A few weeks ago the family for whom I nanny asked me to start incorporating more academics into our daily routine. Their daughter, who just turned 4, is really starting to get excited about reading, writing, and general academic concepts. Although I have been sneaking in academics all along the way, this request really got me thinking about how to add more focused learning into casual play.
I have concluded that you don’t have to change the type of play, just your focus. I love Pinterest especially for all the amazing ideas people put up for specific learning techniques. There are tons of ways to introduce math, reading, and writing concepts to your child and people keep inventing more each day. I also love that parents can go to a website and access lots of these ideas the instant they are stuck or need more strategies to help their child. Never before have so many wonderful and unique ideas been at our fingertips. But I am left asking why? Parents can easily add academics into everyday life without spending money, and even without referring to a website like Pinterest for ideas. Here’s how.
Focused play is the idea that you are introducing or teaching concepts through casual play with your child. You don’t have to get super creative or spend lots of time, energy, or money inventing new ways to learn common concepts.
Steps in Focused Play
- Before engaging in play with your child, set a goal or concept you would like to focus on. It is much easier if your choose a very specific goal or concept.
- Communicate with your child that you would like to work on _____. “While we play with these blocks I want to work on counting.” This reinforces the goal for you and introduces the concept to your child.
- While playing ask age/level appropriate questions related to your goal. “How many blocks do you have in your hand?” or “How many purple blocks are on the table?” Keep the questions focused and relate them back to your goal or concept.
- Keep a mental note of how your child does. Does your child understand your questions? Do they know how to respond correctly? Are they responding with the correct answer? Are there areas that could use some extra work?
- Don’t force focused play. I believe that we achieve the best learning when a child is ready, willing, and able to learn. If they are not interested in what you are trying to introduce, take a break and try again another day.
- Always praise your child for trying, participating, or accomplishing the goal. This will earn you points towards another focused play time later as well as make your child feel like they did a good job.
- Match concepts with those being covered in school. This will give your child a double dose of the same ideas and allow them to learn in different settings, from different people, and in new ways.
Parents know what activities and toys their children love. Use that to your advantage and make up new games and ways to play with the same favorites. Lots of times this is fun for the child and the parent!
How do you incorporate news ways to learn into everyday play? Chime in below with your ideas. Have questions specific to your family or situation? Ask away! Questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas are always welcome.
For more great ideas on focused play, check out these links: