By RUTH LIEW
Simple activities can offer a wealth of learning experiences.
I HAVE a four-year-old daughter who is very active and loves singing. I work from home and am quite flexible with my schedule. In the last two or three months, I realised that she has become more mature and is ready to start going to more structured learning programmes.
What kind of activities would you recommend for my daughter and what type of time-table would be realistic for her?
Like all enthusiastic and ambitious parents, I am planning to send her to music, drama, art and dancing classes. She already knows her alphabet and is attending a reading class. – Stay-at-Home Mum
Four-year-olds enjoy a wide range of activities. They are enthusiastic and eager to learn. Many parents have good intentions when they enrol their children in numerous classes because they want them to have a happy childhood.
Before loading children with structured activities and classes, we must note their interest and desire to learn. The child’s age is not as important as her desire to learn. Some children love music, but they may only want to appreciate music by listening to it and moving to the rhythm. They enjoy singing along with the family. This does not mean that they are ready for formal lessons in music.
You have to observe her readiness for musical training before signing her up for classes. Meanwhile, set aside some time every day for a mother-daughter singing session. You can progress from easy songs to a simple programme. Since your child is enrolled in a reading class, you may want to have more read-aloud and storytelling sessions at home to develop her language skills. Experts tell us that language lays the foundation for good reading habits. What your child needs is a strong foundation in vocabulary building, storytelling and phonological awareness.
Use picture books that tell stories and listen attentively as your daughter spins her tale using her own words. To make it fun, you too can have a turn. You can collaborate with your child to expand on her stories. Children are natural storytellers when they have an interested audience.
Allow your child to have more hands-on and experiential learning rather than signing her up for ambitious early enrichment programmes. Simple cooking activities, gardening and woodworking are multi-sensory experiences which will stimulate the child’s mind. Even a walk in the park can help her learn more about nature.
Young children have an amazing capacity for learning. You need to strike a balance for your child to benefit from her learning experiences. If you wish to sign her up for classes, look out for the ones that are child-centred rather than adult-controlled.
Learning in the early years is more about relationship than what the child is learning. Focus on how you play with your child. Children are interested in the process rather than the product. Marvel at your child’s efforts even when the results may not turn out as expected.
IS it wrong to cane or punish a child by hitting his hands or buttocks? What if he hits you (the parent/grandparent)? Would it be all right to hit him back? It doesn’t help that the grandparents endorse the “no spanking” rule.
My husband and I have differing opinions on how to raise children. He wants no spanking and no scolding, only love and attention. As for me, I want to instill discipline whenever it is warranted. – Upset Mother
Discipline is about guiding your child on what is right and wrong. Most child experts do not encourage parents to use physical force such as spanking on young children. Spanking is a negative form of discipline that will only send negative messages to children.
There are many positive alternatives you can try. Tell your child that hitting hurts and that you do not allow him to hit others. You can remove him from the situation and later have him make right what he has done wrong. This way, your child will learn what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.
Another way is to anticipate actions that may lead to a dangerous situation. Distract your child’s attention and direct him to a safer activity. This is better than hitting him to make him aware of the danger.
Hitting your child when he hits you will teach him the principle of “an eye for an eye.” I believe this is a lesson on being vengeful and not on love and forgiveness.
A child who has experienced violence in the form of physical punishment will put his negative feelings into his play. You can make a difference by setting a positive experience for your child.