This summer while the kids are home with me, I am really trying to work with Bean so that he gets as much learning at home as he did at daycare on a daily basis. His daycare was really great about teaching through playing and I am trying to mimic that at home.
Originally, I planned to go out and buy all this educational stuff for us to do this summer. I went to teacher’s supply stores, but found that a lot of the teaching tools were either too old for Bean or too darn expensive. But as I sat around trying to think up ways to teach Bean, I noticed that he actually had a lot of things around our house that could be used for little teaching moments. For example, at Easter, Bean loved the empty Easter baskets. He’s big into sorting right now and he loved having all kinds of containers and baskets that were different sizes, colors, and shapes.
So, I started using that for little teaching moments as we played. We’d be sorting plastic eggs into baskets and I would ask him to bring me all the blue eggs or to bring me all the big eggs. He loved collecting and sorting through his little plastic treasures and it gave us a chance to work on colors and sizes.
I learned from the Easter baskets that teaching tools are all around us. You just have to recognize free play as a time to do little teaching moments and suddenly, the entire toy box becomes educational. And – bonus! – your kids don’t even know it!
Another thing that I loved about our daycare was that they used flash cards to teach. Every week, Bean brought home a small flash card that had a picture and the word of whatever they were learning that week. To keep up with that, I bought a couple boxes of flash cards at Target or Babies R Us (I can’t remember where). The only problem was that Bean didn’t like sitting down going through flash cards. He wanted to hold them and play with them himself, but I didn’t want them to get lost or torn. I also didn’t want him to only be able to look at them when I was with him.
My solution was to put the cards on a bulletin board in his room. Now, every week, Bean and I sit down and choose different cards to put up. Some of them are words he knows (so that there are some he can always get right – builds confidence) and some of them are words that he is still learning.
I put the bulletin board over Bean’s bed because it was somewhere he would see the flash cards often. Now, whenever we are playing in his room, I’ll just randomly ask him to show me the leaf or the bicycle or the wagon. He loves climbing up and showing me what he knows and it gives us a chance to work on his words without having to stop and flip through boring flash cards.
Bean loves the flash card board. He really loves when we change out the cards. I think he likes that he gets to choose which cards we put up there. At first, I was a little unsure of how this would look. I want Bean’s room to be cute and neat, but I have pretty much given up on the themed look for him. His walls are now lined with things he’s colored, shapes he’s working on, flash cards we’re learning, and other fun little things we find while we’re out and about. Last week we added two Lightning McQueen posters from the Cars 2 weekend we had at Disney. And you know? I really like his room now. It looks like a classroom and a bedroom all at one time. His walls have become bulletin boards for whatever we are working on and it makes his room fun and educational at the same time.
I’m a middle school teacher, so you would think that educating my own children would come naturally. But I’m learning that teaching very young kids is a whole new experience. You have to teach them in their environments and with their treasures and with things that keep their attention. And when you start to see everything around you as a learning experience, it really adds depth to everything you do with your pee wee.