What Do Kids Know?

It’s a question we occasionally ask, but can dismiss too quickly.  What is my child learning?  A lot more than we realize.

It’s All About the Stuff

We know, there are a million things to buy for kids.  The items you choose, though, can encourage certain skills and learning.  Look around your home.  What does your child own the most of?  Clothes?  Video games?  Model cars?  Now ask yourself: how does my child use these things and what does it teach?

Let’s say your daughter has a huge collection of stuffed animals. What does she do with them?  Does she play pretend games?  Because that might be her way of sorting out how she sees people act.  Or do the animals stay on a shelf where she is not allowed to touch them?  If that is the case, she is not getting a lot of benefit from them other than as wallpaper.

Holding Back?

Good news: young children learn by playing, and yes, they can learn from pretty much anything.  Montessori methods focus on this as a gateway to bigger life skills later on.

Opening a box teaches motor skills and spacial relations.

Opening a box teaches motor skills
and spacial relations.

Using simple household objects, let your child explore and use all of the senses.  It may seem silly, but simple acts like grasping, pouring, or sorting are building your young one’s brain.  In Montessori teaching, there is a solid progression of learning through practical life skills.  A child can model chores in a play kitchen, learn depth perception with mini drums, and develop fine motor skills through pick-up sticks.  These seemingly basic tasks are actually preparing little hands for writing and manipulating later in life.

Even more, by using all of the senses in a 3D context, children can pick up advanced math and reading concepts at an earlier age than we could have imagined.  It is often just a matter of letting the child work to her level of ability–not to the level we expect.  Have you ever seen a 3-year-old read?  Eco Kids has.

Practical life skills can build to more advanced math and reading skills.

Practical life skills can build to more advanced math and reading skills.

To this goal, it’s a good time to step back and see what your child really can do.  Yes, 1-year-olds can eat with spoons and forks.  Yes, they can drink from regular, non-sippy cups.  Our students do it every day!

Yes, our Infants class sits at a table and eats with utensils.  No sippy cups here!

Yes, our Infants class sits at a table and eats with utensils. No sippy cups here!

Worried about a mess?  More good news: children can clean up after themselves.  Keep a basket of small towels handy and let the child use them for spills.  Be sure to have a bucket handy for the soiled ones, too.  The truth is, children are not only capable of handling larger tasks than we give credit, they are eager to show just how capable they are.  By allowing them to exceed our expectations, our children can flourish and develop better self-esteem, as well as self-reliance.  These are the foundation for a love of learning.