How did you learn to drive a car, ride a bike or make a sandwich? Did you read a book about it or have someone tell you how to do it, or did you have to get your hands on it and learn through trial and error? Hobbies, sports and even our jobs are all things we, as adults, probably learned by doing. Why should it be any different for children?
Children are endlessly curious and love to explore the world around them using all of their senses. Hands-on learning activities and exploration are the best possible way for children to learn every type of skill from physical skills like crawling and walking, to math or language concepts and everything in between. Opportunities to teach your children are all around you; you just need to search for those teachable moments in your everyday life, and present them to your child in a way that is fun and gives them a chance to use their senses to explore and experiment.
Hands-On Learning Around the House
Meal times are one of the best times to teach your child, especially for infants and young toddlers. This one-on-one time is perfect for introducing counting and colors. Count as you serve them each spoonful of food. Point out the colors of the food as they grab for a carrot or pea. Older children can also find lots of hands-on learning opportunities while they eat. They can learn about temperature and texture as well as colors and counting. Have them sort their cereal by shape or color. Play an opposite game by putting the cereal inside or outside of the bowl.
Household chores also provide great hands-on activities. Setting the table is the perfect time to teach patterning and one-to-one correspondence by placing one of each item at each place setting. Have them help you sort socks by color or size. Sorting or folding laundry also gives them the opportunity to explore different textures and colors, to count buttons, and to learn small motor skills like zipping, snapping and tying.
Using Toys for Hands-On Learning
You don’t need fancy learning games to teach math or language skills. Building blocks are the most versatile tools you can find for teaching. Make a pattern with colored blocks and have your child copy it. Lay the blocks out in the shape of a letter or a shape and encourage them to name the shape or letter sound. Count the blocks or sort them piles by color. Build towers together to help them learn about balance, shape, and cause and effect.
Hands-On Learning at the Store
Make a trip to the grocery store into a game. Everywhere you turn, there are things to see, touch, smell, taste and explore. Counting is the most obvious activity. Count items as you place them in the cart or bag. Classify and compare objects by color, size, texture, or food group. Show them the differences between healthy and unhealthy foods and let them help you make good food choices. Make comparisons by asking them to hold two apples or oranges of different sizes and ask them which weighs more, then let them see if they are right by putting them on the scale. Go on a letter scavenger hunt and have them find products on the shelves that start with each letter.
Hands-On Learning In the Car
Even though they may not be able to touch or manipulate as many things in the car, the view from your car window is the perfect place for I Spy games! This allows them to learn concepts like colors, sizes, and shapes. They are also surrounded by letters and numbers from street signs, license plates and store names. By observing the world outside the car window, they are able to make connections and learn about objects in the real world all around them.
Hands-On Learning Outdoors
The outdoors is the biggest classroom there is! Play time outside is the perfect time for your child to explore nature. A child safe magnifying glass is all you need to examine everything from leaves, grass and tree bark to bugs and feathers. Allow them to get their hands dirty and explore different textures by feeling dry dirt and then wet mud. Watching clouds or leaves blow by will teach them about cause and effect and about the wind and weather. Explore smells by examining flowers and leaves. The possibilities are endless!
The ability to touch, explore and manipulate objects is the best way for children of every age to learn any subject. By using real world objects and settings, you can provide your child with countless opportunities to extend what they learn in school.
When you make the world you classroom, you can turn any mundane task into a fun hands-on activity that will teach your child valuable skills and concepts, and hopefully, you’ll have fun along the way too!