Children learn and grow quickly especially during their early years, as early experiences shape the brain’s architecture such as organizational development and functioning. The brain is 80% developed by the age of 3 and it is 90% developed by the age of 5. Children are also often described as little sponges as they are able to continuously absorb information around them to actively make sense of it. As such, teaching children skills and values during their early childhood years is essential.
Additionally, children do not just learn from their parents. Other crucial roles such as teachers, caregivers, relatives, and other people contribute largely to the children’s learning journey as well. Importantly, the rapport between these individuals and your child can affect how well he or she learns; the better the quality of rapport, the more effective their learning.
However, what should children be learning at their age? Should they be focusing on playing and having fun, or should they be trying to pick up skills? On the other hand, can they have fun and learn at the same time?
Firstly, let’s dive into how having fun can help your child’s learning process. There are many ways to have fun while learning. A simple way would be playing with your child. Playing is often assumed as a frivolous activity, but it is actually an essential part of our lives, especially during childhood, as it provides opportunities to optimize development and manage toxic stress. The use of imagination and dexterity, as well as physical, cognitive, and emotional strength can be developed through play. For example, playing with toy figurines promotes pretend playing and imaginative skills, play-dough making encourages fine motor skills, and hide-and-seek require the use of physical and cognitive skills.
As a behavioural therapist, I have learned that every playing opportunity creates an opportunity to teach. They may seem like insignificant activities - tickling or playing peek-a-boo with a child - but I see them as opportunities to build rapport and joint attention skills. I also consider age-appropriate play when engaging the child. According to Piaget’s cognitive development theory, a child learns about sensory experiences, basic reflexes, and motor responses in their early years. Then comes language, intelligence and memory, logical thinking, understanding of feelings and abstract concepts. Being aware of the developmental stages will help prepare you, and you will be better able to create precious learning opportunities for your child.
Other than learning while having fun, children could also learn through meaningful experiences, such as when they learn how to swim in a pool, how to colour their favourite car or princess character drawings, or even learning to spell words via interactive video games. The key to having fun while helping your child learn is to be engaging, creative and rewarding with the activities you come up with. The attention span of children is generally short as they are perpetually bursting with energy and easily distracted. Hence, making sure your child enjoys the learning process is important.
While having fun with your child, not only can you promote learning opportunities, it also helps to strengthen the special connection between you and your child. All children grow and thrive in the context of close and dependable relationships that provide love, nurturance, security, and responsive interactions. With such strong rapport being built, it promotes motivation and cooperation which are important for effective learning.
Without rapport, it is difficult for a child to willingly comply to you.
“Why should I listen to you?” would be the question ringing in the child’s head.
There are many ways to build rapport with your child such as playing or spending quality time together, giving praise, letting them have choices instead of telling them what to do, listening to them, and many more.
Building rapport also helps you to learn more about your child, such as knowing their likes and dislikes, personality, and behaviours. This would help with the process of your child’s learning as well. For example, when you have problems teaching reading skills to your child, and you know that it is because they get bored of the reading materials, you can find other alternative teaching methods, such as changing it to an interactive video game that teaches the same skills. Building rapport not only helps your child in learning, it also helps you to be aware of how and what makes your child learn more effectively. When your child feels safe, connected, and enjoys spending time with you, you are one step closer to teaching skills and values effectively. It will speed up and smoothen the learning process since the foundation of rapport between you and your child is strong.
In conclusion, having fun and building rapport comes hand in hand in helping your child learn effectively. Take note of potential opportunities whenever you spend time with your child and remember that children are constantly absorbing information and learning actively. Hence, you could always utilise such opportunities to maximise their optimal growth and development. Most importantly, have fun during the process and continue building on the special connection you have with your child - That might just be one of the most precious relationships in your life!
Written by: Mabel
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Marcin, A. (2018, March 29). Piaget Stages of Development: What Are They and How Are They Used? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/piaget-stages-of-development.
McClure, R. (2019, October 3). How to Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/tips-to-strengthen-families-617242.
Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics, 142(3).