Learning and Development are Everywhere
July 20, 2020
*This aticle was originally published in the June 2020 edition of Calavera Hills Living Magazine*
Schools are out, and not just because it is approaching the summer months. With these changes in our routines, learning is looking a bit different, and education in general is posing to be a challenge remotely with parents taking the hardest hits. Let’s be honest, home schooling is not something many parents signed up for suddenly. The current temporary transition to virtual education may have you questioning how much your child is actually learning. Take a deep breath! You’re doing great!
As an occupational therapist, the majority of my career has focused around children and development, whether it’s in schools or outpatient clinics, and I quickly learned that most learning, when it comes to kids, is rooted in play and basic tasks; kids are just beginning to gain independence with these daily living skills and activities!
Before I get into some activities that help with development and learning skills, let’s start with one of the most important things to have your kid do every morning…make your bed!
For a task that outwardly appears simple, there is a lot going on with the activity: processing to line up the sheets and blankets at the top, arm strength to hold, and coordination to pull while maintaining balance and stability for body movements. This breakdown in skills needed is considered activity analysis!
Many other daily tasks involve a great deal of educational value and skills for the development of your child that we often do not realize or even think too much about:
- Cooking and baking
Direction following and math, with measuring, are just a few educational skills involved in making a meal. Add some stirring in there for a great upper body control task. Plus, everything is always better when you have a tangible reward for your efforts, like cookies!
- Meal planning
If we take cooking a step further, kids can start sequencing and planning what goes into the meals they love to eat by helping make a dinner; not only listing all parts of the meals (with main dishes and sides) but understanding the ingredients needed to make these foods. Food doesn’t magically appear on the kitchen table, and now they can help plan how that happens.
- Playing with LEGOs or building toys
Any kinds of construction and building toy work on a range of coordination and visual skills, all while being creative.
- Playing board games, card games, or making puzzles
Games require a great deal of problem-solving and focus. Of course, it depends on the game you are playing, but most require lots of specific hand skills, such as dealing cards or rolling dice. Games and puzzles are also great for social skills and family connections.
This one may be an obvious one but depending on the reading your child is doing for school, now is a great opportunity to show the fun that reading can bring in transporting them to different worlds. If you are reading to your child to get them more into books, using fun voices, added imagery, and more explanations on the concepts of the book can help them to connect more to the stories.
- Taking a walk
Not only does walking promote exercise, but it allows your child to explore nature and use their sense to understand the world with various sights you may encounter. When doing a walk around your block, use a scavenger hunt list or simply play iSpy to bring awareness to the surroundings.
- Housework and cleaning, such as cleaning windows, wiping counters, and laundry
Sometimes chores get a bad name, but these life skills help your child appreciate what it takes to maintain a home while incorporating some great full body exercises, like strengthening fingers using a spray bottle or strengthening arms with wiping windows and countertops. Laundry is excellent for sorting and heavy lifting.
Getting more connected with nature, you engage your senses and can literally watch the flowers grow from seeds and understand how they grow by planting and watering.
- Writing a letter or email
Beginning writing is challenging, so make it purposeful by helping your kids write letters to family members. Connect with social skills and for handwritten ones, you can even add some drawings or stickers for added finger skills!
Learning is everywhere, not just in the classroom (or through a computer screen). So many basic tasks can promote development and learning so that your child continues to grow and thrive. For more activity suggestions to continue to build skills while home, check out my monthly calendars!
Alli Carbone, MS, OTR/L, CCYT, is a pediatric occupational therapist that specializes in using yoga for sensory processing skills and education for the whole family.