“What did you learn today?” is a question moms frequently ask their pre-schooler. While learning happens in the classroom, child development essentially starts at home. According to the World Health Organization, the first few years are when the brain develops most rapidly. During this crucial period, “the foundation is laid for a child’s physical and mental health, affecting everything from longevity to the lifelong capacity to learn."
When nurtured at its early stages, the brain is able to grow to its fullest potential, therefore maximizing a child’s capacity for learning and enabling them to develop a high IQ in the long run. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that stable mental stimulation around the age of four develops children’s brains more—particularly the parts responsible for language and cognition—and will continuously affect their intelligence until their late teens.
Giving kids the necessary tools for learning is necessary, but constant, caring interaction with them is just as important. “Curiosity is a child’s best friend. It’s what leads them to explore and discover, which then leads to learning. As parents, our children learn from us first, so it’s really important that their curiosity is fed even through simple tasks,” says Pearl Guevarra, working mom to Sofie, 5, and Luis, 2.
To encourage learning, active play is key in nurturing a child’s imagination and creativity. “If a child enjoys learning, it becomes easy, spontaneous, and natural. Experiences become meaningful and memorable because the child takes pleasure in what he or she is doing. Take time to observe your child. Know his or her interests and teach from there,” says Kreslly Chiong, pre-school supervisor at Nest School for Whole Child Development.
Sparking your child’s interest doesn’t have to be complicated; just shake up your daily activities and they’ll enjoy going to class as much as staying home in no time. Here are simple ideas that can help improve their mental skills:
Convert everyday objects into fun measuring tools.
Give the ruler a rest; keep track of their height with their favorite fruit. Let your children lie down and line up fruits next to them to measure how tall they are by way of bananas. You may also have them figure out how wide the fridge is in crayon terms, or how many stuffed toys it will take to cover their bed. Count clearly while laying down each item—you’ll be amazed to find your child counting sooner than you expect.
Keep word association visual.
Improve your kids’ memory by assembling pictures of friends and family on a board in their room. Write everyone’s name on sticky notes—including titles such as Lolo, Lola, Tito, and Tita—and place them at the bottom of each photo. Treat family gatherings as a brain exercise for them. This is a chance to mention the names of your loved ones, and to identify the special people in your child's life.
Widen their vocabulary through labels.
Using cards and adhesive tape, label two household items, such as the sofa and closet. Make sure each label comes in a uniform size and color, in a simple font children can easily recognize. Labels introduce kids to the idea that certain objects are assigned with common symbols. As soon as they learn their ABCs, ask them what letter “sofa” starts with and have them look for the label that begins with “S.” Pick another set of items every few months until your child is able to determine the words on their own.
Encourage them to organize.
Introduce organization while promoting helpfulness with chores. This perfectly complements the labeling activity; teach your child to keep toys, clothes, and household items in their labeled drawers. Want to take the fun factor up a notch? Play a guessing game! Ask your child where certain things should be placed: “Where do your toys need to go?” or “Where do your clothes belong?” If your child is up for a challenge, put toys in the kitchen cupboard or drinking glasses in the bookshelf. Tell them you need help in fixing your “mistakes.” “Have routines at home and set some rules. Involve children in household chores for them to develop independence and learn about taking responsibilities,” says Chiong.
Feed your child’s hunger to explore.
Organize an educational scavenger hunt. Have your children search for items of a certain color or shape around the house. For younger ones, you may guide them by gathering three objects from which they should choose which is of a specific color, size, shape, or texture.
Turn ABCs into a sensory adventure.
Singing the alphabet song is fun with different melodies, but you may also keep it exciting by making letters and numbers touchable. Trace the alphabet and numbers on poster paper and have your child fill in each outline with textured materials such as cotton balls, pebbles, and feathers. Touching their ABCs gives them a feeling of how a letter is formed. As you progress, turn this activity into a spelling game: start out with your child’s name, then move on to three-letter words when he or she is ready.
The sooner kids learn, the better they will be prepared for school—and excel in it too! As they grow, what they learn at home helps them discover talents and skills that open them up to wonderful opportunities. “I’ve noticed that when my son enjoys the process of learning, he retains more information. I really try to incorporate learning through play so I encourage him to do less-structured activities. It improves his attention span and problem-solving skills. He has more self-control, and less tantrums too!” says Carla Ansay, full-time mom to 5-year-old Isle.
Mothers appreciate the support they get from family and school, and with an expert partner like Promil, nurturing your children’s gifts is an easy yet a great leap in investing in a bright future for them. When you advance today’s gifts, not only can tomorrow’s greats achieve their dreams—they can inspire others to be better too.