You are your child’s 1st and most important teacher. You play a HUGE role in how your child will (or won’t) make friends, their ability to count, their love of reading, the extent of their vocabulary, and their critical thinking skills (which could be the difference between them living in your house forever or buying you a house one day).
Wow! Bringing a child into the world as a healthy human is a big deal.
Keeping that child alive and clean is arguably more difficult.
Then, to add onto that, families are charged with the task of investing into their children’s social, emotional, spiritual, and academic development. After pouring into those tiny, wide-eyed bundles of joy and wonder, it is time to see where you stand.
- Parent-Teacher Conferences
- Standardized Tests
- Lists and lists of developmental milestones
- Doctors’ Visits
- Play Dates (which can, unfortunately, be as intimidating and full of comparisons as any other item on the list)
- Family Members’ Assessments
Well, I have a word of advice for you:
Take a deep breath, and have some fun! There are a few handy concepts that will keep you and your child(ren) laughing (and dancing, and hopping, and singing) all the way through their most impressionable years….while they grow smarter all the while! Brain based education is all about teaching how the brain learns most naturally…and how is that? Through exploration and real-life connections!
Concept #1: Learning can happen in all places at all times!!
Is your day full of errands, to-do list tasks, deadlines, and more? Turn those times into teaching moments! There is a magical strategy called “self-talk”. Simply put, self-talk means to narrate your actions. This is as simple as saying, “Mommy is going to put you in the car seat to keep you nice and safe. Now I need to buckle you in. 1 buckle…2 buckles! Ok, you’re good to go.” (Did you see how I snuck some math in there?) You didn’t have to slow your pace. You won’t be any more behind in rushing off to the grocery store or to school, and you didn’t have to engage in a long conversation.
Benefits of Self-Talk
- Self-talk helps children to develop an extensive vocabulary (or even a beginning vocabulary for children who are nonverbal)! Children are new to the world. So new, that you may have a pair of shoes older than your preschooler(s)! Children often point and gesture because they haven’t yet learned words like: sleeves, door knobs, coat hanger, faucet, velcro.When the adults in their lives narrate what is going on, a child is given the chance to take in words we take for granted!
- Self-talk assists in children developing critical thinking skills. When you narrate your actions, children are able to observe patterns and reason. * We buckle seatbelts for safety. * If I put meat in BETWEEN two slices of bread, the meat will stay put, and my hands will stay (mostly) dry.* If I dry my hands and then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet, the germs from the faucet won’t get back on my hands.* If I use an umbrella, the rain will not fall on my head*….and on and on.
- Self-talk is low pressure for you AND your child. There are no questions in self talk. Just statements. You don’t need to think of profound questions, and your child doesn’t feel probed.
More Examples of Simple Self-Talk
- “I’m going to grab the laces so I can tie your shoe.”
- ” I’m turning the lock on the doorknob.”
- “I’m washing the dish. Now I’m drying it with a dish towel. Now I’m returning it to where it belongs! Next one!”
- “I’m washing my hands. I’m scrubbing in between my fingers and now my palms.”
- “Wrapping the cord around the vacuum cleaner so it doesn’t get tangled….Now, I can put it away.”
Self-talk can make you feel strange at first, but it is such a helpful tool. Also, you don’t need to use this strategy ALL day, but it is good for filling the empty spaces or during those times where you are having a lot to do that may not otherwise involve your child.
Concept #2: You can count EVERYTHING.
The first big achievement for counting is getting to #3! “Yay! My baby is counting”
Then 5! Then 10! Then, many parents skip to 20!
Let me tell you a secret: Most children I’ve encountered whose parents say they can count to 20, mess up 13, 14,15,16 on their way to 20!
So, after 10, take great care that your child can accurately count to 15.
Once a child can count to 30, it is not long before they make their way to 100 because they can catch the pattern of transitioning to the next group of 10’s.
So! How do we count?
- Count the 20 seconds while washing your hands.
- Count your child’s carrots, apples, pita chips, etc.
- Count while hopping from the bathroom to the bedroom after bath time.
- Count how many oranges you are putting in the cart at the grocery store.
- Count out 3 hi-5s in celebration!
- Count how many books need to be returned to the shelf.
- Count fingers and toes!
- Count in a song!
- Count in a silly voice.
- Count in a shouting voice.
- If someone leaves the room, count together to see how long it takes for them to come back. (This is a classroom favorite!)
- Count how many plates are on the table.
…..and on and on and on
Eventually (not right away!), these become lessons on addition and subtraction! “You have 3 orange slices! What if daddy gives you one more? Then how many will you have?” Don’t be afraid to slide that orange slice over there so your little one can physically count them. Mental math is developed. It doesn’t just appear (except in some special cases!). Keep the counting fun and low- pressure. The demand to perform could turn these interactions from a fun experience to one full of pressure and fear.
Concept #3: Read! Read! Read!
Reading aloud with your baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary school child, middle/high schooler has tremendous benefits! YES! Even middle and high school students benefit from this activity, despite their “maturity”.
Reading together touches on many different aspects of development.
- Literacy Development
- Critical Thinking
- Comprehension (which is often where students struggle in standardized testing)
- Developing the attention span and concentration
- Strengthening their relationship with YOU!
Allow your child to touch the words on the page. Move their finger from left to right as you read. Talk about the characters in the story.What do they look like? What emotions do they display? Count various items on the page!!( Now you’ve got some basic inter-disciplinary education going on. Look at you!)
There is no shortage of research available for you to access about the importance of reading with your child! Get a library card. You will not regret it.
Concept #4: Ask, “What if___” questions!
” What if I made all of the water for your bath really cold?” “What if I didn’t put shoes on when I went to work?” “What if all the King’s horses and all the King’s men COULD put Humpty together again?” “What if we never washed the dishes?” “What do you think would happen if…..?”
Asking these silly questions could very well be the difference between your child having an active, critically-thinking brain….and one that is less active and struggles to make important inferences. Using open-ended questions is a wonderful way to stretch children’s curiosity, reasoning ability, creativity
Concept #5: Sing, and shout, and let it all out!
Brains tend to remember things set to a melody! Find fun educational songs. Make up your own! Encourage your child(ren) to make up songs too! Get creative, and record them on your phone. Then have fun playing them back, singing along, or just laughing at the memory.
The brain also learns better when an individual feels safe, loved, and happy!! What better to provoke all of these emotions than spending time singing and dancing?
Are you having difficulty teaching your child to spell his/her name? Or would you like to avoid difficulty? Put a melody to the letters. Have the child sing the spelling. The, every time you call your little one, don’t say their name…Spell/Sing it!
For instance, if your child’s name is Jalen…sing it to the tune of B-I-N-G-O “J-A-L-E-N (x3), Jalen, Jalen, Jalen”.
If a song won’t work, put it to a rhythmic chant! I had one student named Cordell, and you could hear all the students calling his chant:
If you’re consistent, this works and usually tickles little children so very much.
There you have it! 5 simple concepts you can implement TODAY, and they are freeee! Go forth, and educate! Make sure to keep checking in on the blog for even more ideas and resources to help you implement Brain Based Learning strategies with your child as you grow together through life and prepare to take on all the (academic) tests and play dates to come your way.