As a parent, you are the single biggest influence and teacher in your young child’s life. So it’s no wonder parents often ask themselves, “Am I setting my child up for success?” However, the key to laying the foundation for academic success for your pre-kindergartener may be easier than you think.
Young, active minds are soaking up the world around them and it’s important to expose their natural curiosity to as many different activities and experiences as possible. We want our kids to possess a joyful love of learning, and discover different ways to harness their creativity and enhance their capacity to think critically. But those inspiring and challenging moments don’t always have to be outside the comforts of your own home.
Here are five fun activities you can do at home to foster creativity and critical thinking in your early learner:
MAKE CHECKING THE WEATHER A FAMILY RITUAL
When checking the weather becomes a regular routine with your child, you begin establishing any number of critical thinking skills: categorization, cause and effect, variable conditions – the list goes on. Keep a colorful chart to track and recognize days when the temperature gets colder and warmer and discuss why that might be happening. Is there a connection between clouds and weather? Are there clouds on sunny days? What about when it is raining? Take these observations and ask your child how they apply to specific actions. What clothes do we need today if it is really cold outside? What activities can we safely play outside in this weather?
PRACTICE WRITING IN DIFFERENT MEDIUMS
Let’s be honest – 4-year-olds like getting messy. Put out a plate sprinkled with sugar and encourage them to practice writing numbers and letters, then have them try the same with shaving cream or rice. This helps students develop fine motor skills and is, of course, a ton of fun. How does your finger feel when you move it through the sugar rather than the shaving cream or rice? What do you notice about the texture of the different materials (smooth and cool shaving cream vs bumpy rice vs grainy sugar)? Why does the shaving cream keep its shape? Remember your compare and contrast essays in college? Same thing, but much gooier.
TURN BATH TIME INTO A SINK OR FLOAT EXPERIMENT
At bath time, talk about which toys sink or float. How many objects can you put onto a floating toy before it sinks? Bonus points to the parents who use terms like buoyancy and gravity! And I know some of us remember the old Letterman skit “Will It Float?” so more adventurous parents may want to extend the game to other household items. Old veggies sitting in your crisper? Dad’s sandals? Fair warning, if you play this game frequently, keep track of your iPhone at all times.
COOK WITH YOUR CHILD
There are so many learning experiences to be had through cooking: measuring accurately with utensils of different sizes, working on numeracy and literacy, taste testing different foods for salty and sweet flavors, and hypothesizing what happens when cookies are left in the oven too long (and why!). Not only can you foster healthy food choices, but you plant images into your child’s memory that will help them quickly grasp states of matter, energy conversions, and algebra later on. If the recipe says we need three eggs, and we only have one, how many do we need to buy at the store?
TURN HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS INTO PHYSICS EXPERIMENTS
You’d be surprised at how many different physics properties can be demonstrated with a yard stick and a few different balls. Show your preschooler how tilting the yardstick creates different slopes and affects how far balls will roll. What happens when you roll a marble versus a Ping-Pong ball? What happens when you roll the ball on a rug versus a smooth surface? Speed, acceleration, friction, inertia – these concepts aren’t scary the way they might seem in most high schools, and your preschooler can prove it to you!
Kate Briscoe is Director of Early Learning for BASIS Independent Schools
. This fall BASIS Independent Fremont will open to kindergarten – 5th grade featuring a highly acclaimed liberal arts, STEM-focused curriculum.