Engaging Your Early Learner

Kid Connection Article
Chaffee County Early Childhood Council​
July 18, 2014

Engaging Your Early Learner

Parents of young children know from experience, an engaged child is a happy child—a learning child. The developing brain craves “engagement.” The good news for parents is that you don’t always have to be the source of that engagement.

​In fact, helping your child find ways to engage in activities on her own is crucial to the development of her sense of independence. As she grows and becomes more skilled, she wants to do things on her own. You can help her by spending a few minutes getting her started with an activity; get her engaged. Then step back and watch her take it over.

Think of building blocks, for instance. If you simply build pyramids and let your son topple them over, he learns that you are the doer. You are the skilled one here. That’s not a bad place to start; it gets the child’s interest. But try removing yourself from the game a bit. Place a few blocks in a row, and then ask your son to help build the pyramid. You might be amazed how eagerly he takes over the game.

Allowing your child to step into the more challenging role empowers him. It also frees you up to engage in the more pressing (if less fun) tasks your role as a parent demands of you.

​In the kitchen, try rearranging cupboard contents so your ground-level cupboards house things suitable for tiny, exploring fingers–pots and pans or plastic storage dishes, for instance. And don’t baby lock those doors!

When it’s time to start preparing a meal, open one of those kid-friendly doors. Pull some things out. Put the lids on; take them off; hide the dishes inside each other; stack them. Your child will catch on, and she’ll probably find ways to play with them that you hadn’t even imagined. Then watch and enjoy…and cook.

​You can surely come up with plenty of creative ideas about how to get your child started with an activity that will engage her concentration and her imagination, but even the best parents sometimes need a little creativity booster. For those moments, consider downloading the “Let’s Play” app.

Available through the national nonprofit, Zero to Three, “Let’s Play” gives you quick ideas for simple games and other learning activities you can get your 0-5 year old child engaged in. (Note: this is an app for parents. It does NOT involve plugging your child into a screen of any kind.)

The app asks you to select your child’s age range. You can then choose from several different categories of activities, including: meal time, bed and bath time, chores, shopping, commuting, and boredom busters.
​For toddlers too advanced for stacking Tupperware during meal prep, for instance, the app suggests making a mock oven out of a cardboard box. Simply cut a door and draw burners on top, and violà, you’ve got a little “helper” station.

The key to a happy, learning child is “engagement.” And it can be key to your ability to get things done too.
​Jessica Wierzbinski writes for the Chaffee County Early Childhood Council. For more tips on raising young children, visit www.ccecc.org  or call 719-221-5114.