“When should I start getting serious about my daughter’s learning? She’s 7 months now and we read to her and name things, but we’re very casual about it all.”
You know, I never really thought about when Immy would start learning. Learning is just something that happens for us, everyday.
From birth, children are learning. Children learn despite of us. Oftentimes, they even learn things we don’t want them too!
I think our learning to date (Immy is now 25 months old) would read like a commentary of our everyday life. We simply do things together, talk about what we are doing and notice what is happening around us. Sometimes we read together, sometimes we create together, oftentimes we are doing chores together but always our learning is playful, Immy doesn’t actually know we are learning.
What are the most common components of our everyday learning?
We have time for play every day. Sometimes this is play together, sometimes Immy plays alone. Whenever we can, we try and prioritise Immy having some play time with her Dad each day too, even if it is just 15 minutes before bathtime. As Immy is an only child, I also try to ensure that we have regular play dates with other children too. Children learn through play – alone, with peers, with interested adults. Sometimes our play is imaginative play, other times it is more constructive. We dress up but we also do puzzles. We build with blocks and we play simple games.
I try and ensure that Immy plays outside every day. Fresh air, physical activity, learning from the natural world (water, sand, soil, plants) – these are all important to our everyday learning too. Why? Read this post, Nature’s Playground at Home, which I wrote a little while ago for Mumblers to learn more.
I/we notice and talk about everything. And I ask a lot of questions. Questions about colours, shapes, numbers, where things are, what things look like, where we are going, what we will do, what we have done, why?
Oh, and I play dumb quite a bit and Immy is always willing to step in with the answer.
Yes, we count out loud and we sing the alphabet but it’s all just in good fun.
We talk at home, in the car, at the shops, at the park, watching Playschool, wherever we are. Through talking, questioning and sharing, Immy is learning about the world, including lots of new concepts, and she is learning to express her own ideas and theories.
As Immy gets older, I am making a conscious effort to encourage both self help skills and involvement with household tasks. Simple things at the moment, like wiping her own nose and putting her dirty clothes in her laundry basket, I think these are important skills to learn both as an individual and as a member of a family.
We play music (albeit, most often The Wiggles) everyday. We dance and play tambourines.
We ‘make’ most days. Whether it be drawing, painting, pasting, taping, playdough, baking.
These types of sensory play experiences are essential to young children learning and developing. Research is revealing that sensory play experiences help children develop pathways in the brain, less experiences = less pathways, more experiences = more, thicker, well developed pathways that provide the basis for more complex learning still to come.
And that is about as serious as the learning gets in our house right now. No flash cards, just fun learning through play everyday. And I can’t see it changing anytime soon. There is plenty of time for more formal learning, and with at least thirteen years behind a school desk, I think home will stay a place for fun for as long as possible.