You hear a lot about the value of innovative thinking—it can be the key to success at school. At Sparkles! Early Learning Academy, we encourage children to problem solve and innovate right from the start. But the learning adventure does not have to stop at school! Here are three ideas to inspire curious and creative kids at home:
- Make Learning Fun: Children learn a tremendous amount when “playing;” chances are, you are doing this without even thinking about it, on a regular basis. Board games, dress up, reenacting scenes from a favorite movie, building blocks; fun and learning go hand-in-hand for young children. Through play, children:
- Observe cause and effect
- Explore possibilities rather than seeing “one right way”
- Turn problems into fun challenges
- Increase attention span and focus
- Practice taking turns and listening
- Encourage Inquiry & Investigation: Asking questions is good, and letting children seek the answers gives confidence and problem-solving skills. Sparkles! uses project-based investigations of topics that are relevant to children’s everyday experiences. Children raise questions about the topic, and, through exploration and discovery, they find answers to their questions. Here is an example of how we might tackle the concept of relative size by letting students explore the world around them. This can easily be done at home, as well. (To tie into your child’s lessons, login to the Brightwheel app for pictures and reports from the day.)
- We ask the children what they know about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and then read the book. The story’s focus on finding the size that is “just right” is a natural lead in to discussions and questions about relative size.
- We place t-shirts of various sizes around the room, and ask the children what difference they see between, and what shapes they see on, the shirts.
- Next, children get to explore the clothes and try them on over their outfits. What do they notice?
- We’ll take away or add clothes and invite them to discover what is different, and draw what they think is missing or added.
- Dressed in the t-shirts, the children are invited to put on a play, recreating the size variations explored in the book.
- Then, we’ll change our exploration of size, putting out measuring tools, such as a yardstick and a ruler, and ask the same questions as before, letting the children discover the answers through playing with the tools.
- Changing tools again, measuring cups come out so the children can make small, medium, and large “biscuits” out of playdough, asking what differences they notice.
- Apply Learning in Many Areas: By applying lessons to multiple areas of exploration and learning, children come to understand that knowledge and skills can be applied in new situations. In the Goldilocks and the Three Bears example above, we explored size through hands on activities (making biscuits), social interaction (putting on a play), observation and manipulation of differences (t-shirt and tool sizes), language arts (reading the book), and art (drawing what size is missing).
At home, you could enjoy a book together that encourages innovation, like “If I Built a Car.” Next up, build a LEGO creation together, which sharpens spatial thinking, a foundation for physics and engineering. If you are working from instructions, have your child read along. Question why a piece might go where it does, and what should come next. Then, bring the lessons to life with a family trip to the National Building Museum in D.C. Strolling to Pitango for gelato afterwards is purely optional, but highly recommended.
By allowing children to play and explore questions, and providing connections between different areas of knowledge, we can encourage children to view challenges as opportunities to innovate and problem solve. Now that we have shared a few ways that Sparkles! encourages innovation, tell us. . . what are your favorite ways to encourage your child’s natural sense of curiosity?