Parents help preschoolers learn

Parents are their child’s first play mate and first teacher; learn more about how to promote learning at home through safe play.

A frequent conversation I have with parents is about their pre-school child learning at home. This week I was told the following: “My child is turning three years old and will attend school later. I think I should wait a year before I teach school lessons at home, because all my child wants to do is play!” I replied, “Yes, that is all your child wants to do, but that’s how your child learns: through play!”

The Michigan State University Extension curriculum “Parenting the Preschooler” states,“Research tells us that children thrive in responsive and nurturing environments that promote learning through play,” To break down that concept, take a look at this formula:

responsive caregiver + a nurturing environment that promotes learning = a thriving child

It’s interesting that it’s a combination of the parent being responsive and a providing a nurturing environment that promotes learning and helps a child thrive.

So, how does a parent provide a nurturing environment that promotes learning? When you were playing Peek-a-Boo with your 9 month old baby, you were providing a nurturing environment that promoted learning! You were playing and interacting with your child in a nurturing way as the child was learning. Your child was learning the important concept that even when a person or another object is hidden from view, they still exist. It takes repetition for a child to learn that because when you covered your face, they wondered if you were gone. You then uncovered your face and the learning connection was happening for them. Seeing this action over and over again helps the child to learn that this experiment keeps having the same result.

Children learn through their five senses. Parents can help facilitate playing to learn when there are items in the home that children are allowed to see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

Your home is your child’s learning environment, so it needs to be safe. Children are curious and learn by exploring, which begins as early as 3 to 4 months of age. That is why it is so important for a parent to create a home environment that is safe and well-thought-out; children try to playfully explore everywhere.

Children learn through their experiences, and with each new experience they can learn something new. Visiting your local library can be a wonderful experience that promotes learning through play. Parents can be nurturing as they share the experience together with their child. Libraries usually provide “Storytelling Time” for children and other activities that promote learning. Locate a library near you.

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