Last week I wrote about the benefits of regular reading to your child—improved knowledge, communication skills, and even a stronger bond between parent and child. This week I’m writing about another way parents give their children a boost up in life. I’m going to call it “planned doing.” Planned doing is creating any situation where your child experiences hands-on learning. It can happen anywhere with just about anything, but it requires some parental observation and guidance. It has some of the same benefits as regular shared reading.
Here’s an example of how planned doing works. If your child is playing in the water—sink, bathtub, pool, doesn’t matter—provide objects that float and those that sink. Ask your child to predict what will happen to each object. Or, provide different sizes of containers. Ask questions such as “How many pours before the little container fills the larger one?” Or, “What holds more, the short, wide container or the tall skinny one?” Don’t make a big deal of a right or wrong answer. However, your child will easily understand the concepts of displacement and of conservation of volume when introduced in formal schooling, because she has had hands on experience.
Get out on your deck or out in your yard with your child. Make note of bugs, birds, and critters. Look up information on the living things in your area and then share the information with your child. Keep it simple but interesting. “We found a worm; they help us in the garden.” “That is a daddy chickadee, look at his black cap.” As your child takes in basic information and shows interest, you add more information. Another planned doing activity is to plant something and observe it as it grows. It doesn’t matter if it is a full vegetable garden or a single pot. Allow your child to help with the planting and watering, then point out the changes in the plant over time. In doing this, you’ve provided your child with the foundation, interest, and the vocabulary for life science.
Go to the museum. Pick a favorite picture in each room. Ask questions about colors, shapes, even what the artist was thinking. Try recreating the picture at home. Go to the zoo. Take pictures of animals, then make a book about the day by adding information about the animals. Go to cultural events with food, music, and dancing. Talk about what you see, taste, and hear. You are helping your child to become well rounded, comfortable in different situations and adding to their storehouse of knowledge and vocabulary.
Planned doing involves a hands-on activity and includes questions, guidance, and sometimes preplanning by a parent. Planned doing takes whatever time and effort you put in and multiplies the rewards of experience and learning ten times over for your child. As a side benefit, any fun parent-child activity increases bonding and reduces parent stress as you engage with your child in activities of interest to you both.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.
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