Academic instruction children get in their preschool or elementary classroom is certainly important, but every parent and caregiver knows kids are constantly questioning and learning in every setting. And adults can encourage that natural curiosity by introducing activities and hobbies that build young people’s brains. If you’re looking for suggestions on how to help the kids in your life keep learning outside the classroom, here are a few ideas to get you going.
A growing body of research suggest there is an optimal window between birth and around age 9 for developing musical sensibility in kids. But that doesn’t mean you need to start formal lessons as soon as your child can walk. Rather, try to expose children to a wide range of music, including singing to them or playing an instrument. And introduce games and activities that incorporate singing, rhythm, beat, and other music-related skills and concepts.
As your child ages, you might consider lesson or activities that help them identify instruments and develop fundamental skills like keeping a beat. By the time a kid is ready for kindergarten, they’re probably also primed to start more formal lessons. Although you should let your child’s interest factor in when it comes to choosing an instrument, practically will certainly play a part in the selection. For instance, a recorder might be a good choice for children who love the sound of a clarinet, but whose hands haven’t grown into the instrument yet. And a ukulele might be more manageable than a guitar.
And your child doesn’t have to be a musical prodigy to reap rewards from music lessons. For example, according to an article in Parents, learning about beat, rhythm, and scales helps kids master math skills, including how to divide and understand fractions.
Playing musical instruments can also help kids hone their motor skills and brain-body connection because they are often required to perform very different tasks with their right and left hands. That’s part of the reason learning to play an instrument can improve young people’s coordination and timing, two skills that help in other healthy hobbies including dance and sports.
Speaking of sports, organized athletics has several benefits for kids, including helping them learn how to work with others and allowing them to challenge themselves in a safe environment. But most very young children don’t really have the physical skills and attention span to play a sport in the conventional, competitive sense, according to KidsHealth.
So sports for preschool-age and kindergarten kids should be focused on fun and mastering basic skills. And young children may also want to try out a few options to find a sport that suits them. Meanwhile, they’ll be learning important social lessons and getting exercise at planned practices and games.
Play with Purpose
You shouldn’t try to structure all your kids’ time, however. Indeed, unstructured play time outdoors encourages children to get much-needed physical activity, among many other benefits. And research has shown that free play, whether indoors or out, can help build kids’ brains in ways that are important to learning how to regulate emotions, make plans and solve problems. Fortunately, many toys are fun for kids and can help teach or reinforce important academic and life skills such as spatial awareness, sorting, problem solving, and fine motor coordination.
Suggested teaching toys include age-appropriate building blocks, such as LEGO Duplo sets, which kids can use to construct creations, foster creativity, problem solving, and spatial intelligence. There are also block-based sets that encourage creating patterns, which can teach or reinforce concepts such as symmetry and repetition. Art supplies are also a perennially popular teaching tool that can encourage creativity and help hone fine motor skills. Outdoors, you might use natural materials including pebbles, sticks, or leaves to encourage sorting, pattern making, or counting. Really, the fun, educational options are endless.
So, whether it’s during piano practice, soccer scrimmages, or unstructured play time, there are plenty of ways to help children extend their education — and boost their brainpower — outside the classroom.
Written by Maria Cannon.