Baby learning is easy. Every single day is new and all that happens each day is new as well. Show a baby a zipper and they learn. Put their hand under running water and they learn. However, it is important to establish that kind of environment. One where the average day is one where learning is expected and fun. This requires a little reorganization of the house and an understanding that parents are narrators to the world around them and facilitators in making even the mundane an adventure to be had.
I personally have the pleasure of having taught in a high school classroom before becoming a mom. This is such a blessing. I know what I expected from my students; therefore, I can teach my own children all those skills. What are some things I would advise parents to do from the beginning in their homes?
- Do not change your vocabulary. Don’t “dumb down” words, bring your kids to your level. Expect your kids to learn words like facetious instead of silly, mundane instead of boring, and abhor instead of don’t like or hate.
- Read. Everyday. This can be anything. Reading the newspaper to a child is still spending time with them and it is still allowing them to hear spoken language. Baby books are great too. In fact, the ones with one word per one picture help us make connections and remember better. Our brains are wired for relationships.
- Talk to your child like an adult. They will respond to you whether you use “baby talk” or not. So respect them and they will respect you. This is not to say you should not imitate their sounds as an infants because they does help them develop language skills. However, do treat them as if they are rational, thinking individuals throughout childhood. Because they are. And they have more self-confidence if they feel like you are not just giving them lip-service. Their point-of-view is important.
- If your child says something ridiculous, don’t correct them. Ask them to explain. Kids see the world through innocent and wondering eyes. I read once that a child asked to sciz his paper. To him, mowers mow, players play, blenders blend, so scissors must sciz. You will discover a whole new world by not simply correcting and writing off a child. Even with high-schoolers, allowing them to explain was a valuable tool for me and would lend insight into their minds.
- Make the everyday tedious and mundane activities fun and learning experiences. For young kids, let them help you fold clothes. This helps with fine motor skills. This also helps with matching. You can have a pile for shirts, pants, underwear, etc. And they must be placed in those piles. As kids develop a little more, have them match socks. My husband’s dress socks are perfect for this. They tend to be the same color with different patterns or stitching.
How have I started to create a Montessori-inspired learning environment?
(EDIT – To see how we have progressed further, visit a more recent article here)
(Note: this is just a start and I will continue to change and morph our house into a little school all its own.)
- First, I have tried to make our house very open. The only gate is around our seedlings so our dogs don’t eat them! This will allow our kids to crawl, run and play without hindrance.
- We have set up a floor baby mattress for naps and playing in the living room. There is a mirror behind the mattress and she LOVES it. It helps her see that what she does is not quite like what mom and dad do (Like the pincer grasp motion)
- Tall books shelves have been turned on their sides! This ensures that they are safe and won’t tip over while also providing lower shelves for her to reach and discover books and toys on her own. AND they can cover dangerous electrical outlets!
- EVERY ROOM HAS A PLAY & LEARNING SPACE! Even as adults we tend to need a change of pace. I have a very busy baby and she needs her environment changed A LOT. SO every room has been manipulated for her pleasure. Her room has low shelves and drawers so even while little she can access toys, books, and materials on her own.
- I have one centralized learning area. This is very functional for our family as a game room and storage area, but a play and learning area for kids. The upright freezer is covered in animal magnets and I have different backgrounds that I will be putting up soon. I am still working on it, but we have an old stereo cabinet that we gutted. On the back, I will have a homemade busy/fine motor board, posters, and more. the other size has easy access storage for more learning games, materials, etc.. There are toys and a wonderful map of the US. In general this is just a planned area that has different activities for learning and play! I even have my plants and seedlings in this room so we can do it together!
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!