Help your children be ready to learn

By Jane Bertrand, M.Ed., faculty member, Early Childhood Education Diploma Program, George Brown College. on March 22, 2007
A child's first years at school are very important. If you want your children to do well in school, here are some things you can do to encourage them to be ready to learn.

These ideas may not surprise you. Many of the things you do every day are exactly what your children need to help them be ready to learn.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation means being able to control your behaviour, emotions and attention.

Children who can regulate their own emotions find it easier to take part in school activities. They get along better with others.

Children start to learn to regulate their emotions and actions when they are very young. They learn by interacting with their parents and other caring adults.

Parents can also help children to regulate where they focus their attention by giving them more difficult games when they are ready.

Making big tasks smaller

Parents can also show their children how to break a problem into smaller parts.

For example, when your baby can easily find the toy that you have hidden under a blanket, you can make it more challenging by hiding two toys.

If your child has trouble putting together all of the puzzle pieces or stacking all of the blocks, take away some of the puzzle pieces or blocks.

You can do the same thing when its time to clean up the play area. It can be too much for a three-year-old to try to put all of the toys away.

Instead, you can break the task down into one step at a time Where does the fire truck go?

It's also important to give your children space to do well on tasks that are okay for their level of development. Taking over for your children as soon as they get frustrated won't help them learn to do things.

Children who can regulate their behaviour, their emotions and their attention are much more able to learn on their own.

Feeling secure

A strong emotional bond between a parent and a child is so important.

Relationships in a child's family affect relationships outside of the family. Children who grow up in caring families find it easier to have good relationships with others, including teachers and other children.

Children who feel secure are better able to explore the world. Comforting children after a bad or upsetting experience makes them feel safe and helps them learn to regulate their emotions.

Letting preschool children explore their surroundings also helps develop their courage and confidence. These skills will help them with challenges all through their lives.

Thinking skills

Children are born with a sense of excitement about the world. They want to learn.

When you help your children understand their world, you are helping them learn to think.

Children need stimulation to keep wanting to explore. They need to meet different people, go to different places and learn about the natural world (such as plants, water and the sun).

Children learn to make connections among different people, things and places. Stimulation also helps children to cope with complex information.

People need to make sense of their worlds, especially young children. Parents can help their children understand the world by making experiences meaningful for them.

For example, a walk in a new park becomes a more interesting learning experience if you are there to point out to your children what is the same and what is different from the park that you usually go to.

Literacy & numeracy

  • Literacy (the ability to read and write) and numeracy (the ability to use numbers) are two very important skills.
  • Children need to be literate and to understand how numbers work to do well in school.
  • Children need to learn to understand and use many different words. They need to learn that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Children need to learn what a number line is (three is one more than two, and four is one more than five). They also need to see what is the same and what is different in the weight, feel and size of things.
Here are some ways to help your child build good literacy and numeracy skills:

Read together. Reading out loud with your children from a very early age is very important. Reading together makes your children more ready to learn to read.

Have fun together.
When you and your children share time reading a story and being close, they learn that reading is fun. Hold your children, touch and snuggle together, and get their full attention.

Repeat.
You may be frustrated when your child asks to hear the same story night after night, but repeating stories over and over again is important for your child.

At first, children focus on the pictures in a storybook. Soon, they learn the story, word by word, and start to tell it along with you. By pointing to words your child knows from memory, she (or he) can learn that printed words (text) have meaning.

Later, when your child learns to read in school, she will know that text is not a puzzle to solve by guessing. Your child will also know that text tells a story or gives information (or both).

Rhyming.
The ability to hear the different sounds in language is a big part of learning to read. Parents can help children develop an ear for language by using rhymes and songs.

Learning words by sight.
A basic sight vocabulary of common objects can help your children's early reading. You can help by asking your children to point out simple words in a story while you read together. You could also put labels on some things in your child's room, such as bed or closet.

Sharing written stories.
Children need to understand that text is more than just a collection of words and sentences. Hearing and telling stories helps children understand what a story is. Playing make-believe also helps children to understand stories.

Take your child's drawing and ask her to tell you the story behind it. If you write the story out for your child and read it with her later, she can see where stories in books come from. It shows your child that she can write stories, too.

Counting games. Counting games are a good way to begin to understand how numbers work.

To help your child understand what numbers mean, try simple counting games, such as counting backwards and forwards. Try easy adding and subtracting questions. You can even count your child's fingers and toes!

Board games that require counting and moving along a number line help your child see that numbers can be presented in different ways, but they always mean the same thing.

Number games and reading together should be fun. They show children that learning new skills can mean getting to do more interesting things.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning begins at home in your children's early years. The learning skills your children build with your help will help them to do well at school

By Jane Bertrand, M.Ed., faculty member, Early Childhood Education Diploma Program, George Brown College.| March 22, 2007

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