Everyday Teaching Moments For Your Child
Every day presents an opportunity to teach something new to your child. Here are some great ways to capture an ordinary moment and turn it into an educational one.
By Susan Philip
“Mamma, give,” demanded little Akshay, pointing at the ball in his mother’s hand. “Say 'please', first,” prompted his mother. “Mamma, please give,” repeated Akshay, and his mother handed him the ball with a smile. Like Akshay’s mother, we parents can all turn everyday situations into teaching moments for our children. Here are some ways to use our interactions with our little ones through their growing years to impart knowledge and teach them skills.
It’s often said that a toddler’s mind is like a sponge. She soaks up everything. So every moment you spend with your pre-schooler is a potential teaching moment. Make full use of this phase. It’s never too early to start teaching your child the lessons you want her to use through life.
About manners: ‘Please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ are words that should be part of a child’s vocabulary as early as possible.
- Teaching moment: Like Akshay’s mother, you can teach simple etiquette by gentle prompting. Also, teach by example. Say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ whenever appropriate, even when interacting with your little one. He will learn to imitate you.
About the body: A toddler is by nature curious. She will feel your hair, touch your face and grip your hands. Use her instinct to teach her about her own body.
- Teaching moment: Bath times are ideal for this. Touch her hands, feet, tummy and head, and name the parts. Repeat the routine, adding more parts of the body to the list gradually. Soon, it will become a game she will look forward to, and learning will happen naturally.
About colours and shapes: You’ll be surprised how easily your pre-schooler can distinguish colours and shapes.
- Teaching moment: Name the colours and shapes of your child’s toys and belongings as he uses them. To check that he has understood the concept, ask him to point to other things of the same colour or shape around him. Once he gets the idea, he will move forward quickly.
About nature: As a parent, you can help your child appreciate the beauty of the world.
- Teaching moment: Walks in the park, car drives, train journeys, even time on your balcony can become teaching moments. Point out to the sun, moon and stars. Let your child smell the flowers and watch the ants (take care they don’t bite her, though). By encouraging this, you are teaching her to love and respect all of God’s creations.
The teachings started at the earlier stages can be expanded during this stage. Your child will learn more because he will be exposed to varied experiences at home and at school.
About respect: Respect, courtesy and telephone etiquette are some things that can be easily instilled in a child.
- Teaching moment: Teach by example. Be respectful to elders in speech and action, and gently instruct your child to do the same in her dealings with you and others, including siblings. At the playground, encourage her to wait for her turn at the swing. Children love answering the phone. Train your little one to identify herself after saying ‘Hello,’ and take a message if needed.
About vocabulary: Your child will pick up new words quickly at this age.
- Teaching moment: Talk about different things each day, like festivals, food and sports. Automatically, you will be introducing new words. Check if your child has understood the terms, and make him feel comfortable asking for explanations.
About healthy food: This is a good time to help your child understand the importance of a balanced diet.
- Teaching moment: Explain the benefits of eating vegetables, pulses and fruits, either while letting your little one help in the kitchen, or at mealtimes. For example, tell her that carrots will help her see well and milk will make her teeth and bones strong.
About discipline: Lessons of discipline started early last a lifetime.
- Teaching moment: Involve your child in household chores. Make clearing the table a shared task. Say, “You collect the spoons, I’ll take the plates.” Train him to put his lunch box in the sink when he returns from school. Make it a game – “Let’s see how quickly you can get from the front door to the kitchen!”
This is an impressionable age; your child’s brain is growing fast, and is capable of processing and storing a lot of information. Turn the time spent with her into teaching moments, but do it unobtrusively.
About health: Your child will be responsible for his health and hygiene by this age.
- Teaching moment: Use television advertisements on personal care to discuss the changes that are taking place in his body, and the need to be well-groomed and fit.
About work-play balance: Study-play ethics learnt at this age will translate into her maintaining a healthy work-life balance later.
- Teaching moment: Guide your child to allocate time for relaxation while ensuring that study commitments are met.
About value of money: Basic budgeting can be taught in a fun way at this age.
- Teaching moment: Take your pre-teen grocery shopping and give him a rough budget and a shopping list. As you fill your cart together, help him mentally calculate the cost of the items you choose. He will quickly learn how to decide what is essential and what is not. And, as a bonus, his mental maths skills will improve.
About empathy: You can prepare your child to be conscious of the needs of others at this stage.
- Teaching moment: A designated family time, like dinner time, helps promote bonding as well as teach the children about mutual consideration – for example, they will learn that what is on the table has to be shared equally.
Make the most of the small windows of opportunities you get during this phase of your children’s lives to convey life lessons which they will carry into adulthood.
About safety: At this stage, it is very important to learn about personal safety.
- Teaching moment: Use newspaper reports on crimes to start discussions on how to stay safe, as well as act responsibly, in both the virtual and real world. Take care not to turn these discussions into ‘lectures’. Instead, start casual conversations, and get your child to share her views and experiences.
About social duty: Being socially conscious is something that doesn’t come naturally to teenagers, who are usually self-absorbed. But it can be inculcated.
- Teaching moment: Encourage your child to help an aged relative with shopping or take a disabled child in the neighbourhood for an outing. Start by involving him in your own initiatives, and later let him take over.
About civic duties: Following civic rules doesn’t come naturally to teenagers either. But you can make your point.
- Teaching moment: Your child may plead to be allowed to use a two-wheeler before earning her licence. Use the opportunity to discuss the danger this could pose to her and others.
About new experiences: Your teenager could soon go to a different city, or even country, to study. Prepare him to accept new experiences.
- Teaching moment: Encourage your child to make friends with people from different ethnic and religious groups, and discuss their cuisine and customs in an interested, open-minded way.
The best lessons are learnt at home. Set an example for your child, use every moment you spend in her company to introduce her to different aspects of knowledge and behaviour. These will be the bedrock of her future.
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