“Parents can plant magic in a child's mind through certain words spoken with some thrilling quality of voice, some uplift of the heart and spirit.”
~ Robert MacNeil--novelist, journalist
The early education of a child is a very crucial aspect of future success and happiness. Many parents, especially first-time parents, miss the greatest opportunity they will ever have to influence their children. It comes in the first five years of their lives, when they are ripe for learning, hungry for knowledge, and malleable. In that time, they are like sponges, ready to soak up the environment around them. It’s your responsibility as a parent to provide an environment that is rich and fertile.
A pilot who has lost an engine knows that the most useless thing there is the sky above him. Similarly, the years you do not spend time reading to and otherwise preparing your child for school and beyond are lost forever. You’ll never know how much better your children would have performed in school, or life, had they been better prepared. There are two major areas of preparation for school and life in general, those being academic and social readiness.
A dad is crucial in his children’s early education! He provides an alternative view and new approaches to learning and often a fresh face. There are customary and magical ways to prepare them for their future. A dad can provide both, but he can be particularly effective in the magic. What your child knows is secondary to their curiosity!
Reading and Talking to Your Child
Studies have shown that “a child from a high-income family will experience 30 million more words within the first four years of life than a child from a low-income family…and 125,000 more words of discouragement than encouragement. When compared to the 560,000 more words of praise as opposed to discouragement that a child from a high-income family will receive, this disparity is extraordinarily vast.”
The preparation of children from high-income families has the advantage of being spoken and read to. A lack of spoken words and mental stimulation hurts children of low-income families more than a lack of money! Welfare can help with money but it can’t help with the environment in the home. So we see that if low-income families could just embrace the idea of emphasizing reading and imagination in their children, they would do much better in school and possibly escape the predicament of their parent(s).
Magical Activities to Prepare Young Children for Learning
- Stimulation is the magic ingredient in learning. When learning is an adventure then adventures are teaching.
- Set them up to discover something. For example, teach them the shape of leaves for different trees then take them to a forest or park to find them.
- Let them grow things. It has been shown that kids who grow their own vegetables will eat them. It also teaches responsibility and patience.
· Another common yet important activity is playing with blocks or Legos--toys that are creative, that challenge solutions to be found, are three-dimensional, yet fun. You can also teach them counting, colors and letters in a fun way.
- Kids love imaginary play with their dads. Give into it occasionally and ask them questions about their imaginary friends to get them to think and imagine even more.
- Challenge them with options/choices. Would they rather ride an elephant or a train? What is a better present for Mom--their painting of her, or a making her breakfast? Always get them to think and make decisions.
- Traveling teaches kids in a way schools can't. Take them on a train trip. Go camping and hiking. Take them to a farm or to the city. Let them see other cultures and other terrains when possible.
- Teach them about monkeys or tigers, then take them to the zoo to see them instead of just wandering through without a purpose.
- Occasionally, let your children help you around the house, even though it will slow you down. Explain what you’re doing and why, even though they may not understand.
- When comets are forecast on a clear night, take your child on the roof (if safe) or on a high hill and watch for them. Go deep into the country on a moonless night and look at the Milky Way. Point out different stars and constellations.
Socially, your children need to know how to play, share and cooperate with other children. Ask their friends along occasionally and observe their interactions. Social experience is important so they are not afraid of school or people. Friends are important for them both to enjoy, and to learn to deal with them. Get your kids involved in group activities that can be found in parks, libraries, and in the neighborhood.
Your children should know that the world is limitless in its beauty and variety. They should feel confident in themselves having been challenged enough to work, but within their capability. They should be outside as much as possible experiencing, not just watching, looking for four leaf clovers more often than watching Nick Jr. on television. Television should be a side dish, not the main course.
Children who have parents that read to then, notice them, listen to their questions, take them on small adventures and wallow in creeks, who take them on hayrides, look at clouds, and make snowmen together--these are the children who are stimulated with a love of learning. They are also learning they are loved They have an interest in many things. They are learning to love wonder and wander. What a beautiful way to start a life!
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.