Parents have always worn many hats: primary caregiver, homework helper, boo-boo healer...the list goes on. Recently, that list has expanded to include teacher, therapist, coach, and more. The enormity of these changes can seem overwhelming, especially if you have minimal experience in these professional fields! But, as we know, parents can rise to any occasion for their children. As adults, we learn best by understanding the why behind what we do.
Here are some ideas to make learning fun and stress-free in these uncertain times.
Know the Science.
Children learn by building neural pathways, or connections, in the brain. An abundance of connections is present at birth, and our experiences help shape the way the brain chooses which pathways to strengthen and which to prune away. These strengthened connections allow us to produce solutions more quickly when we come across a similar problem in the future.
Practice Makes Perfect
Remember that saying, if you don’t use it you lose it? They weren’t wrong! The more practice your child gets, the better. Even if you split up learning in between meetings, errands, or siblings, every bit counts. Playing a quick math game together or reading a few pages of a book can add up at the end of the day.
Make Learning Active
Remember how hard it was to listen when teachers talked at you? And how much fun it was to actually participate in experiments during class? No matter your age, we all learn best when we are actively engaged in our environment. The more senses you bring into the learning experience, the better. Provide your child opportunities to use their ears, eyes, taste, smell, and touch to learn about each subject. For example, this spring my children made models of the solar system out of paint, foam and poster board while watching fun facts about the planets. They had a blast and still remember a lot about this particular lesson!
Problem Solve Together
We don’t learn by making mistakes, but from the process of correcting those mistakes. Active comparison between the failed attempt and the successful one strengthens your child’s ability to recognize the pattern and relate it to future challenges.
Trust me, I know this is easier said than done. Sometimes, you’re even more frustrated than your child when it comes to teaching & learning at home. Science now shows that positive reinforcement works better than any negative consequences we provide, and consistency is key. Take a deep breath, and try out these tips:Write out a weekly lesson calendar so your child knows what to expect each day. Below you will find a free downloadable calendar to help organize your thoughts. Stick to your plan, and ensure work is done before they can play, watch TV, or visit friends.
- Work towards earning a goal for the end of the week. It doesn’t have to be tangible – earning a pizza picnic and movie night is a hit in our house! Tokens earned each lesson or day can also be turned in for fun activities or prizes.
- Focus praise on the behaviors your child is exhibiting, like “I can see how hard you worked on this!” or “I love how creative you were with this solution.” This will reinforce their self-confidence in completing future tasks.
- Encourage your child to perform activities on their own, and only offer hints after they’ve given it a try. Work together to figure out the best answer instead of giving the solution outright. This promotes internal motivation rather than relying on external support and will foster their independence.
Check out your local library for fun learning ideas! Although our library isn’t open for group activities, the wonderful librarians have put together take-home kits that include creative resources to help you navigate multiple educational subjects with your child. Also, it is likely your library gives you access to a large amount of digital content that can be “borrowed” and downloaded to any device you have at home! Ours even has videos of the librarians reading aloud, which can simulate their teachers better than we can sometimes!
What are your favorite activities or strategies for learning at home?
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Dr. Sarah Goncalves graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2011 with her clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She currently serves as the Pediatric Physical Therapy Director at IvyRehab for Kids. She loves working with children and their families to reach their highest level of function. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Physical Therapy to further the body of research supporting how children learn to move and ultimately progress the profession of physical therapy forward in the future. She resides in Michigan with her husband and children.
A note from ThinkFun
At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.
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