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Don't Overthink: Play is Learning

There are an abundance of free resources available online right now to promising to help your child learn--from virtual tours of faraway places to celebrities reading books aloud. Preschool children are naturally curious, but they are concrete thinkers. They do best with materials they can hold, manipulate, and use for multiple purposes, and they do best with someone they value to engage their learning. I would challenge you to step back from the abundance of information available electronically and the idea that you have to keep your child from falling "behind" because they aren't in school. You have all you need to create an effective learning environment in your home, and it begins with you!

Step 1: Be Present

Get down on the level with your child. Become engaged in their activities and games. Put away your phone, turn off the tv, and just be. Imagine if you walked into your child's classroom the behavior you would want to see from the teachers. Today, that teacher is you!

"Tell me about what you're doing."

Step 2: Observe

Knowing what to teach begins by changing your point of view. You're a teacher now, and to be a good teacher you have to be a good student. The only way to help your child learn things is to start with what they know and help their brains make connections to new ideas.

Step 3: Engage

Begin by reflecting the child's actions back to him or her. Here's an example. Logan is playing with his cars. He then gets out some blocks. You might say something like, "Logan, tell me about what you're doing" or, "I noticed you getting out the blocks. What is your plan?" Then, repeat the child's words back to him or her and consider adding in vocabulary words to help the learning process. For example, "I see you're putting the blocks around the rug. It looks like you're making a rectangle." This could start a whole conversation about shapes, rectangles, and directions!

Step 4: Question

Never underestimate the value of a good question. Make use of who, what, when, where, why, and how! Going back to our car example, you might say, "I see you finished your rectangle. How will you move the cars along the road?" Questions that lead to more than a one-word answer are the ones you want to ask.

"How will you know when the pizza is done?"

Step 5: Go Easy on Yourself

It's okay to come up with fun projects and it's okay to play. This is the beauty of learning with young children. As parents, our minds are in a million places (I know mine is!), so do the best you can and reassure yourself that it's enough. You've got this!

Consider this Resource:

If you want to learn more about how to help your child learn, check out this handy article!

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