Most children are full of enthusiasm for life. They want to play at everything. They give us adults a glimpse of what life can be like and was once like for us. When you need your child to do something, it is usually successful to make a game of it: ‘Race to get teeth brushed’, ‘Who can get pyjamas on first?' and 'I bet I can tidy up more than you!' are some examples, tried and tested, that may appeal to young children. You can probably think of many more. Try to avoid food games -that can lead to issues about food, which can be problematic later on. But just about everything else can be turned into a game of some kind.
On playing games, though, a big word of advice: let the child win! Life is going to throw various obstacles in a child's way soon enough -what you need with these innocent games is the child winning and wanting to play again next time, not an upset boy or girl who feels the loss and will soon lose interest in the game altogether. Winning children want to keep on playing!
For young children, education can be virtually continuous. Counting the flowers, spotting the colours, arranging things in the right order, plenty of opportunities arise in daily life for observing and applying basic knowledge. Currently there are many tools available to keep a child entertained while learning. Use magazines! A wide variety is available from most newsagents, all of them full of puzzles and games -the BBC produces some of the best. Most children are very willing to learn. The trick is to keep the gradient low enough so that they are continually winning. Coupled with that, parents should heap praise on a child whenever he or she gets something right, and brush off or make light of anything the child gets wrong. This boosts confidence quickly -and more importantly, keeps a child wanting to keep playing the learning game, which is what you want.
In line with all of the above, you can’t go wrong if you reward anything positive that a child does. This can be in the form of small toys, time doing a favourite activity, extra time for playing, an outing, a magazine (see above) and so on. When a child’s life is full of rewards, then he or she reaches to do more and try more; if there are few or perhaps no incentives, children tend to lack motivation and lose interest. Ideally, you want a child to associate learning and doing the right thing with good things, more fun, more things to play with. Then education itself becomes a joy and you have started a child off on the long road to learning all their lives.
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-Grant P. Hudson is the founder of Clarendon House Publications. Download a free catalogue here.