A few simple rules can set your little one on the road to learning success
It’s an issue that could affect your child’s future, yet more than a third of parents in England with under-fives don’t know if their nursery employs qualified early years teachers. These are teachers trained specifically to support early learning and development and to help those falling behind.
Findings from the charity Save the Children have shown that if children don’t have access to these teachers, by the year 2020 more than 800,000 will be at greater risk of starting reception behind their peers in areas such as literacy and numeracy. And the fallout won’t end there. A quarter are likely to remain behind in English when they reach secondary school, and a fifth will remain behind in maths — which could have potentially devastating consequences for the rest of their schooling.
Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, a clinical psychologist and expert from Channel 4’s The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, is supporting Save the Children’s campaign to get a qualified early years teacher in every nursery in England.
Dr Kilbey says: ‘The early years of a child’s life are without a doubt the most crucial for their learning and development, and likewise where support for their learning makes the biggest difference.’
A three-year-old’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything around them, so this time has huge potential for language and communication development.
Dr Kilbey explains: ‘Their brains absorb and grow the most when they’re little, learning everything from using words, phrases and numbers to understanding the world around them and building healthy relationships. That’s why early years teachers are so important — it’s not about giving toddlers a formal education, but growing their minds through play and simple everyday interactions that will give them the best start in life.’
But there are things you can do at home with your toddler to stimulate their brain. Dr Kilbey gives her tips to help kids’ brains develop…
Help them focus
Concentration is a crucial skill that really helps kids learn at school. Encourage your child to play games and do things that need focus, such as tying shoelaces, completing puzzles or remembering up to 10 items on a shopping list.
Don’t let them leave it half-done
Evidence shows that many children, particularly boys, will give up on a task if they don’t think they are doing it well. But don’t let them walk away — challenge them to finish. Extra praise for completing something they find hard will boost their confidence and help them do well when they’re at school.
Read, read, read
Reading helps develop language, concentration and confidence. Create a half-term reading list with your child to complete before the end of the holidays.
Make them laugh
When you read, try using silly voices, accents and characters. Children are far more likely to pay attention and take things in if they’re having fun while they learn.
Roll up your sleeves and get your kids cooking or baking with you. Helping you weigh out ingredients is a great way for your child to learn, develop hand-eye coordination and have fun. Plus you get to eat the yummy things you make!
Set up a mock shop in your front room. Make paper money and shopping lists, and take tins and packets from the kitchen. Encourage your child to ‘buy’ everything on the shopping list. Ask them to draw each item, count the money and identify different colours and letters on the packets.
A letter a day
Choose a letter of the alphabet and get your child to look out for all the words that begin with it as you read to them. Then, when you are out and about, you can keep looking together for the same letter — on signs, bus stops, shop fronts, etc.
Keep it short
When talking to your toddler, keep your sentences short and simple. Use sentences that are one word longer than those that your child tends to use. So if they speak mainly in one-word sentences, use ones with two words. This helps their understanding and teaches them what to aim for next.
Take time to listen to what your toddler is trying to tell you, and respond to them. Chat with them about what is happening around them that day.
Give them time
Give your child plenty of time to respond when you’re talking to them. Young children need a while to understand what you’ve said and to plan what they want to say.
Edited by Donna Smiley