As an Early Years Professional I believe Early Childhood Education is one of the most important stages of learning. Children’s brains are like sponges, soaking up every experience and storing them in the long-term memory. Researchers have shown that children’s brains are ready to learn and children have a natural enthusiasm for learning new things as they explore the world around them.
When your child is constantly asking you questions it’s because their brain is programmed to want to find out more. If your child is at nursery, the nursery nurses will make sure your child is given a wide range of activities to help them learn. Children learn best through play so even though you may think that playing with dolls and singing nursery rhymes is not teaching your child anything, it is actually the best thing for your child. Children learn about language through singing nursery rhymes and a lot of them can help them count too – ‘one, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive…’ is just one example of this. Playing with dolls helps children understand family dynamics and how to care for others. It also helps them understand self-care and how important it is to have a wash and brush their hair and so on. Playing with lego can help develop construction and problem solving skills while playing dressing up can help children to start to see other people’s points of view.
How can you help your child with early education at home
If your child is not in nursery and you want to help prepare them for when they go to school, here are some things you can do to support their learning:
Provide a range of toys
You should choose toys based on your child’s interests. You shouldn’t judge either. When I worked in nurseries it was amazing how many boys enjoyed using the hoover and cooking areas and girls enjoyed playing with the toy cars. My own daughters used to enjoy the cars characters from the Disney film and they also had wrestling figures! There is no such thing as boys’ toys and girls’ toys. This is just the way that advertisers market the products. The best range of toys should include:
- Small play toys – such as doll’s houses, toy farm animals etc – children will enjoy moving the pieces around and creating imaginary stories with the characters.
- Dress up and role play – provide a range of outfits and accessories so your child can pretend to be different people. If you can join in as another character that adds to the fun for your both!
- Construction – lego or other building blocks
- Creative – coloured pencils, jewellery making sets eg beads or bands, play doh
- Board games – depending on your child’s age it’s good to play board games together as it encourages turn taking and an understanding of sharing and competitive play.
As children learn through play in the Early Years, toys will be the main focus. If your child wants you to join in with the play, do so as often as you can, even if you can only manage half an hour between chores and your work schedule as it helps you to bond as well as helping your child to develop communication and interpersonal skills.
If you want to do even more with your child you can also look into the following activities:
- Singing nursery rhymes
- Reading stories – you can get story sacks from your local library to play with characters
- Start looking at early phonics/reading activities
- Get an abacus and other objects and start counting up to 10
- Get your child a tablet and look at educational apps – this helps your child learn how to use technology.
I hope this has given you some good ideas, but here are some links to websites for further ideas: