Sport – Swimming
I’ve also written about the importance of movement in learning and I think we all know the health benefits of physical activity so I guess it is a given that it would be ideal for a child to do a sport. Why swimming? Well, it could be any sport or any physical activity, but this list of activities is supposed to be the activities that give you the most bang for your time. We’re busy parents living in a hectic world so we have to choose activities with high returns. I picked swimming because it also teaches a child water safety skills which can save your child’s life – if you go to the beach, if you’re playing in a swimming pool, or if you’re on a boat or anywhere where there is a body of water waiting for an unwary child.
Swimming is also a sport that any parent can teach their child. There are plenty of books, like Douglas Doman’s “How to Teach Your Baby to Swim” which you can consult for ideas on how to get started. You can start swimming lessons in the bath tub or a blow-up pool in the garden for a minimal investment. If you’re not confident, you can always arrange lessons, or you can move on to professional lessons when you feel it has gotten beyond your capabilities.
If you start your baby young enough, you can also capitalise on the swim and dive reflex that all babies are born with before they lose it.
Right Brain Education
I would begin this as early as possible doing appropriate home practice activities with a young child. I would not begin formal classes so early because very young children have irregular schedules and it is difficult to follow a class schedule. I feel that formal right brain classes are more beneficial for a slightly older child. What age is best? I think that really depends on the individual child but I do feel that classes at some stage would be more beneficial than home practice alone. If classes are not an option, then I would invest in right brain education materials, or make my own and continue practicing at home.
Flashcards are a part of right brain education, but I’ve grouped it together with reading (as in the read aloud program) because I feel that flashcards for teaching children how to read is really another format for reading out aloud – same idea different medium.
Here’s why I think they are the same:
The books for babies and young children are usually made with thick, cardboard pages (a.k.a. board books) to make it easier for handling and to make it “tear-proof” and “crumple-proof”. Many early books introduce first words to children like animals, colours, shapes, numbers, and so on. These books usually contain a single picture with one or two words. Sometimes they just contain pictures and parents “reading” these books to their children will very likely tell them what the pictures are, e.g. “This is a ball. And here is a cat.” If you think about how these books are read, they really aren’t very different to how flashcards are presented. In many ways, they are just flashcards that have been bound into a book.
The whole idea of reading to children is to foster a interest in books and reading. If you want to inculcate a good habit in a young child, you should try to make it fun. Using a combination of flashcards and books helps to keep the activity fresh. Doman also encourages parents to make personalised books about their own children which I think is an excellent way to get a child interested in reading. After all, what could be more fun than to read a book about yourself?
While making your own books and flashcards is great way to personalise the words to your child’s interests and to keep the costs down, it is a very time consuming activity. In a day and age where we don’t have enough time to spend with our children, it really helps to have ready made materials that are ready to go. You may have noticed the diminishing frequency at which I have been adding new flashcards to the Figur8 resource pages – that’s because the need for sleep has been catching up on me.
In retrospect, I would have purchased Little Reader from BrillKids from the outset and saved myself all the time and hassle of making my own flashcards. If you have been thinking about investing in Little Reader and Little Math by BrillKids, now is the best time to go for it because they are having Christmas specials over at BrillKids.
And there you have it – the top five activities I would do (and am doing) with my children…
What activities do you think are beneficial for early childhood development?