Learning in the classroom has tremendous value, but kids can do just as much learning outside of school too. In fact, many parents underestimate their own ability to supplement their child’s education using resources we already have. Sure, kids need freetime to simply play and be kids, but they also crave engaging activities that are both fun and educational. And if your child has a learning disability, or if they have a harder time with certain subjects, bringing the lessons out of the classroom and into “real life” is even more beneficial.
#1 Make Smart Use of Technology
With social media and the internet, it seems like every parenting decision we make gets extra scrutiny these days. Our use of technology is no exception, with parents worrying about issues like safety and limiting screen time. We all have to find the balance that works for our own families, but when you want your child’s screen time to be educational, it’s good to take an informed approach to use of technology.
One way to do this is to read up on which apps, websites, and TV shows are best at each age. It’s also smart to choose the right device for your child’s age. Other parents are always a good source of information, but tech companies that make and sell devices, such as Verizon, also provide excellent guides for choosing the right electronics for children.
Another way we can make the most of screen time is to think outside the box with how we use it. For example, the website Educate Empower Kids recommends ways kids can use technology for good, such as becoming responsible digital citizens and learning typing, all of which will be essential as they grow up. Parents can also try what many teachers do, which is to incorporate hands-on learning with technology.
#2 Make Time for Hands-On Learning
Kids learn in all sorts of different ways, and activities that are entirely hands-on have benefits that kids can’t get from screens or books. And while hands-on learning is great for all kids, those with special needs or learning disabilities stand even more to gain from taking up a paint brush or piecing together a puzzle. Artistic hobbies give children an outlet where it’s ok to express their thoughts and feelings, and there’s no “wrong” way to do it. This is why developing an interest in art does way more than help kids learn - it’s also an amazing boost to their self-esteem.
If your child isn’t interested in traditional art forms like painting and drawing, encourage them to try a hands-on craft like origami, working with clay, or building fairy gardens. Even when they aren’t doing a hobby, you can create all kinds of hands-on projects that supplement what your child is learning in school (or to introduce a new concept). We love these activity ideas from Good Housekeeping for everything from making pipe cleaner constellations to coding with Legos.
#3 Encourage “Real Life” Learning
The amazing thing about childhood is that new experiences are around every corner. Kids are always learning, and what’s even better is that life skills and school skills often go hand in hand. For example, connecting kids with horses through programs like Stable Moments allows them to learn responsibility, builds self-esteem, and encourages their independence.
If you want to work on your child’s writing skills, encourage them to write a thank you card to someone. This is a skill that will serve them for years to come, and they’re learning it while getting valuable writing practice.
Or you could make family bonding time educational by playing creative writing games. Whatever you do, the goal is to make everyday activities even more educational - and you can teach life skills at the same time!
Life is a learning experience, no matter what we do as parents. But when we use these strategies and educational resources, we can make even more of the time we spend with our kids. The ultimate goal is not just for kids to learn, but for them to develop a love of learning. This is something we can’t force, but we can foster it when everyday is an opportunity for fun and learning.
Written by Laura Pearson