All parents are interested in helping their child become an intelligent, happy, ready-to-learn person. And almost all children are born with a natural curiosity, ready to get into anything and everything. Just a little effort on the part of the parent will make your home environment a learning friendly place!
From the very start, catch the interest of your newborn by giving them bright, interesting things to look at. Hang mobiles over their bed and changing table. There are many toys you can hang on the bars of their cribs with lights, mirrors and music. But if money is short, put the crib near a widow, and pull back the curtains so the baby can see leaves moving in the wind, birds flying and clouds floating by. Make their room a place of contrasting colors, and hang bright posters and pictures on the walls. Take the baby on walks as often as possible, either shading them in their stroller or bundling them up against the cold. Take baby with you where every you go, giving them lots of opportunities to see new things. Talk and sing to them constantly. Keep up a running commentary on what you are doing, and show them. They will love it.
As baby grows and you begin to buy things for them to play with, consider what you are buying carefully. Don’t give them toys that do all the playing for them while they just watch. Buy toys that they will need to interact with. Give them a lot of blocks, Lincoln logs, legos, and things like that to manipulate and build with. Let them play with play dough. Put them in the tub with cups, spoons, and any type toy that they can pour, float, measure, and stick on the walls of the tub.
From the time they can walk, try and have a safe place where they can get outside and wander often, even if it’s very small. A sand box and little shovels and buckets are wonderful outside toys for a young child. Give them lots of balls, push toys, and riding toys. Being outside is so good for a young child. If you can fence off a small area around the front or back door of your house, you can leave the door open and get some of your housework done while the child is entertained outdoors.
Very important is to realize that despite what the media would have us believe, TV and videos are NOT good for the young child. Studies are now showing that a child should not be exposed to TV before the age of three. It’s not good for their developing brains, even if the makers of baby Einstein try to convince you otherwise. Your child’s intelligence will be much higher if you limit or completely avoid any kind of television or movies. In fact, your own mind will be the better for it, too.
As the child moves on into the preschool years, your reading outloud to him will be one of his favorite activities. Choose the books you read to your child carefully. Avoid the ‘fluff’ as much as you possibly can. There are many quality books available for the growing child. Choose books that teach manners, good morals, and a good work ethic. Avoid books that are silly and show children being disrespectful to their parents or each other. The really old classics are good, rather than the Cinderella, Harry Potter or Hannah Montana books of today. Even a young child will enjoy the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Little Britches books by Ralph Moody. The Bobbsey Twins and Five Little Peppers books can still be found on places like Ebay. Use reading to develop your child’s mind, rather than to simply entertaining him. You will increase their vocabulary and stretch his imagination with good books.
Music is a wonderful tool, too. Discovery Toys has a wonderful CD called “Sounds like Fun.” It includes nursery rhymes and teaches counting, the days of the weeks, months of the year, and simple math with soft, easy to listen to music that children enjoy listening too. You can find scripture memory many places, too. Homestead Heritage has a couple of really nice CD’s. If you check into some homeschooling catalogs, you will find many learning tapes for young and old children. My own totally homeschooled son, who is now in Virginia Law School, says that the Grammar Songs CD I played for him when he was a young child helped him in college, as those songs came back to his memory when he needed them.
Learning doesn’t have to be something that is reserved for a few hours a day. Make your home a place where learning comes naturally. It’s a gift you will give your child that will last their whole life long.