Saturday, 16 April 2011

Parents - the most important teachers

The last few days I've been thinking about how important parents are in the learning and development of their children.  It doesn't matter how old the child is, parents are the original, most consistent and most enduring teacher their child will ever have.  Research shows that the single most important factor in a child's success at school is how involved their parents are in their education.  I find this an amazing thought.  The best way to improve your child's chances of success in education is to get involved!!!
Many children are registered in some kind of childcare setting from a very young age.  It could be with a childminder or day nursery.  Both my children started nursery at about 12 months.  The Early Years Foundation Stage is used in all Ofsted Registered 0-5s provision.  This is a 'curriculum' for under 5s.  The staff who care for young children record their progress using this framework which outlines milestones in children's learning and development.
Parents are the people who know their children the best.  Until your child enters day care or school everything they learn is from you.  Children learn the most amount in the first 3 years of life.  Think about that.  Parents are the ones teaching their children the most amount, not teachers.
What can parents do to encourage their child's learning and development?  Here are some very simple tips to give you some ideas.

1. Communicate with your child
Before your child can talk you may feel silly doing this.  Don't.  Become a commentator and by this I mean tell your child everything that is happening.  'We're changing your nappy now.  Oh look, we need to take off your trousers.  Here's a clean nappy and the wipes...'  Once your child is older they will begin to use words and gestures to communicate back.  Encourage this by repeating the things they say and responding when they communicate with you.  Sing with your child and use action songs.

2. Listen to your child
Allow your child to talk to you.  Always show an interest when they have something to say.  Stop what you are doing if you can and look at them whilst they talk to you.  Never dismiss their thoughts and opinions but use them as a means of finding out how you can encourage them to learn more.  For example, Boy has recently been very interested in the concept of death.  We found a rabbit which had been run over on the road and he was very interested in this.  We talked about it and also about family members who have died.  As adults we might prefer to shy away from this kind of talk but Boy wanted to know and I felt it was important for him to have the knowledge he wanted.

3. Play with your child
You can play with anything! Even a piece of paper has a thousand possibilities.  Expensive toys are not needed.  Children learn through play and they are experts at it so let them take the lead.  There are lots of ideas for activities and play on this blog and elsewhere.  Try to go go for activities which have the freedom for your child to take it where they want to.  The process is far more important than the end result!  Let your child make mistakes when they are playing - try not to get annoyed and correct them if they seem to be playing in the wrong way.  Children need to test their own theories and ideas.

4. Eat a meal together
This one seems simple but can be really profound.  This is the time when whole families can communicate together.
5. Turn off the TV/Radio/Computer/Mobile
I'm not going to be unrealistic and say you should never allow these things.  They can be a good thing and children can learn a lot through TV and playing computer games but they are no substitute for you!  Try to have some time each day when you switch off the TV and switch on to your child.

6. Read with your child
Books are such wonderful resources.  Join your library with your child and choose some books every few weeks.  Sit close with your child and read to them.  It can be a really lovely close time and something your children will remember forever.  Find out about Bookstart - the charity which gives away free books to babies and toddlers.
There are so many ways you can get involved in your child's development by partnering with their nursery/childminder/school.  Speak to their carers and ask how you can help.  Tell them about the things you have been doing at home and work together with the professionals to get the best for your child.

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