Fortunately for me, my parents were both educators and artistic. My father was a drama director, and my mother was a math teacher. Reading was a favorite pastime in our home, and our TV time was limited to PBS and educational programming. We played board games and card games regularly. I spent equal time on the Atari video games as I did with educational electronics of the day such as "Speak & Spell" and "Merlin." Our board games consisted of "Master Mind" (code-breaking), "Othello" (strategy & planning), and the timeless games of chess and checkers.
Now, as a parent of three young daughters, I strive to provide them with a home environment that encourages problem-solving, literacy and free-thinking. My girls just passed standardized tests with flying colors, being placed in the public school as "gifted" children. Whether or not you subscribe to nature or nurture as the source of our intelligence and personality, there is significant influence from the atmosphere you provide for your child as he/she develops.
The following list of suggestions can prove as learning tools no matter what your budget or your family dynamic:
Surround your youngster with books. A child who reads is a child who thinks. It is proven that reading increases skills in spelling, writing, vocabulary and verbal communication. It also opens their minds to new ideas and nurtures the imagination far more than movies or television. Reading to your child also provides a quality time unrivaled by most other activities. A public library card can be a treasured gift for a child to learn to make their own choices for entertainment.
Turn off the television. While there are several choices for children's programming with cable and satellite dishes, the studies are overwhelming to show decreased brain activity when a human being is in front of the "idiot tube."
Play games. A good board game can involve family and friends. They are an inexpensive source of entertainment and learning that encourage strategy, social skills and healthy competition.
Go on outings to provide new experiences. Search the internet for one-tank trips to museums, art galleries, community concerts, arts & crafts expositions, nature walks, camping excursions, sporting events and dance recitals. Many free activities for the family can be found in local papers, web sites, and the bulletin boards at the public libraries.
Set an example of learning. Do your recreational reading in front of your child. Practice your instrument with him in the room. Practice your fitness routine and invite your daughter to join. Share your experiences when you return from a night at the theatre. Let your child know that all learning experiences are accessible and encouraged.
Get involved in your child's school. Take time to learn what they are learning. Research a paper with them. Enforce a topic from school with a special book, meal, song, discussion or craft. Your excitement about your child's school work can be contagious.
Be the educator over summer break. If your child attends a traditional school year, you have three months to provide alternative learning encounters. This is the time when you can add a personal touch to involve your children in your hobbies and interests, and you can watch them make decisions and pursue what interests them.
As human beings, we naturally grow and learn and develop. But, the love of learning must be acquired. A passion for wanting to know more and wanting to be more is learned from those in our lives who care for us and show us the benefits of stretching our minds, honing our skills, and letting our talents shine.
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