We all want our children to have enjoyable childhoods full of fun and pleasant memories. We also want them to be prepared for their futures and have the knowledge and skills they'll need to succeed at whatever it is they try to do. Sometimes it can seem like these two desires are at odds with each other, but it doesn't have to be that way. Kids can learn and have fun at the same time; in fact, many studies suggest that kids learn best when having fun. The following will explore some fun and educational activities you can do with your children to encourage cognitive development, learning, and fun.
First, Let Go Of The Pressure
Before we begin, it's important to note that kids learn no matter where they are and what they're doing. They're learning social skills, creativity, critical thinking, internal motivation, and details about the world around them at all times. And since we don't know what our kids are going to be doing when they're adults or even what the world will look like or what a good job will be five years from now, let alone twenty, there's no way of knowing what learning should be more heavily valued.
Maybe robots will do nine out of ten jobs in thirty years, and music will be the only way humans can make money? Maybe the computer programming languages that guarantee a stable life today will be antiquated tomorrow. Maybe the entire education system will reshuffle. Who's to say that your kid learning about a caterpillar or cursive writing is any more or less valuable than them learning how to paint or do long division?
The first step in planning educational activities for kids is to take the pressure off of ourselves to predict the future and stuff as much knowledge as possible into a kid's head. When we approach it like that, we take away the fun aspect and turn it into a chore that kids dread. The primary rule should always be to seek ways to keep learning fun and intrinsically valuable for children. We want to avoid negative associations with learning as nothing slows education more drastically than that.
Play With Words
Communication can be one of the most rewarding elements of human life. Art, poetry, relationships, and problem-solving can all be the result of excellent communication skills. This means that playing games with words can be the perfect way to have fun and educate your kids at the same time. Depending on the age of your children, this might involve looking for rocks on the beach that have letters on them, doing word searches, playing with word unscrambler tools, or, if your children respond well to competition playing points-based games where whoever finds the most words in a series of letters wins. If your children are not competition-oriented, turning it into something with a winner and a loser might ruin the fun.
Question Educational Toys And Games
Toy companies know that if they can slap an "educational" on the packaging, they'll sell more toys. Before buying based on advertising alone, do your research and see what educational features a toy or game offers. If the features don't actually align with educational goals, you might be being misled. Studies have found that children with fewer toys tend to develop greater creativity as they have the time to get bored of a toy and find a new use for it that is interesting and unique, like building a tower out of trucks or dipping the feet of plastic animals into paint and making animal-track art.
When kids are stacking blocks or using tools and sticks or toys designed for building, they're learning a lot about engineering principles like weight, balance, geometry, shapes, spatial awareness, basic physics (cause and effect), as well as other skills like creativity, problem-solving, and fine motor skills. Try including different materials like cardboard boxes or sand and pebbles and see what your child comes up with.
Depending on your child's age (and their ability to follow safety instructions), cooking might be a wonderful way to play and learn together. Measuring cups teach fractions. Following instructions on packages is always going to be something people need to know how to do. This might even be an excellent time to teach your children about the food cycle and nutrition. Messy recipes tend to be favored by small children, so anything where you have to roll the food up in your palms or spread it out with your fingers, is always a win.
If your child is learning to read a treasure map with descriptions of hidden items and clues can turn reading practice into an adventure. This is also an excellent opportunity to expand your child's understanding of the natural world—learning about specific types of rocks, leaves, flowers, and aspects of the terrain. Map reading skills might turn out to be handy one day, too—you never know, your kid might become one of those anti-tech people who don't want Google maps spying on them.
Answering Their Questions Together
Kids ask a lot of questions. No one needs to tell you that. Research skills and problem-solving skills can be taught with a simple, "I don't know, let's figure it out together." Solving mysteries and riddles using the dictionary, the internet, and books at home or at the local library can give kids a sense of accomplishment and set them up for a lifetime of self-directed learning. Questions like, "How would we begin to figure this out?" or "What do we need to know first?" can open the door to scientific inquiry or even at-home miniature research studies.
The above activities and games are by no means exhaustive. There are endless ways you can turn ordinary life into fun play with the opportunity for learning. It's crucial to be flexible as you try out these different games with your little ones. If one method or approach doesn't seem to be interesting to your child, don't force it; find another way. Remember, you're also teaching your kids how to teach their own children if they have them one day.