When was the last time you studied or learned something new? When was the last time you developed a new skill? If you have to think too hard about this then you might be making a mistake that will affect your kids for years to come. That’s right—if you’re not learning in front of your kids, you may be putting them at a disadvantage. They need to see us stretch and struggle and succeed and even fail (and then rebound of course). I know this may make those who aren’t “into” learning a bit sick at the stomach but if we want to do right by our kids they need to see us learn.
Many of our parents didn’t study and learn because they didn’t have to study and learn as adults. They could work, and live, and go about life in a different manner than we do because the world was significantly slower in the 80s, 90s, and even earlier in the 21st century. But, we can’t afford to raise our kids in the same manner we were raised. They need us to set an example, and engage them, and teach them that learning is fun and valuable and in this day and age, relatively constant.
If you feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the thought of engaging your child in this manner here are some tips to get you started. Pay particular attention to the suggestions with the asterisk(*). These suggestions feel so natural and fun that you and your kids may not feel like it’s a learning activity at all.
Tips For Engaging & Learning With Your Child
1. Use his/her favorite movies to introduce a new way of interacting/engaging.*
If your kids are anything like my boys and my grandson they watch the same movies over and over and over and… We literally have the favorites memorized by the time they move on to their next stage.
Once your kids enter school their movies are a great way to teach them to answer questions. The questions you ask might focus on their comprehension of the story being told. Or you can challenge them creatively and ask them to compose alternative plots and endings. Once you get started it gets easier as they join in and sometimes take over leading the conversations.
2. The morning commute is a great time to chat and talk about the social side of school.*
Too many of us have relinquished our valuable commute time to Radio Disney. Now, I have nothing against Radio Disney; but the time I spend in the car with my kids/grandkids is far too valuable for me to allow it to be filled with Disney’s version of Kidz Bop. Instead, I use that time to hang out with my boys and find out what they’re up to, what might be troubling them, and oftentimes what they are just plain thinking about.
School is not just academic. It’s also social and emotional. For some reason, my boys are often in a mood to share things I’d never get out of them if we weren’t in the car. They share openly and freely in a manner that blows my mind but seems very natural to them. I have actually had moments when I was scared they would realize how freely they are sharing and stop mid-sentence. But they never have–they just talk and share and go places emotionally they don’t otherwise go. I’m not giving this platinum-covered quality time away to anyone without a fight.
3. If you’re a fun-loving, silly family, (or even if you’re not) make up a goofy game.*
Games work! They facilitate engagement naturally because multi-player games are naturally interactive. (That sentence sounded better in my head–but I’m going to leave it be 🙂
When my youngest son needed to learn his multiplication facts we quickly ran into the same boredom, grumpiness, and tears that many parents encounter. BUT, my husband and I know that without those facts stored securely in his mind moving forward in math is problematic. So, Mr. Math (my husband) combined basketball and math facts into a game he and my son started playing each night in our entryway. I never thought we would get to the point at which our son would regularly request “playing” math facts. Don’t tell him I shared this, but over the summer I heard him ask his dad to play math facts, and he just entered 7th grade!! He’s known his math facts for years now. But he still loves playing that game with his dad.
4. Buy two copies of a book they want to read and read it with them (like a mini book club).
This might seem like a cheesy thing to do. But the bottom line is that our kids need for us to come to their level and walk the learning path with them. When my son is learning about Mesopotamia my husband and I dive in and learn with him. We put him in situations in which he teaches and leads us. Allowing him to teach us reinforces what he’s learning, puts him in the control seat, and let’s him see us vulnerable as learners.
I hope you find at least one of these suggestions interesting. But, if you don’t come up with your own ideas based on what your family dynamic and what your child enjoys doing. I guarantee that simply finding ways to engage (in any manner) will pay off and lead to more engaging opportunities. Experiment, have fun, and let your child see you learn. -cd