At the Cuddles Childcare Centres in the Perth area, our motto is “learning through play.” Children learn very well when they are playing for a plethora of reasons, but there is a deeper dynamic at work. Children learn more in their first year of life than they will at any other time of their lives. The preschool years are important, too, as they can lay the foundation for a lifelong pattern of learning.
Believe it or not, most learning is done by simply being. Children play, they interact with family, friends and eventually other children in preschool and school. They learn by observation and by doing. They learn by using their imagination. They learn by playing. But, most of all, they learn from their first teachers: their parents.
The Learning Environment
Children learn best in an environment where they feel safe. When children feel that they are free to play, explore, learn and pretend, with support from their parents, teachers or carers, they learn a lot better and faster.
Another important factor: inspiration or reason to learn. Your child needs to be interested and engaged. Children need to be involved in learning. They need to be doing something. Even if they are just pointing at pictures in a book, they need to be an active part of the process.
We often recommend that parents teach their children to help in the kitchen. Our Shake ‘n’ Bake program, in which the children help the staff prepare food and then eat it afterwards, is one of the most fun and rewarding programs we have for children at Cuddles.
One important point: children need to be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn directly from them. They learn a lot of the “whys and wherefores” that way and learn how to create solutions and adapt to their results.
Maybe the most important thing you can do as a parent, and one thing our staff is trained to do, is to always offer encouragement and praise to your child when they are learning.
It Takes a Village
Your child will learn from many different “teachers” over the course of their childhood. You will be the primary teacher, especially in early life. Children mimic what their parents do. If you are a positive role model, it is much more likely that your child will have positive results learning. Your child will also learn from other family members such as siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Carers will eventually enter the picture, such as preschool teachers and assistants, playgroup coordinators and child care staff. In school, your child will learn from multiple teachers, assistants and coaches.
One underrated source of “learning”: their peers. Children are going to learn a lot from their friends while playing. Role-playing games teach children to use their imagination. Sports teach them to solve problems, in an environment of sportsmanship. They also learn to compete.
We do recommend that you are careful about who you allow your children to be friends with. In an ideal world, everyone can be friends. But the harsh reality is that some children are good influences and some are bad influences. Make sure you know who is influencing your child. A great way to do that is to encourage your child to have friends over to play. That way, you can get to know their friends and watch out for “red flag” behaviours.
The Mechanics of Learning
Here are some of the processes by which a child learns.
- Observing things, responding to voices and watching faces.
- Singing songs, making sounds and listening.
- Playing: with others, with you or alone.
- Exploring: feeling things, looking at them from all angles, throwing or shaking them and even putting things in their mouths.
- Experimenting: sand, dirt and water lend themselves well to experimental behaviour.
- Questions: you have probably noticed already that your child is adept at asking “why.”
- Socialising: children have to find where they belong in social groups.
- Using all senses: taste, sound, touch, smell and vision.
Contact us to learn more or to arrange for childcare.