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Getting your little one excited about his or her academic future may seem difficult, especially if your child is not one to read quietly or remain patient while learning to print his or her name. There are several things you can do at home, starting from a very early age, that will help your child develop a love of learning and excitement for what the school day brings – even before kindergarten begins.
At such a young age, many children do not take well to long, structured periods of learning. For this reason, before your child is ready for kindergarten, let him or her choose and direct the activities. It’s possible to make almost anything your child loves to do into a learning opportunity. For example, if your little one wants to play with toy cars, consider a game in which you put them into different garages based on their colors or shapes. If your child wants to play with modeling clay, try making different shapes and have him or her name the shapes as you create them.
A love of reading will last a lifetime if you take the time to develop it, and reading is the very core of your child’s academic future. Rather than choosing books based solely on expert recommendations, think about your child’s interests and hobbies and choose books based on those. If your child loves telling jokes, think about a book that incorporates humor. If your child loves animals – even specific animals – pick books featuring that animal as a main character.
Taking your small child on a walk is a great opportunity to explore, especially if you choose tree-lined sidewalks or places local wildlife calls home. You can discuss the different types of trees and flowers you see along the path, or you can take some binoculars to the park and try to spot birds or squirrels in their nests. Things like this spark interest and will naturally have your child asking questions along the way. Believe it or not, this is one of the best ways to foster a love of learning at an early age.
If there’s one type of play that pre-kindergarteners love, and if there’s one type of play that is absolutely crucial to your child’s growth and wellbeing, it’s imaginative roleplay. Kids of this age will spend hours pretending to be doctors, teachers, and even cashiers at grocery stores. Sit down with your child and try to come up with different scenarios that he or she can play out. Other options may include a fireman rescuing a kitten, a chef whipping up his or her signature dish, or even a bank teller carefully counting out withdrawals. The possibilities are truly endless.
Though screen time should be limited and carefully monitored, and while numerous studies have pointed out the dangers of too many video games in children, there is some relatively new evidence suggesting that learning games – and gaming in general – may actually benefit kids. Games that encourage critical thinking or reinforce skills like math and reading are indeed beneficial when strictly limited. Good sources of free educational games for preschoolers include Jumpstart, Education.com, and knowledgeadventure.com.
Instilling and fostering a deep love of learning from an early age will help your child succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Developing his or her imagination, love of reading, and more will give him or her a solid foundation for many years to come, both academically and behaviorally.