It seems that whenever anyone is talking about getting their kids back to school this year, the number 7 is involved: R700 for new stationary; R700 worth of books for a grade 7 pupil, 7 things to remember to send to school every day (lunch, drink, extra clothes, sunblock, sunhat, teacher’s note book). And if you ask any child, there are probably 700 days in a school year.
I am exploring supplementary home-schooling this year, not because I am intent to take my kids out of school and keep them at home till they’re 18, but because we’ve learned a valuable lesson last year that schooling is not the responsibility of the teacher. My kids are only little – 2.5 and 4.5 – but I believe that what I’m doing now, getting into the habit of spending a couple of hours every day doing constructive learning through play, will benefit us greatly in the years to come.
So I have invested in a few more books for me and the kids on the subject, and bought some basic stationary – 7 items: crayons, markers, glue stick, pencil bag, pastels, paint and a pair of scissors each – and rearranged the playroom just a bit to make space for creative learning.
Here are my 7 simple steps to creating a constructive learn-through-play environment for toddlers.
1) Remove the Clutter
Especially after Christmas, the toys are abundant so start by sorting and tossing or giving away.
2) Create Work Areas
A simple desk or table with chairs. The table must be big enough to accommodate you, the child(ren) and their paraphernalia. And if they are already working on computers, it’s best to keep those on a separate desk area. Having a dedicated reading corner in the shape of a teepee, floor cushion of even just a comfortable chair will motivate them to pick up that book.
3) Easily accessible, or not
I don’t want them to be able to reach the paint when I’m not there to supervise, but getting hold of the crayons and colouring books should be easy.
I have always read that you should place the books facing forward and somehow I’ve only now started to apply this. But it is invaluable – kids will only make a creative selection on the books they want to read when the cover faces them.
Even after you’ve cleaned up the playroom or bedroom, your kids most likely have more toys and activities than they can comfortably engage with. Pack half of it away and rotate the activities when you notice they tire of them. Every time you change them, it will be like Christmas!
Place on eye-level the items you want them to see: if your theme for the month is on building and construction, put the blocks, construction books and other relevant materials on the lower shelves so that they can explore them at their own pace.
7) Simplified Storage
Make it easy for them to identify what is in a box or in a cupboard. This will also help them when the time comes to pack away. Boxes, clear totes or open shelves are ideal.
May your kids have wonderful new school year and may you as a parent, grandparent or carer enjoy the journey with them.