At GR4K, we understand how young children learn. The research tells us that children learn best through play! Play can be unstructured, random, and spur of the moment opportunities like:
- Playing with a :just met" child at the park or the beach
- Running and jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves in the yard (the raking is a family project)
- Building a family snowman after a surprise overnight storm (followed by hot cocoa and a picture!)
- Throwing a blanket over a table and making a fort, cave, castle, house, or underwater cavern
Structured and imaginative play with another child builds vocabulary and demands cooperation, while encouraging children to share and take turns. And your child learns these things while having fun.
Structured play is another critical part of learning. This is when you set up a play area or experience for your child. You may select the toys or set up a fort or suggest an idea for play. For example, your family is going camping next month for the first time and you want your child to think about the trip in a positive way before you go.
- You might make a tent out of a blanket thrown over the back of two straight backed chairs and add some pillows and books for a fun place to read.
- Then at noontime, you pack lunch into a sack or backpack and take it into the “tent” to share a picnic. After lunch, you bring in the favorite lovey and blanket, read one more story and settle your child in for nap or quiet time in the “tent.”
- Maybe you go to the library and get books about camping and tents and cooking outdoors to read in your “tent”. The family might take turns reading in the “tent” over the next few days, maybe playing a board game in the tent to practice for rain on your camping trip.
- Over the weekend, you may want to have a family sleepover in the tent or on the floor around the tent. Maybe have a pretend campfire and sing songs before settling down to sleep or making s’mores in the microwave to share around your “campfire” made of blocks and construction paper.
This child-centered play and family centered play will help your child learn what to expect when you really do go camping.It will build excitement about something special that your family will do together.
In addition, your child will build the vocabulary he/she needs to learn from the camping experience: tent, pitch a tent, stakes, pop-up, trailer, camper, shelter, cook stove, sleeping bag, campfire, marshmallow, toast, hike, trail, compass, latrine, picnic table, lantern, bug spray. All of these vocabulary words help your child learn more from the experience so that they can think and talk about their experience.
The more words they have to express themselves, the more they are able to connect thoughts and events in their minds which will make them much more confident in their ability to learn and to connect with other people.
Play is the best way for young children to learn!