When we talk about early childhood education, we often think about in a policymaking sense, looking at the social or economic benefits of pre kindergarten funding. Or other times, we focus on exactly what makes a good preschool. But early education relies on the home, too, and for most families a healthy interaction between school learning and at-home learning is what eventually leads to children learning in the best possible ways. Here are five ways you can tackle early education in your home, either getting your child ready for preschool education or reinforcing what’s being learned at school:
- Play With Sounds
Most experts tell parents to avoid baby talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with sounds; children learning how to talk delight in making different sounds and seeing your reactions to them. Very early on, children can enjoy rhymes and alliteration, and a few years down the road they’ll start to understand puns. This delight for language is a solid foundation for both general communication and reading in particular.
- Look for Letters
Especially with children learning to read (even children in the early phases of pre-reading), it’s important to associate letters and sounds. You can do that in many areas of your life, by labeling items with sticky notes around your house or by looking for letters on packaging and aisle signs at the grocery store.
- Cook Together
Even if your child is too young to really help with cooking, involve him or her with the process. Talk through your measuring decisions in particular, even simple ones like cutting a banana in half or doubling the milk. Remember, that’s math in action.
- Indulge Curiosity
Yes, it can be frustrating to have a 4-year-old who’s constantly asking “why” questions about everything from wearing a shirt to the nature of the universe. But try not to shut down that curiosity; if you’re in a time crunch, simply explain without snapping that there’s no time to talk about it now, but that you’ll talk about it later. Then make sure you really do follow up at an appropriate time.
- Look Things Up
Lead by example by looking things up when you don’t know the answer. If you show your child you’re not satisfied with not knowing, that’s a trait he or she is likely to pick up as well.
What other habits can you build at home to complement more formal early childhood education? Discuss in the comments.