Everyone wants their child to be "smart." The key to raising "smart" children is to instill a life-long love of learning from the very beginning stages of their lives. Providing your child opportunities to engage in high-quality learning activities does not cost a lot of money and does not require a lot of time. Indeed, it's the little things, when put together, that add up to a life full of curiosity and learning that impacts children for their entire lives.
Here are five easy ways you can foster learning in your child's life from ages 0-3 years old:
- READ to your child. As a former elementary school teacher, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to read to your child consistently and frequently. Not only will your child gain a wealth of strong language development by hearing you read, reading to your child can be a very special bonding moment for the two of you. Try switching things up a bit. Instead of just reading a book word-for-word, make up the story or have your child "read" the story to you after he or she has heard it several times.
- TALK to your child. I know. Talking to your baby may seem awkward and downright silly, but it is essential to your child's language development. Look for opportunities to talk to your child about everything from the weather, to what colors you see at the grocery store and everything in between. Also, when giving your child instructions, enrich the dialogue. For example, instead of saying, "No no! Don't touch!" you can say "Don't touch the stove. It's very hot!"
- SING to your child. You don't have to be Mariah Carey to sing to your child! Even if you are a poor singer, children love hearing you sing. In fact, there have been countless studies that demonstrate nursery rhymes have huge benefits for children. The repetition and cadence of the songs build phonetic awareness among many other benefits.
- PLAY GAMES with your child. Simple games like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Peekaboo" are valuable learning experiences for children. Playing games with children also teaches them numerous social skills, such as taking turns.
- EXPOSE YOUR CHILD TO THE WORLD around them. Taking your child to the park or the zoo provides numerous learning opportunities for your little one. Even going to the grocery store can be a wonderful learning experience. Be sure to ask age-appropriate questions that evoke thoughtful responses. Simple questions like, "What color is the tiger?" are excellent ways to engage your child in the learning process and experience. If your child is too young to answer questions, simply model what is happening by saying things like, "Wow, that tiger is really big!"
What are some ways you encourage lifelong curiosity and learning with your child? I'd love to hear from you!