5 Easy Ways to Transform Everyday Experiences into Learning Opportunities
It is fair to say that caring for a child is a full-time job! As a parent or nanny, you are faced with the challenge and responsibility to assist children in building and developing solid physical and cognitive skills while covering their basic needs. The skills children develop today become the building blocks of their future success!
Children love to discover the world around them; however, they need guidance to understand it. This is where your role as a parent or nanny becomes critical. The way you present the world will impact how children learn, process, and crave more information. Children learn best through exploration, observation, and implementation. By encouraging their curiosity and sense of wonder you will help in developing creativity and critical thinking skills.
With little planning and some creativity, you can build valuable and fun learning adventures from daily interactions.
Everyday life experiences hold countless learning opportunities!
Here are five simple ways to transform everyday experiences into learning opportunities:
Encourage Curiosity and Discovery through Outdoor Exploration
A walk to the park or outdoor time in the backyard is a great opportunity to encourage curiosity. With every change of the season, nature offers different things to explore. Below are some ideas you can try to make outdoor exploration fun and exciting:
Transform a walk to the park into a nature walk. Bring a resealable plastic bag and ask the children to collect things they find interesting in their walk. Once home, have them show their items and describe them. Talk about their color, shape, texture, and what they are. For example, if they find different kinds of flowers, compare them in color, shape, or size. If handy, use a magnifying glass to look closer.
Observe! Observe! Observe! When outside, ask them to observe and identify things of different colors and shapes. Want to make it more appealing? Play an “I Spy” game. Let the children observe their surroundings and look for animals, insects, trees, or flowers. Ask different questions about their characteristics and what makes them so important. You don’t need to know all the answers! Research together to find the information they need!
Create nature art. Have the children collect leaves, grass, flowers, or sticks and create nature art or a collage.
Make it a game! Plan ahead and make a bingo card or an outdoor scavenger hunt sheet. Have children search for the items and draw a picture; make a rubbing or glue the objects they find. Be as detailed and specific as you want to challenge their minds. If they struggle to find something, give a few hints to encourage exploration. For example, by including numbers in a bingo card, children can explore and identify them in car license plates or house numbers in the neighborhood.
Teach Math and Science while Cooking
Cooking is an activity that many children enjoy and it offers many learning opportunities! Preparing the ingredients, for instance, can help explain and understand portions, sizes, weight, measure, and fractions. Talk about changes of the matter when a recipe calls for melted butter; chemical reactions when the bread mixture rises due to yeast; how to grow a plant when cutting an apple and discovering the seeds; or teach about time tracking when baking yummy goodies!
Driving Time = Playtime
Driving children doesn't have to be stressful! It can be fun and enriching! When out and about, engage children and teach about their neighborhood and city. Talk about what they see. What is a bank? Why do we need gas stations? What are traffic signs for? Talking about their surroundings can help them understand their community and how it works. Driving time can also be used to sing songs, play “I see” games, or even listen to an audiobook!
Learning while Grocery Shopping
From making the grocery list and budget to selecting the best quality and price, grocery shopping offers the opportunity to teach about household management. Explain where the money comes from and how to manage it responsibly. Invite the children to create a shopping list, discuss the budget, and plan for your shopping trip. If they ask for an item, talk about the differences between needs and wants. Explain the difference between two similar products and give them the responsibility of deciding which one is the best option by considering quality, quantity, and price. During check out, ask them to identify the value of bills and coins and encourage them to count the money and pay. If using a credit or debit card, explain how cards work. A simple trip to the grocery store can help them understand the value of money, conscious spending, and develop healthier financial habits.
Transform Reading Time in Adventure Time
Reading is an easy way to entertain children; it is also a great way to learn new words or facts about different topics. However, when, what, and how you read will determine their interest and willingness to engage. Here are a few tips to consider:
Choose the perfect time to read. Well-fed and rested children are more likely to participate and engage in any activity.
Find age-appropriate books. A black and white chapter book may not be appealing to a toddler.
Read aloud, use different voices, and change tones. “Acting the story” is a great way to capture their attention. Invite a young reader to read aloud instead and make corrections in pronunciation, punctuation, and tone. Encourage children to look in a dictionary for the meaning of words they do not understand or know.
Describe the pictures. Show the pictures to the children and ask them what they see or think the story is about. Have them create the story just by looking at the pictures.
Done reading? Now, ask the children questions about the story. Who are the characters? What is the story about? What is the setting? Stimulate their creativity by requesting to continue with the story, change the ending or prompt them to make inferences.
Encourage research. If children become curious about something from the book, conduct research! Use online resources or take them to the local library to find additional information.
Children’s learning is not limited to a classroom. Learning opportunities present themselves in everyday interactions. Parents and nannies can take advantage of those learning moments and translate them into positive, fun, exciting, or even rewarding learning experiences!
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