The first five years of your child’s life are vitally important to the learning that will take place for many years to come. Research has shown that children who are immersed in a supportive, learning-oriented, and literature-rich environment greatly succeed later on in school.
Rest assured though, you do not need to spend a fortune on an “educational” program to give your young child a head start. In fact, some of the prepackaged materials can sometimes be detrimental to their learning because of little interaction (both from you and them).
Here are some suggestions for ways to implement educational activities with your toddler and preschooler:
1. Use what you have on hand or what you no longer need.
Not only is this strategy great for the environment, but it also sparks creativity for you and your child!
Many of the activities that my boys and I do together have come from a moment of thinking, “I wonder how I can reuse this?” and a learning activity magically appears.
- These alphabet boxes were created using baby food containers.
- This color sorter was made out of a fast food drink carrier.
- This “Save, Spend, Give” Coin Bank was made out of a shoebox and baby food jars.
The possibilities are endless!
2. Learning isn’t just ABC’s and 123’s.
There are essentially seven domains of Early Childhood Development that are important to remember. Running, jumping and climbing are just important for a child as learning the ABC’s!
A child loves to experience both new and familiar things with you and the escalator at the mall can be just as enchanting to a two-year old as Disney World!
3. Utilize your local library.
Surrounding your child with books is very important but this doesn’t mean you need to spend $50 every two weeks at the book store.
Most local libraries have a large assortment of children’s books, including many board books. Plan a trip every couple of weeks to restock with new books. If your children are anything like mine, you’ll be checking out the same books over and over.
4. Stock up on “school supplies” in early August.
Even if you don’t think you’ll use four boxes of crayons and three bottles of glue in the next few months, go ahead and purchase them during back-to-school sales because they are a fraction of the cost that they will be in a month or two.
I bought school supplies for a charity we support last November and was appalled that a box of crayons was over $1.00 when you can get them in August for $0.25.
5. Recruit friends and plan activities.
The friends with whom you surround yourself all have different and unique talents. Plan outings together or a day of activities.
6. Most of all, give your child the gift of time.
Regardless of what you are doing, spending intentional time with your child will be greatly beneficial to him. You don’t have to spend hours planning special activities, just take 10 minutes to sit down and read a book or get on the floor and play!
Aubrie, from The Buzz 4 Moms, sent me this sweet poem and I think it is absolutely perfect as we reflect on ways to best teach our children:
I tried to teach my child with books;
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words;
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside;
“How shall I teach this child,” I cried?
Into my hand he put the key,
“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”
Poem from The Perpetual Preschool
Jenae is a Master-degree holding former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home Momma. She loves finding creative ways to save money, spending time with her family, and sharing fun activities on her website I Can Teach My Child.