Most adults prefer to develop new skills at their own pace through observational learning and some hands on experience. Children are no different! In fact, research has shown that even in very young babies, the mechanisms that come into effect when stressed (anxious, fearful, sad, challenged) are counterproductive to learning. (1)
With that said, learning is innate and almost everywhere you look, you’ll find fun-filled, exciting opportunities to encourage your child’s social, language and cognitive development.
Here are some simple suggestions you might want to try whilst enjoying the beautiful Fall weather!
- Stimulate senses: Collect a handful of fallen dried leaves and let your baby/toddler crunch the leaves in their hands. Let them experience the texture and sounds as the leaves crumble. Try the same with some blades of wet grass, branches or fallen acorns.
- Language: Encourage your child’s language skills by providing them with a description or narrative of the observations. An examples would go something like this……”Those red and brown leaves over there look very crispy. Shall we pick some up to see how they feel?”…”Did you hear the leaves crackling as you crushed them between your hands?”
- Language/Social skills: Encourage toddlers to use their own words to describe their environment. Prompt them by asking some thought provoking questions like “What does the dry red/brown leaf feel like? Is it smooth? It is rough? How about the green leaf on the tree; does that feel the same as the red/brown one?” “What colours can you see? Can you go find me a yellow leaf?”
- More often than not, your toddler will be thrilled to see you listening so intently and may even treat you to a fascinating story or two. Conversations with your toddler not only help strengthen language skills but the basic concepts of following simple instructions, turn-taking and listening are also re-enforced.
- Cognitive development: Older children and toddlers alike may enjoy looking for an array of colours of leaves. Why not collect as many different coloured leaves as you can find to take home?
- Work with your child to arrange the leaves by colour from green to brown then stick each leaf on a sheet of paper or into a photo album. This can be a great starting point to explore the changing of the seasons and may inspire your little ones to take more notice of their surroundings leading into winter.
- Ask older children to look closely at the shapes of the leaves, what plant or tree they could have originated from, examine the veins on the leaf to work out the purpose of these veins etc. The list goes on and on…
From pumpkin and apple picking, harvest festivals, trail hikes and more, the possibilities to have a great day out whilst providing your children with ample exposure to a variety of learning experience is endless!
Reference: 1) L. L. Porter, “The Science of Attachment” Mothering, Jul/Aug 2003.p60-70