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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hyland

How children learn

The first and most important learning in a child's life happens within the family. Children learn from the way people treat them and from what they see, hear and experience starting as soon as they are born.

· There are many ways of learning. Children learn by watching, by listening and especially by doing.

· All children go through several stages but there are differences between children within each stage. There are also differences in the length of time it takes for children to move from stage to stage.

· Children do best in an environment which is interesting and where they feel loved and safe.

As parents you are in the best position to know what your children like and what they can do and to support their learning.

· Provide an environment where your children can explore, learn new things, try new things, practise what they can do and talk about what they are doing and learning. Teach them to watch, listen, think and question.

· Give your children plenty of time to play. Play is important because it allows children to practise skills over and over again in their own time and to develop ideas at their own pace. While many toys bring great fun and challenges, play also can be provided without spending much money. Play materials can come from many sources.

Play and toys

Parents often believe that they need to buy young children lots of toys.

· Some experts believe that too many toys for young children can 'overload' their senses and make it hard for them to find things to do for themselves as they get older.

· This is especially important, as 'boredom' in adolescence may be linked to excessive playing of computer games and sometimes drug taking.

Toys which allow children to use their own imaginations and create their own games are toys which help them learn to be able to enjoy life as they get older without being bored.

· Many toys that are bought for children do not have this flexibility and can lead to children playing with them for a while and then wanting more.

· If they always get more, rather than the chance to explore and enjoy and create, they may be learning that to get more things = happiness!

Some 'toys' which are most valuable to young children are:

· paper and paint

· water and sand

· mud

· a garden or park to explore

· pots and pans

· pegs and containers to put them in

· wooden spoons

· wooden blocks

· sets of animals, toy people and cars

· animals and insects to watch

· old clothes to dress up in

· boxes of all sizes and shapes

· toys to ride on.

A few toys and resources (such as dress up costumes) that allow children to be creative and that can be rotated from time to time are likely to be of more value to children than large numbers of toys.

Playing with other children is important as they get to preschool age, and play with parents is always important, as well as with grandparents and other special adults.

Play and learning

Here are some of the way’s children learn through play.

Learning - intellectual development e.g.

· Sorting toys - learning about number and grouping

· Puzzles - learning about shapes, sizes, number

· Posting boxes - learning about space and size

· Hitting a mobile and making it move - learning about cause and effect

· Card games and board games

· Making up games

Developing motor (physical) skills e.g.

· Pushing and pulling toys

· Riding on toys

· Picking up small things

· Throwing and catching

· Climbing toys

· Using crayons or paint brushes

· Writing

· Computer games

· Hitting balls

Social/emotional development e.g.

· Playing alongside others and watching them

· Playing with others

· Playing mothers and fathers

· Copying adults and practising adult tasks and roles

· Water, paint and mud - expresses feelings

· Music - relaxes and expresses feelings

· Pretend play - dressing up

· Games with rules (eg hopscotch, card games, ball games)

Developing language e.g.

· Stories and books

· Songs

· Nursery rhymes

· Games with friends and adults

· Talking to each other

· Listening to children's programs on TV or iPad, etc

Learning to talk is important and should be fun. The best thing parents can do is talk with babies and young children often.


By Women’s and children’s health network.

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