Dr Josephine Bleach, Director of NCI’s Early Learning Initiative, has some tips for making learning fun and family-friendly!
Weekends are precious, but can fly by all too quickly. Make the most of yours by planning a fun-filled family weekend, creating memories, doing things you enjoy and helping the kids to learn. My top three things for having fun and learning together as a family this weekend are:
Mystery Train Ride
Take a mystery train ride. It does not matter where you go, just pack a lunch and go somewhere. Children love a good mystery and really enjoy train rides, particularly if they can spend the time talking about what they see and hear.
When you get off the train, have a walk around and pick somewhere nice to have a picnic lunch. Talk about the history, geography, architecture, plants, animals and other interesting aspects of the place in which you are visiting. Discuss what is unique about it, how it is similar to and different from other places. Remember that this is adventure and that you do not have to have all the answers. Get your children to explore and let them discover the information for themselves.
Make the most of your trip by reading The Train Ride by June Crebbin or my personal favourite Oi! Get Off My Train by John Burningham, before and after the trip. Take photos of your journey. When you get home, create a lovely memory by writing a story about your train ride. You can illustrate your story with drawings, photos and mementoes of your trip e.g. tickets, receipts etc.
Go on a bear hunt. Take a walk in the local woods or forest park. You and I know that there are no bears, but do your children? Use your imagination and creativity! Have fun pretending to be the bear. When your children are not looking, growl loudly and pretend to be afraid. Linger back, sneak behind the trees and then jump out suddenly. Encourage your children to do the same to you.
While you are in the woods, take a good look at the different trees and plants. How many can your children name? Collect any loose leaves, twigs, stones and cones you find. You can do lots of creative activities with them when you get home. You can encourage your children’s Maths skills by counting, sorting and categorizing these items.
To get in to the bear hunting groove, I suggest reading the following books before the trip: Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats and Olive A. Wadsworth. These books have lots of actions that you can role play on your walk. To create a really scary atmosphere, read Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough You can repeat the words from the story as you creep through the woods.
Support your local library
Your local community library will have all of the books mentioned, so why not pay them a visit? Encouraging children to use the library from a young age can help to nurture a lifelong love of books and reading. Most libraries also run a programme of events and activities for children of all ages.
Lead by example and borrow books for yourself as well as your children. Make sure to take time to discuss your books choices. Why you picked the book? What you are enjoying or not, as the case may be, about the book? Discuss the plot and characters. Add to the fun by role playing them together.
Over the summer, you could also join the Summer Reading Buzz. Research has shown that children who participate in library summer programmes begin the school year with stronger reading skills than those who don't).
Find out more about the Early Learning Initiative at NCI.
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