Sunday, July 12, 2009

Teaching Preschoolers

How Infants and Young Children Learn

Helping develop your child's mind by encouraging independent thinking and problem solving skills is very important as you prepare him or her for school and life. Cognitive development is the term used by experts to describe learning and the expansion of thinking and problem solving skills. But as a parent, it is not necessary to formally teach your child at very young ages; instead, you can do educational activities that will naturally teach your child as you share experiences and explain interesting things around the child.

Remarkably, infants and young children seem to be designed to learn from their surroundings, and much of what we as adults think of as play actually teaches children a great deal. However, there are many simple things to keep in mind that make even these experiences more effective in promoting your child's cognitive growth.

Below are some common questions from parents and caretakers of young children.

What can I do to provide good learning conditions for my young child?

1. Talk with your child. There is no substitute for time spent talking with your child about experiences and ideas of interest. Remember that talking "with" your child is quite different from talking "at" your child. Even young infants, who cannot yet produce speech, benefit from adults' talking with them. Also, it is important to provide children with appropriate language and usage. Although imitating a child's attempts at language has a role, it is important to provide a child with the appropriate use of language as well to support his or her growth in using language.

2. Listen to your child. Be patient. Allow time for thoughts to be completed. What children want to say is important to them, and you will learn from what they have to say. This is particularly important with the youngest children, who have limited words to express complex thoughts. For example, shortly after children use their first words, a period occurs where they use groups of two words to convey the meaning adults put into entire sentences. By patiently allowing your child to "get the words out," you can then interpret what the child is trying to say.

3. Sing and chant nursery rhymes and childhood songs you remember. "Patty cake" and "This little piggy" still work well. Obviously, rhymes you remember from your childhood are important to you, so pass that love along to your baby. Not only does this build a shared history, but also the pattern inherent in most nursery rhymes encourages the development of language skills.

4. Turn ordinary, everyday trips into interesting excursions. A trip to the playground may be a time to notice the differences in the many houses along the way. Which ones are tall and which are small? Notice the new buds on the trees or how the leaves are beginning to turn color or fall to the ground. At the market, show your child the different foods, shapes, textures, and smells. This kind of noticing leads to questions and discussions that involve interesting language and concepts.

5. Play language games with your child. Make up silly rhymes and chants. Language play helps children become sensitive to the sounds in the language, something that is key to success in reading.
Expand your child's language. Use describing words whenever possible. The huge dog. The frightened baby duck. The exhausted old man. This will help your child develop a large and rich vocabulary, which is important for communicating and for all future learning. When children start to speak in two-word sentences, one of the most typical sets is a noun and a descriptor like "yellow bus."

6. Help your child solve problems. When something doesn't work right, show your child how to fix it. For example, if your child's tricycle wheel comes off, let him or her help you as you fix it, and explain what you are doing. Be sensitive to what your child can do, and what you need to do to help him or her. Parents who can do so help to support the child's development of new skills as well as concepts about how things work and how to solve problems.

How Infants and Young Children Learn: Part II

1. Answer your child's questions. Young children ask questions. Give short, simple answers whenever you can. Remember that young children think in terms of concrete information, so provide answers that mesh well with how children think. This can also provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate how things work and to add to the ideas and words your child learns every day. By the time a child is four or five years old, she or he is learning at an amazing rate.

2. Ask your child questions. Giving your child the opportunity to answer questions can let him or her demonstrate what he or she knows, which is always a good feeling. Try to ask questions you feel your child will be able to answer, because no one likes to fail, but you can also use this as an opportunity to teach your child that it's ok to ask for help in seeking answers or in figuring things out. Also, keep in mind that a child may give you an answer that you did not expect!

3. Encourage pretend play. Act out roles with your child, for example, by having a party with dolls or stuffed animals, and talk about the roles each one plays. Pretend play with farm animals, small car sets, and other toys can help your child understand concepts about interacting, sharing, and cooperative play. It can also help to increase your child's vocabulary. Also, encourage your child to use objects in pretend ways (for example, a small plate may be used as a steering wheel to drive a car).

Share books on a regular basis. When sharing books:

  • Give your child opportunities to choose the book to be read. b. Find a comfortable, well-lit place to read.
  • Cuddle or sit close. Sharing books should be fun and cozy.
  • Make sure that you both can see the book.
  • Read with expression.
  • Have your child turn the pages.
  • Now and then, move your fingers from word to word as you read.
  • Talk about what is being read. You may need to explain something that is new to your child by relating it to something he or she knows about already.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and make comments about what is being read. It is important for your child to understand the words (vocabulary) and the ideas or concepts that are presented in stories.
  • Make reading time enjoyable-a time when you both enjoy being together. Choose a quiet and calm location without distractions such as television or radio. Don't take your child away from another pleasurable activity if the child objects.
  • Adjust the amount of time you spend reading to the child's attention span. Keep in mind that this may vary from day to day.
  • Young children are pliable and rapid language learners. If you speak a certain language at home, it is fine to read to your child in that language. In many homes, children are read to in more than one language. Children who come to school having had experiences with language, storybooks, and printed materials at home will be better students no matter what language is spoken.


Today's libraries and bookstores carry a variety of books in various languages for young children. Young children will tend to develop "favorite books," those that they want to read often. Be patient with your child and continue to read the books the child wants, but introduce additional books as well.

1. Set a good example as a reader. It is important for your child to see you reading books, magazines, newspapers, and even the mail. Let them know that reading is important to you.

2. Let your child observe the many uses you make of reading and writing: Writing the grocery list, clipping coupons from a supermarket flyer, looking up someone's telephone number in the telephone book, reading the menu at a restaurant. If you use a calendar for planning family events, let your child see you making entries. When a child asks about events, bring him or her to the calendar and show the child when an event will happen.

Some Quiet Time:- after our physical activity, we'll all sit down on the sofa and I'll read to them.

Right now, we are reading two books. And, the one I'm pretty sure they'll want to hear today is some more of "Where the Red Fern Grows". I'm just dreading getting to the end!

Some Cooperative Working Together: it'll be getting close to dinner time by now. So, as a family, we'll set the table and get everything ready to enjoy our heart-warming stew!

So, whether you follow or plan or create your own, winter indoor activities can be fun and educational without emptying your wallet or leaving you exhausted. Plan your own "shut-in" day.


1 comment:

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