As our kids move into those critical preschool through grade school years, we need to be fully attentive to their development needs. Not only are they starting to feel the tug of their conscience, they are routinely leaving the safety of their home and are more fully interacting with the world around them. As our young children become “their own little person,” we can help to enable this by promoting both their learning and empowerment.
Here are three effective strategies that you can start right away.
1. Reading, reading, reading.
You have heard this many times before but it is always at the top of my list. Some argue that reading is the key to success in life. I second that emotion. Reading is decidedly a key to success in learning. Here’s the deal: children who love to read, love to learn. Children who struggle to read, struggle to learn.
Reading facilitates thinking and communication skills—and has proven to enhance a child’s ability to learn in all subjects—including technical subjects such as math and science. Help your child develop a love for reading by filling their everyday world with reading.
We can get the ball rolling by reading frequently to our little ones. Next, start a family reading tradition where the whole family reads at least 20 minutes a day together—a nice break from all that screen time! The idea is to create a “reading culture” within the family that makes reading something we naturally do. Of course, making it fun is always part of the success formula. So make sure they get to read what interests them most!
2. Shift from telling to asking.
As our young children approach preschool, their conscience begins to develop. They are now sensing the difference between right and wrong on their own. They are also starting to see how their actions impact others (e.g., not telling the truth or not sharing their toys). It is an important time for parents to shift as well. Up until around age four, we serve as their conscience. As a result, we find ourselves constantly monitoring and correcting their behaviors—primarily to keep them safe. In short, it is a critical time to shift from telling (or correcting) to asking: “What do you think you should do?”
When we can get them to think and reflect—“How will your friend feel if you don’t go to their party?”—feelings of accountability will follow. They also start to learn how to manage their emotions. The key is start to shift the sense of control by taking the time to discuss and ask questions. Plus, we want create a family culture where they feel comfortable expressing their opinions—and have them validated. Get those little wheels turning!
3. Make it fun!
This was one of my strength areas when my kids were young. I knew how to make things fun. The cool thing is that learning is often naturally imbedded in the games we play. Whether it is a simple board game that gets them thinking or a game of soccer that starts to teach the importance of teamwork, games are a wonderful source of learning. I remember the progression my kids made from checkers (which develops early cognitive skills) to playing chess when they were in sixth grade (which develops discipline and advanced thinking skills).
Of course, finding their special areas of interest is key. If they love dogs, make it a fun library project where they try to discover as many dogs as possible and pick their top five favorites. You get the idea. There is probably nothing as engaging for our young ones as a game!
Good luck mom and dad!