Each year presents a fresh experience for both parents and children, but the years before our kids reach their 6th birthday are among the most exciting, refreshing, and challenging of all. It is the stage in their lives when they need us the most, so we should make it a point to spend time with them.
Before our children turn 6 years old, they rely on us for most things. This is because they are not yet capable of fending for themselves, their bodies and minds are not yet that well-developed so as to do things carefully and precisely, and they do not yet exercise that great impulse or need to be independent in the way that bigger kids and teenagers do. Also, they are learning. This is the time of their lives when they reach many milestones in their development.
For example, toddlers usually start talking and drawing, and they also try to feed themselves. Preschoolers, on the other hand, experience a boost in their imaginations and they may enjoy playing pretend. They also learn new words at a dramatic pace, manipulate objects like simple puzzles, and start making friends. As time goes by, they learn to express their feelings, and might even learn to hide the truth. When they turn 5, they may talk a lot and also become more physically active as they are able to use their bodies more – they are better coordinated and can use a skipping rope, play ball, ride a trike, etc.
The most heartwarming part of having a toddler or preschooler, though, is that they enjoy spending time with us. Our presence not only provides them with security and confidence, it also provides us with the innocent and unconditional love that only children can give.
During this period of drastic physical, mental, emotional, and social development, our kids rely on us to guide them. But while it can be difficult for us grownups to think of things to do with our kids, it’s important to remember that spending time with them is vital for their development.
So, in what ways can we spend time with our kids?
There are many activities that you and your young one can enjoy doing together, but here are three essential ones that you must take the time to do with them each day:
Developing a love for books from a young age is something that your kids would benefit from for the rest of their lives. Not only does reading provide wholesome entertainment, there are also numerous benefits they can gain from it, such as:
· Your children can absorb fresh knowledge in an enjoyable way. Picture books, for instance, provide a wealth of information, like how a spider look like up close, what kinds of creatures live deep in the sea, and what Jupiter or a virus looks like. By reading the captions and descriptions to them and then having a candid discussion after, those pictures can give them knowledge and also encourage them to ask questions.
· Books help develop language mastery and increase vocabulary. Your kids get to learn new words, which helps with their speech and communication.
· Reading, likewise, helps improve imagination. Story books allow them to “see” things in their minds. The descriptions and actions in good stories let them visualize what is only written in text.
· Moreover, reading helps develop discipline and concentration and improves their attention span.
· Depending on what you read to them, stories can also help them learn to distinguish socially acceptable behavior without having to tell them “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” directly.
· Reading to them encourages them to read on their own. They can start recognizing that letters put together in a certain way become a representation of things. This would make it relatively easier to understand what letters mean when they start learning to write.
Children’s books are crafted to provide our little ones with information in a way that they would understand and enjoy. Toddlers who are exposed to reading early on eventually learn to view books and reading as an indulgence, something that they can take pleasure in doing, rather than a chore that they would want to avoid. Moreover, as they grow older, they are more likely to read than watch TV or play video games.
What’s more, reading together is a time for bonding, which would strengthen your relationship with your child.
It is always a good idea for us to listen to music with our kids. It is enjoyable, after all, and is something that just about everyone can understand and take pleasure in. Also, like reading, it has numerous benefits. The long and short of it, music helps in every aspect of child development, including physical, mental, emotional, and social development, their cognition, language, logic, creativity, and their musical ability.
With music, your child’s mind and body work together. They learn sounds and words, they are prompted to use their bodies when they dance and also interpret the lyrics when they do actions. Not only that: it has been proven that music has the ability to stimulate parts of the brain that are related to reading and math. It can also help improve a child’s memory and learning ability. A lot of studies show a correlation between higher academic achievement with children who are exposed to music.
Depending on what kind of music you play and sing, you can either have a relaxing time together or it can prompt dancing or physical movement. When selecting music, though, don’t just base your choice on the melody. Eric Rasmussen, chair of early childhood music at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, says that there is no bad music but advises parents to choose those with age appropriate lyrical content and high musical quality.
There are many household activities that you can do with your child. Toddlers and preschoolers simply love to help grownups and this desire should be encouraged, not discouraged. They should also be shown that housework is not a chore (in the negative sense).
Let your kids get involved when you do housework and assign them things that they can handle. This not only improves their ability to listen, understand, and follow instructions, it also trains their other skills. For example, you can let them take out the clothes from the washing machine and place them in the basket, or you can ask them to sort clothes according to their owner. These help improve their gross motor and sorting skills.
You can also give them the responsibility of feeding the cat, for instance, or setting the place mats and napkins on the table during meals. You can also assign them a patch in the vegetable garden that they should water – this way, they will have a sense of achievement when you harvest, prepare, and eat the crops. You can also provide your kids with a small broom and dustpan, a small rake, perhaps some non-breakable dishes, and other safe items so they can do things with you rather than just watch you do them.
Of course, it’s understandable that you sometimes want to have more private time for yourself. This may prompt you to give a gadget for your kids for them to indulge in or let them watch TV for hours. I have to confess that I did that before as well. Still, I never forget to do the three essential things mentioned above, which have a more positive impact on my kids’ future.
So from now on, no matter how tired you are, always put these three tasks in your and your kids’ schedule!
I believe our kids are the key to the future of the world and, as parents, we have a lot of influence while our children are still learning and growing. We set ourselves as our kids’ role models. Consciously and unconsciously, we pass on to them what we know, what we believe, and what we value. This is why partnering with parents in teaching life lessons and soft skills to get kids prepared for the world has become my key purpose in life. I hope that through my experience in teaching communications in university and in NLP training and coaching, I’ll be able to equip you with more tangible methods so that you can be your children’s life teacher, too!
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