by Cognitive Psychologist, Dr Goh (Feb 10, 2007)
Developmental psychology teaches us that the first 6 years of life are the time when a young child’s brain is constantly absorbing and processing information.
As parents we must understand that we do not need to force our children to learn. Young children, by nature are curious about the world around them and are constantly observing and learning.
As parents our role is very much like that of a farmer. A farmer cannot force a plant to grow, but he provides the best, most conducive environment for the plant; he makes sure that the plant enjoys good soil and receives enough water and sunlight.
Similarly, there are 3 simple things we can do as parents to provide our children with a healthy learning environment.
Tip 1: Widening Their Horizons
Firstly, our role is to expose our children to the world of information. We live in an amazing world, full of language, colours, ideas and experiences. Our job is to open their eyes to what is out there.
You can start when your child is still young by reading to them. Whether it's be stories or books about geography and science, books expose our children to new worlds.
Taking them to places like the zoo, the aquarium, the museum, the park and lake gardens, a concert hall, or even the local store, gives them opportunities to learn new things. It is important that we do not keep them trapped in the house the whole day.
Tip 2: Child Initiated Learning
Secondly, it is important for us as parents to let our children initiate the learning process.
Many parents ask me what to teach their children and my reply is always; begin with what they are interested in.
If your children are interested in animals, then read them books about animals and take them on the trip to the zoo. If they are interested in planes, then take them to the airport to see the planes.
You will find that your young child by age 3 to 4 years old will ask you many questions; like “why is the sky blue?” or “why do cars need petrol?”
These questions indicate that they are hungry for knowledge and we should encourage them to ask these questions by listening to them when they ask, and making a serious attempt to answer them. When we respect our child’s questions by responding to them, we send them the message that their learning is important to us.
Tip 3: Encouragement and Praise
Lastly, as parents we can help our children by praising their efforts to learn and always encouraging them, even when they make mistakes.
Sometimes as parents we can be too competitive and we may focus too much on results rather than progress. We need to realize that young children learn at different speeds and each of them has their own unique strengths.
For example, when your child is learning how to write or to read, they are bound to make many mistakes at the start. Gently correct them, but focus on their effort rather than on their errors.
Learning is about discovery and discovery is about trying something new. This is not easy. Trying something new involves taking risks and that is why when you child tries something new, like reading or writing their courage should be rewarded, not punished.