“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb
Haven’t we been told many times that a child’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing every bit of knowledge from the world around them. A child learns faster by emulating and imitating others around him, especially his older siblings. There are many instances where academic achievements of an elder sibling have had a direct impact on the younger sibling’s grades. This is called the ‘sibling spillover effect’. In fact, some schools even have cross-age buddies or mentor programmes, where older children are paired with children from lower classes. Such programmes not only help younger children improve academically but also in other areas as well.
The ‘sibling spillover effect’ is not just limited to school, but also carries over to the home environment. So, why not adopt the same philosophy at home? Have your older child teach her younger sibling in an innovative and fun way. Not only will this promote learning and encourage them to forge a positive bond, but also keep the children engaged effectively and creatively. Here are some innovative and creative ideas to promote learning.
1. Make a personalised board book at home – Have your elder child make a hard cover book using regular cardboard or the cover of an old book. Provide him with decorative and colourful construction paper to make the cover page look vibrant. Pages can also be made from foam, which is sturdier than regular paper. Your child can make books like lift-the-flap books, touch-and-feel books or pop-up books, which require manual dexterity to make and handle. It will also help to develop your child’s motor skills.
- Book about numbers – Your child’s favourite toys can double up as tools to teach number recognition and one-to-one correspondence.
- Teaching addition/subtraction – Have your older child draw pictures, use stickers, or use household items such as grains of rice or vegetables, to teach the younger one simple maths concepts.
- Alphabet books or list of words book – When you go to the mall or the beach next time, have your older child take photos of whatever interesting things he can spot. These photos can be excellent teaching tools for speaking exercises such as picture description or narration.
2. Balloon popping game – Who doesn’t love balloons. Have your children blow balloons and pop them one colour at a time. This is an excellent way of teaching children about colours and a foolproof way of putting to good use your older child’s high energy levels.
3. Scavenger hunt – Ask your older child to make cut-outs of the letters of the alphabet or numbers, and hide them in different rooms. Now have your younger one look for them. This is a hands-on activity where your children can investigate, play and work together.
4. Habitat sorting out game – Your elder child can use simple craft items like colourful construction paper, glue and tape to make a model habitat diorama. Once done, ask your younger one to sort the animals based on the habitat. For instance, a camel for the desert or a yak for the mountains. Sorting skills help young learners identify similar and different things, an essential literacy and maths skill.
5. Traffic cop – Use traffic signboards like ‘Go’, ‘Slow’, and ‘Stop’ for simple word games. Showing the ‘Go’ sign can mean spelling out the word. ‘Slow’ can mean breaking complex words into syllables and spelling them phonetically. ‘Stop’ can mean enacting the word.
The 'by sibling–for sibling' model is sure to add a lot of fun and excitement to learning.