How To Give Your Child A Head Start At School. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Alex Hasell. Alex Hasell is a former teacher and co-founder of Little Hands Learning. An educational and eco-friendly subscription box for children aged three to six. Alex will share five fun and easy-to-do-at-home play activities to help enhance your child’s learning skills and give them a head start at school.
Being ready to start at school is much more than knowing the letters of the alphabet and counting to 100. It is far more important that children start school with a love of learning and develop the key characteristics of being effective learners. It’s not about what they know but how they learn. These characteristics are what a child needs to be able to learn successfully throughout their school life.
How To Give Your Child A Head Start At School
There’s more to getting your child ready for starting school than teaching them the alphabet. What’s important is not what they know but how they learn. The key characteristics of an effective learner, as defined in the national curriculum, are:
- Playing and exploring
- Active learning
- Creating and critical thinking
So, how do you develop these characteristics in your children? Here are a few of our favourite, easy activities to try at home that will give your child a head start at school by making them an effective learner:
Small World Play
Small world play is creating a miniature world for your child to explore. It can be a farm, a pond, an ocean or whatever theme your child is interested in. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and you can use whatever you have to hand. Animal or people figures, toy cars, pebbles, water and natural items work well in small-world play.
Small world play is an excellent opportunity for open-ended play for your child. It enables them to explore how they wish. There are no right or wrong ways to play through this activity; they are free to imagine, explore and interact as they want to.
Small world play is also a fantastic opportunity to develop their language, supporting them in other curriculum areas. Whilst they play, it is essential to not only talk to them and join in but also allow them some time to play independently.
In addition, the mall world is the perfect safe environment for children to explore the idea of when things go wrong. Children need to learn that things don’t always go right. Equally vital for them to understand that this is ok and that we can learn through these experiences. This builds resilience within your children.
Many parents are often filled with a sense of dread at the thought of art activities. They can be straightforward, though, and you can use what you have to hand at home. Paper, crayons, watercolours, poster paint, and chalk can all be used to enable and encourage your child to experiment, create and explore as they wish. Art activities encourage children to “have a go” at trying something new.
During art activities, children need to have opportunities to express themselves. The less structured the art activity is, the better! It is not about the end product; the process in which your child creates the art is much more critical.
After the artwork is finished, through a discussion led by the adult, they can reflect on what they have created. For example: “Tell me about your painting?” or “Is there anything you would change about your picture?” These types of questions will support the development of critical thinking skills.
Sensory play is any activity that engages at least one of your child’s senses.
Fantastic and easy examples of sensory play are coloured rice, water scented with either fruit or herbal tea and playdough. These could all be presented in a tray with different tools, utensils, toys or containers, and then the child can freely play as they would like to.
Sensory play, like art activities, is excellent for helping children develop a “have a go” attitude as part of the playing and exploring characteristic. They can investigate and explore the different materials. They can think creatively about how they can play, which puts them in charge.
Sensory play also contributes to developing finger strength and fine motor skills, which are necessary skills children will need when they start writing at school. Developing these physical skills whilst playing will allow children to enhance their progress at school.
Simple Science Experiments
There are endless science experiments that are simple enough for children to try. Easy ones to try are floating and sinking with various natural objects or items from around the house, mixing baking powder and vinegar to create a reaction, and melting ice using warm water or salt.
Science experiments are a brilliant way to allow children to develop all the characteristics of an effective learner at once. Through science, children can explore, hypothesise and investigate. Science experiments are always exciting and fun, motivating a child to engage and persist with the activity even if it doesn’t go to plan. This will develop the characteristic of active learning that will be vital when they are at school and need to focus and persevere with their knowledge.
There are endless play opportunities outdoors, but some of our favourite ones that are easy to try are growing plants. Going on a nature scavenger hunt or make your bubble mixture to play with outside.
By its very nature, the great outdoors is an exciting and enabling environment which is precisely what children need to develop their playing and exploring characteristics.
Whilst playing outside, children are not only learning about the world around them, but it teaches them to think critically and make links between what they already know. This, in turn, helps them understand new concepts. Give children time to think, talk and ask questions when you are outside together.
The first five years of a child’s life are a vital time in their development. And the characteristics they develop during this time will put them in good stead not only when they start school but for the rest of their education.
So, spend your summer playing, exploring and trying some of the activities above with your child.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Hasell is a former teacher and co-founder of Little Hands Learning, an educational and eco-friendly subscription box for children aged three to six. Every month your child will receive an exciting gift in the post containing a beautiful picture book and everything needed for four engaging and fun activities. The play-based activities are handcrafted and designed by teachers to focus on critical areas of the National Curriculum. The curated books and activities help nurture healthy minds and encourage early literacy skills, giving children the best start in their education. www.littlehandslearning.co.uk