photo by utini
In part 1, we talked about the importance of reading, and in part 2, the role of imaginative play in the development of a smart kid. Let’s expand on that a little with more ideas for free time that will help encourage your children to use their imaginations and thinking skills!
Play games as a family.
A very young child is limited in some ways, but even so, there are endless varieties of “Memory” to keep him occupied (even if the parents are bored to tears). Puzzles at appropriate age levels are always fun to build together. As your children grow, they can play more advanced games like Uno and Skip-Bo, or Scrabble and UpWords. Monopoly and chess or checkers are all great games to play together as a family.
Limit TV & movie time.
My son didn’t actually sit down to watch a TV show until he was somewhere between 18 months and 2 years of age. We still limit his TV time, and this will continue until he’s grown and out of the house! Watching TV, as opposed to reading a book or playing a game, is a mentally passive activity that does nothing to encourage thinking or social skills. Yes, a child can learn some things by watching TV, but this learning is passive and receptive, rather than active and involved. Maintain a mindset that watching TV is pure entertainment, and adjust its time in the home accordingly.
This is one area where I struggle because we live on the third floor of an apartment building, and going outside to play is a lot more difficult than simply walking out the door to the back yard. I do strive, though, as often as I can, to take my kids outside to soak in the sunshine and fresh air, and just to play. Not only can they let out their pent-up energy, but they can develop both gross and fine motor skills.
Take advantage of teachable moments.
It’s completely unnecessary to have a structured teaching time for very young children. Instead, just watch for teachable moments – those moments when they’re interested or curious in something and want to learn more about it. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, these moments often involve subjects like colors, numbers, letters, animals, and general learning about their environment.
You don’t need to walk around the grocery store pointing out the name of every single shape and color that you see, but if your child is looking with interest at a particular package or food item, you can ask him to describe what it looks like. What’s the color? Shape? What letters do you see? This process can be applied to any situation where something catches his eye and makes him pause. Teachable moments can also involve practical skills (a la Montessori) when your child is getting dressed, or wants to “help” you in the kitchen. Take advantage of the moments when she wants to “help” you make dinner or wash the dishes.