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I honestly believe that children learn the most at home, whether or not they have childcare elsewhere. My kids are in pre-school in the mornings and they love it, but I think their time at home is the most important, especially at their ages. Kids are comfortable in their homes and they trust their parents and the environment. As parents, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are providing activities for our children that inspire them to learn, to question, to create…to achieve.
My kids are all very young. Sophia is 4, Miles is 2 and Violet just turned 1. They are all tiny sponges who live every day soaking in new knowledge as they ask questions and form their first opinions of the world around us. I try to provide an environment where we can explore the basics like letters, numbers, colors and shapes and also really enjoy music, dancing, imaginative play and the outdoors.
We start with books. I am a bibliophile, a bookworm if you will. I have thousands of books and the kids each have their own bookshelf. I adore them and always have. I was the little girl with the flashlight under her sheets at night. My first chapter book was “B is for Betsy”. I read it towards the end of kindergarten and I have never turned back. None of my kids are fully reading yet, but we have 2 reading times each day, one after school and one before bed. The kids each pick a book and then I pick a book for each of them. I always want them to make choices but I also know that a 2 and 4 year old will choose the same book for months on end as they attempt to memorize it. Mommy needs a little variety! Reading is our inspiration!
I really like this setup because the kids discover new books and they develop a love for books that make them happy. Sophia has chosen Fancy Nancy every day for a month. Miles always chooses something about dinosaurs. His current favorite is from the fabulous Pipkin series and is called “How Big Was a Dinosaur?”. Miles is almost 3 and has trouble with a lot of words but that boy can pick out a Parasaurolophus, a Maiasaura, a Pterandon or 50 others in a lineup of dinos and call out their name. It is crazy. Violet is a big fan of touchy feely books and loves things that rhyme when read in silly voices. Thankfully I am great at ridiculous voices. For my books, I usually choose classic childrens stories or books about things that we love to explore in our world. So we read about the moon, animals, artists, birds, frogs…anything we have been talking about “in real life”. If there is something else we want to read, I usually just agree. We have some very long reading times and they love books!
I believe that life is best learned living it, so despite my love affair with the written word, we get out and live. Inspiring children is easy with a little energy and creativity. We get out our Tupperware and talk about what holds more or less. We take those plastic bowls in the bathtub to talk about water and air. We go on nature walks to collect leaves or rocks or find 5 animals. We hit the yard with our parachute and play games, trying to catch the wind and run underneath. My kitchen table is tinted green from the amount of paint that I have tried to scrub off it as the kids create their messy masterpieces. We have a basket full of instruments and have impromptu concerts. We make up songs about everything. The kids are learning to use tools and help me with my building projects. We look at the moon and stars and talk about how big they are and how cool the solar system is. The solar system is fast becoming our favorite new conversation. I’m feeling a Styrofoam planet project in our future! Really, I just try to make whatever needs to get done as fun as possible and try to throw in something special and learning oriented for the kiddos in the afternoon.
The most important thing for us in terms of inspiring achievement in the home is letting our kids know we believe in them. All the books and activities mean nothing if your child feels like they are disappointing you because they don’t read early enough or color in the lines or know the notes on the piano. Children at very young ages develop at different rates. Some kids become verbal faster, some have the agility to ride a bike at 3, some can read at 4, some can keep a tune from the time they are a toddler. Usually each kid has a mix of abilities, some more developed than others. Most of this stuff will start to equal out by the early years of elementary school and is totally normal! I get the best “results” from my kids when I encourage them and tell them how awesome that blob that is supposed to be a dinosaur is…you know what I mean? I think the worst thing I could do would be to stifle their curiosity and make them uncertain about taking chances and trying new things for fear of doing it wrong.
So we use books and arts and life and hugs to inspire achievement in our home. What do you do to get your kids started on the best path possible?
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