This article is to give you some fun ideas on how to stimulate your child’s development at home using everyday things from around the home.
To touch briefly on the biology of learning, which in a nutshell is all about the brain. A child learns the most up to the age of 3 years. This is because when children are born, their brains are around 25% of the adult size, however by 1 year your child’s brain has shot up to about 66% of it’s eventual size and by the age of 3 years, your child’s brain is nearly 90% of it’s eventual size.
The brain & the nerves in the spinal cord work together as a network sending messages backwards & forwards to every part of the body. Each person is born with a certain number of brain cells (in the region of 100 billion), which is the potential of the brain. What makes the difference is the number of connections between these brain cells that activates this potential of our brains. Stimulating the brain helps to connect more of the brain cells, so that we use as much of our brain’s potential as possible.
This is where some of the debate around the influence of genetics and experiences that we provide for our children come into play – which is more important?
Science shows us that before birth, babies’ brains develop in a predictable genetic way. But recent scientific studies show that the brain is “moulded” by experience. Some of the early connections between the brain’s neurons depend on stimulating the senses (e.g.. sight, sound, smell, taste & touch). In this way, these early learning experiences can affect the ability of the central nervous system to learn & store information.
Different types of learners:
- Like to look at different things e.g. pictures & models
- Will close their eyes to visualize
- Prefers quite environments
- Remembers faces better than names
- Are talkative & like the sound of their own voices
- Listens to others
- Can work in noisy environments
- Remembers names better than faces
- Prefer to move around
- Very active, fidgets & can’t concentrate for long
- Prefers to actively participate in order to learn
- Find it difficult to repeat what is heard
Your child will also fall into one of these types of learners, but it’s so important to add the other half of the equation before you can really gauge which type your child falls into. The other important part of the puzzle is: what is developmentally appropriate for his / her age.
For example: If we look at attention span, we need to remember that it is developmentally appropriate for babies to concentrate 1 minute per year of their age. So what might feel like a short attention span for us adults, could actually be longer than is developmentally appropriate & therefore doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby is a kinesthetic learner.
Everyday items for educational play:
From your Kitchen:
From about the 6 month sitting stage, containers are a huge hit! For example, plastic Tupperware containers or even packaging that you would throw away. Things like empty plastic milk bottles make super rattles, empty Coke bottles for encouraging crawling (loco motor skills) & empty margarine tubs make great stacking tubs.
Also, an empty pot with a wooden spoon makes a lovely drum sound & starts to teach concepts like cause & effect.
Experimenting with different types of food is a wonderful way to introduce different textures as well as to stimulate the control of the small muscles (fine motor) of the hand.
Things to look out for:
- Food allergies that your child may have
- Safety of the object e.g.. size of the object & possibility of chocking hazard
From your Bedroom:
Different textures of clothing eg. Cotton, satin, velvet, corduroy, wool, chiffon which stimulates the sensation of touch. Making home made mobiles using a clothing hanger & tying different interesting objects to hang from it. This is to help with visually tracking objects. Using any soft light clean clothing to play peek a boo games, which start with the journey of mastering object permanence.
Things to look out for:
- Safety of the object e.g.. that possible chocking hazards such as buttons are very secure on the item of clothing. Any loose cords or ties are supervised to prevent the risk of strangulation.
From your Bathroom:
Toiletry items that are non toxic for example, baby aqueous cream, petroleum jelly, shaving cream which all provide wonder messy tactile stimulation. Mirrors can be a wonderful source of entertainment & fun! Mirrors can be used in so many different ways for example: smearing safe toiletries on them (sensory experience), playing peek a boo with behind them (stimulating the concept of object permanence). Body brushes, loofahs & exfoliating mesh sponges are also fantastic sources of different textures which stimulate the sensation of touch.
Things to look out for:
- That the toiletry items are non toxic & that the child is supervised so that he / she doesn’t put toiletries in their mouths. Always supervise the child around water to prevent any drowning which can happen in just a few centimetres of water.
Everyday things you hope they won’t play with, but they probably will:
Land line & cell phones – I’ve had mine washed in the dogs water bowl, but the favorite place for a lot of young children is to throw them in the toilet!
Remotes for the TV, DVD machine & CD player – a fantastic toy from a baby’s point of view because it responds with lights & noises when they push the buttons. It does also teach them cause & effect, but there are many other objects that we would prefer them to play with that will teach them the same thing..
Appliances such as buttons & dials on the oven, stove, dishwasher & washing machines – again young babies love these machines responding to them, but they pose dangerous risks such as fire.
Children really do learn through play! The more we give our child a safe space to discover things on his / her own through play, the greater is his / her foundation of learning, which will then enhance their academic career.