They are tempting: coloring books, alphabet posters, shape sorters, workbooks. In all honesty, they are nearly useless when it comes to genuine learning. Children learn to talk and read, what numbers are about, and how to create ideas through real life. They watch, listen and, more important, touch, smell and taste things. Art is the ideal medium through which to learn about words and numbers.

Surround yourselves with beauty
Children who grow up living with beauty — simple things such as silky trim on their blanket, family artifacts — soon learn to recognize art elements such as line and texture if we point them out. Talk with children about the everyday beauty that’s all around, from designs on their plates to the rhythm they create when they bang a spoon on a pan. The habit of seeing and creating beauty starts very early.

Look for the artistic
Every day, watch changes in nature: ice patterns, pussy willows and cloud formations. Take children to art museums as well as to see puppet shows, young people’s concerts, or other cultural events. Encourage children to keep visual journals. As children write and draw (you can write words that toddlers say), they’re learning how what they see and do can be communicated through letters, sounds, words and shapes. This is true learning because it is in the context of their own lives rather than some stranger’s concept.

Imagine and create
Instead of using contrived shape sorters, let your child experiment with real shapes and sizes. Toddlers love to play with plastic containers. Ask “thinking” questions: “What will fit inside here? Which ones are the same shape? What different colors do you see?” When you encourage observation and problem-solving, you convey ideas about art, language and math.

Whether they’re drawing on plain paper, cutting or tearing out shapes, making a floor map of the neighborhood, or creating a collage with ribbon, children up through high-school age learn the most during the course of everyday experiences.

Sorry, comments are closed.