Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everyday Learning: Using the world as your classroom!

written by Wendy Cay Kaufman of for GummyLump Blog

Do you remember the days when a simple caterpillar could hold your attention? When you took the time to pull the petals from a flower, just to see what each one looked like? That eagerness to explore and learn is a natural part of childhood, one that helps uncover each child's unique interests and skills. Even though most kids spend their days in the classroom, that inquisitive nature doesn't go away when the bell rings. Why not harness that energy and keep the lessons going on the weekend? The secret is to keep it fun, and work in everyday learning where your kids least expect it.

Grocery 101 – If there’s one thing that never takes a vacation, it’s grocery shopping. It has to be done, so take advantage of the potential learning within those aisles! From smaller children learning their colors in the produce department to older kids learning how to count money and read food labels, there’s a lesson to be had around every corner in the grocery store. Plus, kids will feel more grown-up (and even more likely to eat healthier foods!) if they’re given specific tasks and feel like they’re a real part of the process.

Backyard Basics – It's always a great time to take a moment and really notice what’s happening right in your own backyard. In the spring and summer, the world is alive with plants, trees, animals, insects and tons of things that grow. As fall and winter set in, the same scenes in nature take on an entirely different look and feel – how fascinating!

  • Send little ones out with nets and collector jars and see what kinds of treasures they find, then help them identify their discoveries online.
  • Or, look the items up first, print them out and create a scavenger hunt sheet, then send them out to hunt!
  • Take a photo of one area of your property or a local spot with lots of foliage. Then, take a new photo in the same spot each week. Create a flipbook of the photos and watch how the scene changes as the weeks go by.
  • For most of the year, you can even work in some healthy eating inspiration by planting a backyard garden. Grow a cucumber in a bottle (start when it's tiny, and tie the bottle in place with twist ties), explore beneficial insects, or research the history of the Three Sisters Garden. Your child will gain a whole new appreciation for veggies!

Keep crafts on hand for rainy days. After all, what kid doesn't love art class? Create your own arts & crafts bin by repurposing items from around the house and the lesson turns into an environmental one as well. Egg cartons, paper towel tubes, bottles, odd pieces of fabric, buttons, etc. all make fantastic craft items for very little cost. If you'd rather have specific craft projects at the ready, sites like Gummylump carry tons of options for creative kids. Grab a ready-to-paint train or maybe a kit to make sun catchers, and keep it in the closet for a rainy day (I can't tell you how many times I've been glad I did!) Or, check out one of the new monthly subscription services that will send pre-designed craft projects right to your door for a monthly fee.

Now, get to class!

Wendy Cray Kaufman is an advertising copywriter, freelance writer, vegetable enthusiast, and the founder of ABCs and Garden Peas, a Central PA-based blog about natural parenting. When she's not writing, Wendy can usually be found chasing her energetic 2-year-old in the family’s garden.

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