Teaching young children effectively

One of the key responsibilities as a parent is that of an educator. When my daughter was born 5 years ago, I was at a loss on where and how to start. What was the best way to teach her?

Over the past few years, I’ve come to learn from experience (both good, and plenty of bad) that there is no such thing as THE best method to teach young children (if you’ve found one, please let me know!). There are, however, some ways to make the task easier. Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up in my learning journey so far:

1. Know your child’s learning style
Spend time observing your child when she learns. Experiment with different methods to appeal to her different senses. Does she remember better when she sees it? Or responds when she hears the words or concept in a song? Or when she traces the word in the sand? Remember that children learn differently – what works for one does not mean that it will be effective for the other.

2. Incorporate play
Learning does not mean sitting down at a desk and listening to you talk. Make learning fun! Teach the concept of primary and secondary colours by allowing her to mix paints, dyes. Bring her out for a walk in the rain and explain the water cycle. Teach units of measurement when baking cookies. Be creative – if you aren’t, don’t worry, there are always plenty of ideas and resources online!

3. Check that activities are age appropriate
Expecting a 1 year old to hold a pencil properly and start writing her ABCs would only frustrate the both of you. Conversely, telling a 5-year old to put a 4piece puzzle together not only insults her intelligence, it would be a waste of time. Vary the difficulty level so that the child can manage it with a little help – challenge them a little to keep the interest level up!

4. Timing is the essence
Catch the child at a timing when she is most responsive. No one will be interested to learn when they are tired or hungry. For quiet activities such as reading, try to schedule it at a fixed time each day so that it becomes a habit.

5. Go with the flow, let the child lead
Be spontaneous. Sometimes, well-laid lesson plans go south, but you don’t need to stick to the schedule. If your child decides that throwing blocks is more fun than stacking them up, get out a few boxes, label them and get them to throw into the correct categories instead.

6. Encourage questions
This is a challenge for most parents. Answering a list of “whys?” for 10minutes is no joke. Don’t be afraid of admitting that you don’t know. My favourite responses when I don’t have the answer: “What do you think?” and “Mummy doesn’t know, why don’t we find out together?”

7. Patience, patience, patience.
Enough said =)

8. Enjoy yourself
Children will enjoy themselves if they see their parents having a good time learning with them too. Relax, have fun, and your child will too!

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