Many parents struggle with raising children that have a natural desire and interest to learn. Some do not realize that the process starts as early as birth.
My husband has a relative who was a nanny to a wealthy family where the house matriarch was a long time, but retired educator. When the educator finally decided to give up teaching and start a family in her very late thirties, she put all of the information and training she learned from years teaching young children into raising a conscientious child.
One of the things this family relative took note of was how the mom/educator made every interaction with her first child from birth through toddlerhood to preschool years and beyond a learning endeavor.
Busy parents are used to providing toys and other distractions for their children in order to entertain them or keep them busy while they cook, watch TV, shop, go for walks or entertain guests. This mom actively participated with her child’s play regularly.
She’d playing blocks with her son, dance with him or engage in dramatic play with him.
Entertaining a child by giving him an iPad or rattle or squatting them in front of a television is not interactive. It’s one-sided with the child filling the role as an audience member, dancing with them, playing a game with them, or being involved in dramatic play with them.
Instead she engaged with her son – with the purpose of helping him focus his attention so he could make every play occasion a learning one as well.
Engagement enables a child to be creative and solve problems.
Entertainment enables a child to watch others be creative or solve problems.
And even though many TV shows are educational and there are scores of educational apps on the market, nothing beats active engagement between parent and child.
Teaching a child by showing stimulates the left brain while physically involving a child in his/her learning process stimulates the entire brain and a child is more likely to retain the information learned, be less stressed out and develop a natural desire to learn.
Some questions to consider when determining if you are engaging or entertaining your child are:
- How does the entertainment I offer deepen or enhance their learning experience?
- Is the activity the children are doing designed to benefit them or me?
- Am I nurturing the children’s sense of curiosity about themselves and their world?
- Am I providing tools for hands-on learning?
- Is technology trumping your relationship?
- Are we going places more than doing things together?
If your answers lead you to believe the children would benefit from more engagement and less entertainment, consider spending more time engaging the children by:
- Playing play-dough
- Building blocks
- Doing arts and crafts together
- Playing board games
- Having a tea party
- Rolling a ball back and forth
- Taking part in fantasy play
- Playing outside
- Putting on a puppet show
- Baking cookies.
While having fun is certainly important, providing opportunities for interaction, hands-on learning and problem solving can create an environment that promotes active learning, which will yield lasting results.