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I often get asked, how do I get started? What activities do you recommend for 2 year olds? How do I get my child to spend more than five minutes on an activity I prepare for them? And my answer is always the same; What is your child interested in?
Often I think we see something beautiful; a beautiful image of a child at play and are attracted to that image and the prospect of our own child involved in that activity in the same way.
So we set up the activity only to find the set-up actually took longer than the time our children spent engaged… then we become a little disheartened. What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they like it? I guess my child just doesn’t like art…or blocks….or making patterns…
I think for our children to be really engaged in an activity it needs to feel connected to them in some way or really spark a deep sense of awe and a desire to discover more.
I know with Jack and Sarah, if I create a new exploration for them everyday they will most likely play with it for a short while but will soon return to their own play.
However, if I slowly leave new provocations in the playroom (books, postcards, maps, a YouTube video on the iPad, some loose parts or blocks with a picture cue) based on their interests they will more often than not engage with these materials without me even mentioning anything thereby deepening their own play and sparking new lines of inquiry.
Sarah spends time in our kitchen garden everyday. She weeds and takes care of the plants. This is her passion. She carefully inspects each plant to check how it is growing. This morning we spotted a tiny caterpillar. She wanted to know more about him. We’ve brought him inside so we can observe him more.
“Whether you are working with one child or a group, the first step is to find out what your child wants to know more about. This is where the work starts. You can find this starting point in one of two ways: you can ask or you can observe.”
~ Lori Pickert: Project-Based Homeschooling
So. What are your children interested in at the moment? If they have a love of trains, what is it about trains that they love?
- Do they love the carriages and the engine?
- Do they like the idea of travelling by train and the adventures of the people on the train?
- Do they enjoy the motion of driving the trains?
And what do they want to know more about the trains?
- What do they wonder while they are playing?
- What questions do they ask you about trains?
- What aspect of their play do they seem to keep coming back to?
These are the questions that will guide you forward. These are the questions that will give you all the information that you need to know about creating a meaningful learning experience for your child.
Give them the opportunity to explore and answer these questions and you will be nurturing their interests, making connections with their learning and helping them to engage more deeply; get them out of a play rut that can sometimes happen.
- Over the next few days watch your child playing and take note of the questions they ask
- If they are old enough, talk with them about ways they might like to explore their questions; wait for their ideas (look it up in a book, a YouTube video, make a design to solve their problem, build their ideas)
- If they are younger, create a very simple exploration based on your observation of what they want to know
- Go slowly. Don’t fill their space with resources and activities. Explore together; respect their process, resist taking over
- Wait for the next question and start the process again
- Allow the exploration to unfold at the child’s pace
This kind of play and learning happens slowly over time; sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes even years. But it is connected, it is authentic and it is meaningful to our individual children.
If you missed a post, here’s the rest of the series and don’t forget to check out Rachel’s posts on Racheous – Lovable Learning
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