of discovering the world.
The latest research around learning for small children does indeed suggest that play time is at least as important as school time (once they reach that age), but there is a lot that you can do to help with the learning process.
Senses & Sensations
One of the most important things that any infant learns is about their own senses and how they interact with the world around them. This is part of the reason that toddlers tend to stick things in their mouths!
Aside from eating everything though your child will want to touch and examine things. Anything that stimulates the senses is exciting and joining in by introducing your baby to new sensations and new objects with different textures is a great way to help him/her to learn safely.
Joining in with play time is great fun (for both of you) but sometimes you can also just observe. In fact being too keen to help can be a bad thing in some contexts. Children should be allowed to develop their own ability to learn and to reason.
If your child is struggling to master a task (such as fitting a square peg through the correct hole), it can be tempting to help, but by allowing him/her to figure out the task independently a much more valuable lesson (problem solving, determination, motivation etc...)
Time To Join In
Of course the above doesn’t mean that you should never join in and there are times when helping your child to play can be beneficial. You can join in with play time by offering new games and new ideas and by encouraging experimentation. Aside from any direct educational benefits, this carries many emotional and bonding benefits.
Guidance Versus Solutions
Of course whilst you shouldn’t necessarily give too much help, it is important to know when to help a little. If you show your child the solution you rob them of the satisfaction of finding it for themselves, but giving a little bit of guidance can be helpful.
For instance, if the game is “playing with blocks”, a little guidance might be to stack one or two blocks and then allow your infant to experiment – he might stack them a little higher or he might choose to arrange them some other way.
A baby needs stimulation to help develop his/her cerebral capabilities, but physical abilities are important too, so try not to focus too much on mental games at the cost of physical ones. Even very young children can make a game of wiggling their legs and once your child gets to crawling age, you can encourage mobility by moving the play area from one side of the room to another.
It’s Never Too Early
Whilst formal education isn’t necessarily something that you should think about too soon, never underestimate how much learning is going on in those first few months. You can encourage learning by playing right from the outset.
A great example is that children can be introduced to books long before reading age – when you read to your child, allow them to experience the book and appreciate the pictures. His first words might seem a long way off now, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t working up to them already!
About The Author
Hi there, my name is James Radcliff. I am a personal tutor and I love reading and writing about education. I work at UK Tutors (visit uktutors.com to learn more) where we help parents to find effective private tutors for their children. Thanks and good luck with your child’s education.