by Carol Grise
To a young child, each day brings an opportunity to explore something new. What can be a routine trip to the grocery store for an adult can be a new and exciting adventure for a child. Parents and caregivers can take advantage of a child’s curiosity by using daily experiences as “teachable moments”, expanding on a young child’s natural curiosity about their world, developing thinking skills, and increasing the number of words he understands.
How can daily activities become “teachable moments”?Children learn by seeing, listening, and touching—observing and experiencing what happens around them, then talking about what they see and experience with parents, family members, and caregivers. Any activity with a young child can become a “teachable moment”.
What kind of activities can I do with my child for “teachable moments”?Free and inexpensive family learning experiences can happen at home or in the local community. Observe birds, squirrels, and insects in your yard or when taking a hike at an area park. In the evening, watch the sun set, then the moon and stars appear.
Talk about the colors, shapes, and sizes of fruit at the grocery store or local farm market. Visit the train station, construction site, or boat launch at a local lake, talking about what you see and hear.
Can’t take a long car trip to the nearest zoo or airport? Go to the library and select a group of books on these or any topic of interest to your child. Spend at least 20 minutes each day sharing books, including talking about what can be seen in the pictures. Browse magazines, catalogs, grocery store ads, and family photo albums together, asking questions as well as describing what can be seen.
How can I make an activity a “teachable moment”?By asking the child to describe things or comment on what he sees or hears, any activity can become a “teachable moment.” Ask your child to describe the color, size, or shape of objects she sees. Try playing the “I Spy” game…”I spy something ____”, using words to describe color, shape, or size of the object that you want the child to name. After listening to his comments, ask him additional questions about his answer.
When outside in the yard, listen closely to the sounds of nature, then talk with the child about what she hears. At the park, pick up two rocks. Ask the child to tell you about them—Are they smooth or bumpy/rough? What color are the rocks? The conversations held between a child and parent or caregiver during a “teachable moment” will increase the number of words the child understands as well as encourage a thirst for learning.
The world around us provides numerous teaching moments that all parents can learn to take advantage of when interacting with their children. As parents and caregivers, one of our roles is to guide our children as they explore the world they live in. Whether we help them to learn new vocabulary as we cook in the kitchen, create a mini-science lesson while on backyard adventures, or learn colors as we walk through the produce section of the grocery store, we are creating eager learners. By simply talking to our children while sharing daily activities, we are preparing them for the school years ahead.