The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Child’s Play is How Children Learn

Many parents prepare for summer by buying workbooks for their children so that they will not forget what they had learned the previous school year. Other parents begin looking for a tutor for school subjects so their children will haqve an advantage when they start school again in September. All of this activity takes up time which may well be spent in more creative, and more enjoyable pursuits.

Children will be more successful in school if parents do not attempt to imitate school activities. Children need a background of experience in order to profit from what is offered in the school curriculum. Very young children benefit from activities that use concrete objects rather than fillinf in the blanks from a workbook page.

Summer should be viewed as a time when children can be active in mind and body, and in ways different from those of the school environment. Many activities for children during the academic year are passive in one way or another. Solitary, tightly structured academic activity engages the mind but not the body, and often neglects social development. The freedom of the summer allows parents the opportunity to interact with their children in more active and creative ways.

When you take children on trips, talk to them about where they are going, what they will be seeing, how they will get there and in general, include them in the planning. Be ready to answer their questions. On the trip, they might want to keep a journal describing it. Another good idea is to have them write to a grandparent or a friend describing the trip. Children can also keep scrapbooks which they organize in a sequential way.

During the school year, children may be more rushed then they are in the summer. With the demands of school work absent, summer may be the best time to talk to your children. Take the time to listen to what they are saying and to encourage them to talk. Do not correct their language while they are speaking but demonstrate correct language by using it yourself.

Children are helped when parents play word games with them. One example of a game is take a walk in which you name everything you see that begins with “b”, or everything that is the color purple. Learning for young children is not just doing paper and pencil tasks, it is being active, observing the world around them, and integrating those observations into their mental and verbal activities.

A wonderful place to take children is the supermarket. You can play word games, you can increase their vocabulary, you help them learn simple addition and subtraction and in general, help them to become learners. Older children can learn the concept of unit pricing to compare cost and quantity. To make this work, you will have to allow time to go at the child’s pace and not the adult’s.

Do not forget music, singing and dancing. A recent study on how music works in the brain, found that young children exposed to music receive higher scores on tests of spatial and temporal reasoning which eventually transfers to mathematical ability.

Child’s play is how children learn. When adults impose abstract activities on children as the only way to learn, they are not helping the children, and, in the long run they may be doing harm. Relax and enjoy your summer. Follow your children’s lead to those activities which not only are fun but which help them develop physically, intellectually and socially.

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