Your Home as a Learning Experience
For young children, their home is the best place to begin learning about math, science, and social studies, build early reading and writing skills, and to stretch their creativity. Get practical tips on how to look at your home through the lens of "learning through experiences." You'll also find ways to connect learning from school-to-home and home-to-school.
Have you ever thought that your home might provide areas of learning experiences for your child?
As a teacher of young children, I would ask parents to look at their homes as a unique way of engaging children with their immediate and daily environment. Doing so not only prepares the children for school academic learning, but also for physical, social and emotional growth.
We know that in early childhood, learning experiences play a large role in language development as well as conceptual development. Learning experiences are so very personal to each learner, and the home is the best way to begin learning from birth and continue the learning.
Because most children feel safe and secure in their homes, parents can use this comfort to bridge strong social emotional feelings of love and support to learning and teaching in the home.
If we think about everything a home has to offer, there are ways to connect learning from school to home and home to school. Let’s look at your home through the lens of learning through experiences.
What might these experiences be?
- They could be what your child is interested in.
- They could be what makes your child want to imagine and discover something new.
- They could be part of what your child is already learning in school.
- They could be something you want your child to learn more about.
Families can look at the inside and outside of a house or apartment as learning rooms. Here are some suggestions!
In the kitchen
- Use recipes or cooking time to teach about measurement using measuring cups and measuring spoons. These are especially good at teaching fractions.
- Use labels on cans or packages to teach numbers and quantities.
- Use kitchen objects to teach patters: fork, spoon, fork, spoon, fork, spoon
- Learn vocabulary words like dicing, slicing, melting, chopping and talk about those words and experiences.
- Read cookbook recipes and talk about the ingredients and the sequence (what happens first, second, third in making a meal) of the cooking process.
- Talk about the way foods change when they are heated or cooled.
- Let your child use his senses to discover the way food smells, feels, looks, tastes, and even hear food boiling, steaming or sautéing.
- Enjoy creating new foods together and provide learning experiences that your child can help with, like the placement of the food, or the way to cut fruit or vegetables to look attractive.
- Make playdough together and have your child create with it.
- Discuss how there are foods from all over the world that can be cooked and compare them. For example, talk about the many ways people cook rice around the world.
In the living room and family room
- Play a game with your child. Have your child find all of the numbers used every day in the living room (the television remote, a calendar, a phone, in books or magazines or on a clock).
- Enjoy reading time together after dinner or during a daily reading time. Look for letters of the alphabet in the names of family members.
- Take ten minutes a day to write or draw in a journal with your child about his or her day
- Create memorable experiences for your child by playing with games allowing for science thinking such as playdough and popsicle sticks to make buildings, or using wooden blocks to discover balance, weight and gravity.
- Talk to your child about your own experiences learning about science.
- Discuss the needs of plants in the home and what they need to survive: air, water, soil and have your child create a calendar to plant watering and care for indoor plants
- Have your child use “open-ended” materials to create and make her own projects. “Open-ended” materials are those that can be used in a creative way, such as sticks, string, yarn, glue, bottle caps, tissue paper, scrap paper or boxes.
- Enjoy talking about the world with your child. Discuss aspects of your own childhood, that of their grandparents too, and include art, music, literature or food.
In the bedroom
- Work with your child to help him sort clothing by size or color, and pair matching socks.
- Count the different shirts or other clothing items that came out of the laundry.
- As you fold towels, show your child how to fold a small towel from a square to a triangle or create other shapes as you fold.
- Read books with your child before bedtime and create a learning experience by using a sock puppet or handmade paper puppets.
- Read books based on a different theme every night.
- Talk about the different times of day and night, the seasons of the year, and the clothing that should be worn the next day because of the weather.
- Let your child help you in arranging their belongings and creating small areas for learning.
- Have your child create a fort or small house with quilts and blankets.
- Talk to your child about how in the past, people lived in different types of houses. Check out books that show how some pioneers lived in their covered wagons, some Native Americans slept in caves, and how others around the world sleep in boats.
In the outdoor yard or common play area
- When playing outside, look for the many plants that grow the same number of leaves and count them, or look at the symmetry in leaves. Count the number of rose petals and talk about how we can measure how tall things are, like trees or bushes.
- Read about books involving nature and look at letters that can be found hidden among the structures you see, like an “H” in a football field, or a “U” for a swing, or an “L” in a light post.
- Talk about the movement of things outside, the flight of the birds, the movement of cars, the motion of a swing.
- Look the different coverings of birds, animals or insects, their legs and their movements.
- Look at the changes in the sky and the weather as well as those of plants.
- Discuss care for outdoor plants and their needs.
- Have your child create with sand, play with water and sink and float different leaves, sticks or rocks.
- Discuss with your child the way that you see people work and the vehicles that go from one place to another.
Vocabulary learning at home
Of course, any parts of your house can be used as vocabulary learning experiences, adding in reading and writing. You and your child can label different parts of the house, furniture or rooms using strips of paper, tape and markers. For example, one week you can label different areas of the kitchen by writing on the paper strips or index cards: refrigerator, stove, wall, cabinet, spice rack, and so on. You can use the labels after the week to make a memory game. Your child can turn the cards over and read the words that were on the label.
You can also take those cards over time and make what teachers call a “word wall.” These are walls of words that can be alphabetized and read over time. You can place the words on any empty wall with tape or the refrigerator.
Apps for reading and learning
Don’t forget that many quality digital apps are also available for learning and reading books. Children can use the apps to learn at home and further make the connection to the learning at school. Using tablets, computers or smart phones for small amounts of quality time can be beneficial to learning at home, especially if the topics are of high interest to the learner. For example, if you are learning outside and the child is interested in plants, then you can find apps with books on plants that will help your child continue the learning.
A love of learning
Creating memorable and fun learning experiences for your child are so important in establishing a foundation for the love of learning, and a most special connection to your home and most importantly, you as a parent.