Just because they haven’t started school officially doesn’t mean they don’t need teaching – plus most children of this age are like sponges and they enjoy learning; they also enjoy pleasing us by showing what they’ve learned.
If you are going to engage in teaching your little one anything at this age you must remember to keep things fun without pressure otherwise they will switch off, things won’t sink in and they may develop an aversion to that topic. As well as fun you’ll need to overdo it on the praise. Even if they don’t fully complete a task use big gestures, excited faces and lots of praising words to spur them on.
A great idea is to set up a sticker chart for when they do well. A visual representation of their success will really make them feel proud and they can (and will) show it off to anyone who visits your home. Just make sure to be clear about the reason for giving each sticker, praise and language needs to be specific and consistent.
Try to think of the main subjects you are teaching:
- Maths – counting, sorting, shapes, greater than/less than etc
- Science / nature / the world – experiments; what might happen if we do this? Learn about the world around us, the environment, the way other people or animals live
- Literacy – letters, words, phonics, blending sounds, the alphabet. Creative writing and storytelling
- Art / craft / cookery – make and do; getting messy, cutting, sticking, painting / learning about food and its provenance
- Sports – exercise, fresh air, coordination
- Drama – imagination, pretend play, placing yourself in someone else’s shoes
A great way to impart knowledge is through topic-based learning. Choose something your child loves – outer space for example. Plan some tasks which fit under this heading:
- Count how many planets there are in the solar system. Look at pictures and count the stars etc.
- Learn their order from the sun – closest and furthest. Comparison is an important skill to learn
- Make papier mâché planets and hang them up in position – arts and crafts are fun but you child is learning coordination, colours, precision etc.
- Talk about the phonic sounds which make up the names of the planets – learning through sound and sound blending is the preferred way of teaching children at this age
- Make a model rocket and spaceman from recycled rubbish - learn about looking after the environment by recycling
- Write/draw a story about space. This encourages imagination, storytelling skills and creative writing. It also encourages children to think in a linear way to express a story so it can be understood
- Bake space themed cookies – count and weigh out the ingredients, countdown to them being ready (get messy!)
- Make a spaceman’s dinner – whatever you imagine that to be
- Get outside and pretend to be rockets or practice walking on the moon
- Colouring in, dot to dot, card games, matching pairs - be as creative as you can be
The possibilities are endless for learning opportunities and children will love to learn under the heading of their favourite topics – jungle animals, under the sea, down at the farm, robots, whatever your child loves or one after the other.
As a parent this also helps you to have a focal point for any learning exercises you set out. Remember to take advantage of all the free online resources which are out there; worksheets, printouts and games are all great fun and educational. Don’t bombard your child, try to go at their own pace. If you find they aren’t able to grasp a task at this stage that’s fine, move on and you can always return to it in a few weeks – at this age children develop rapidly and the chances are they will understand better after only a matter of weeks. Keep their spirits high and make sure you’re having fun too!