I OFTEN hear parents say that they “don’t have a creative bone in their body”. Parents are creative. As a parent you are often forced into a position where you have to be creative; many parents can tell stories about the ways in which they have had to fashion an origami style outfit out of whatever they had on hand because of an unforseen accident.
Most of us know of someone, or have had the experience of having to “think outside the box” when it comes to creating a picture perfect birthday cake that isn’t quite going to plan. Then there’s the times when we need to create a “big boy” or “big girl” room and the budget means that we have to be very creative. Creativity is about problem solving, thinking laterally, experimenting, taking risks, discovering new ways of doing things and developing new ideas.
Children are instinctively creative – they are curious and this gives them the desire to explore, discover, learn and engage in creative pursuits. As parents and carers we need to nurture children’s creativity as it is essential for their well-rounded development. Providing children with many and varied activities that encourage them to think in creative ways lays an excellent foundation for future success in learning. Engaging children in creative experiences develops transferable skills that lead to children being innovative and flexible thinkers.
The Key to Success in Kindergarten
Children need a broad range of experiences From such eye-openers as museums to fun activities like combing the seashore for shells, broadening your child's world is a smart move.
"The more kids are able to experience by the time they get to kindergarten, the easier it will be for them to learn and build upon what they're learning," says Laurie Marple, a kindergarten teacher in Davenport, IA.
Diverse activities can also help increase vocabulary. "One of the best predictors of a child's later success as a reader is the size of her vocabulary when she begins school," Hyson says. Helping your child explore her corner of the world will provide her with the chance to learn new words associated with visits to zoos, forests, lakes, stores, libraries, and so forth.
What to do: Even young kids can get something out of a trip to an art or science museum, whether it's seeing the difference between watercolor and oil paintings (then wanting to create both at home) or understanding that some animals sleep during the day and play at night. Go fishing or to a sporting event; call the fire department or police station to arrange a tour. Take a trip to the zoo, a local animal shelter, or a farm. Head to a gardening store and talk about plants and seeds, then buy some to grow together at home. Visit a pet store to buy tadpoles, put them in a fish tank, and watch them develop into frogs. "These simple activities aren't things a parent necessarily thinks of as wonderful experiences, but to a five- or six-year-old who's never experienced them before, they're fascinating," says Paquette.
Developing Social Skills
Social skills -- listening, taking turns, sharing, following directions -- are vital. If your child doesn't know how to make friends or borrow things, she won't be able to share classroom materials with her peers. If she can't follow three-part instructions or sit still for the 20 minutes it takes to do a project, she'll lag behind. And any student who's struggling not to speak out of turn will have trouble focusing on the lesson.
What to do: It takes time and practice for a 5- or 6-year-old to learn to pay attention and not poke her neighbor. Kids in group daycare or preschool have some experience with taking turns and cooperating; others can learn through summer camp or art, sports, or music classes.
At home, role-play. "How do you ask to borrow something? What if a kid says no? Being prepared for situations like these will help your child get through the day," says Tracie Paquette, a kindergarten teacher in Satellite Beach, FL.
Teresa Savage, author of The Ready-to-Read, Ready-to-Count Handbook: How to Best Prepare Your Child for School, suggests a game of Lids and Bottles to help a short attention span grow. "Collect peanut butter jars, shampoo bottles, or other containers. Put the lids in one box and the jars in another. Ask your child to match the lid to the correct bottle," she says. To encourage following directions, play Simon Says.
Kindergarten Isn't Just Fun and Games
Good teachers strive to make classes fun, so what your child does in school may seem like play. But the work children do really is important for learning. A picture, for instance, is rarely just a picture, says Paquette. "It's about listening. Did the child draw what he was told to draw? Sometimes we talk about shapes: What shape is a house? Can you draw that?"
Singing songs subtly introduces kids to memorization, rhythm, and tempo, all of which will come in handy for learning reading, math, and science. Something as simple as cutting and pasting can hone fine motor skills, as well as teach such lessons as patience and how to follow instructions.
What to do: Start now by sharing with your child your excitement about all the Big Kid things that he'll be doing. "Eagerness to learn is at least as important as knowing specific facts and skills," says Marilou Hyson, Ph.D., associate executive director for professional development at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In the fall, help him understand the importance of school by being involved yourself. Contact your child's teacher before the first day (many schools will already know who it is) and ask how parents can assist in the classroom.
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