Since I could remember, I always wanted to be a teacher. As a kid, I played school with my cousins (or stuffed animals), and they never got to act as the teacher. That was my role!
Having kids before finishing college changed that goal for me, but I still highly value education. I understand the impact education can have on lives. It makes so much possible – for instance, a child growing up in poverty becoming a wealthy, successful adult in the future. It doesn’t just affect a single person’s life, but all of those in future generations.
With Sawyer’s birthday falling just three weeks after the cut off date for Pre-Kindergarten this year, I knew I had to step in and start home-preschooling. The boy is very curious, always asking questions and wanting to know how things work. I knew I had to foster the wonder and thirst for knowledge in my boy.
Since we have been doing lots of educational activities with Sawyer, I have found that there are ways to interest him in learning something new. It will differ for other kids, of course, but I think some parents, or preschool teachers, may agree that these can work!
1. Follow his lead.
There are some days that Sawyer just wants to be a kid. He wants to play, watch TV, or read. He has no interest in doing any preschool activities, even if they are fun crafts or dances. Those days, we do the bare minimum (calendar, a couple educational songs, and review the letter/number of the week) then he goes about his day.
I keep activities on hand, for the days that he wants to do more. I try to plan the most entertaining projects so he will be more interested as he grows.
2. Tailor activities to his interests.
Along with learning on his schedule, I always select books and activities that will fit in with the things he likes. He loves cars, trains, music, and reading, so we really play up those interests in his home-preschool lessons. I try introducing new concepts or possible hobbies as we go, but the primary focus is on what he already loves. That way, it pulls him to sit down and listen, learn, and enjoy!
3. Educational toys that make learning fun.
Even if we aren’t at the table, having a real homeschooling lesson, Sawyer still benefits from the toys he plays with. Many of them are educational in one way or another. He has a LeapPad with reading and math games, as well as puzzles and board games that teach a number of skills.
When we play, I try to sneak in educational questions or decisions. For example, when he’s playing with cars, I’ll ask him to put 5 in his toy car hauler, or I’ll have him name the colors of the cars.
4. Mix up the educational materials.
It’s more fun if Sawyer is always being exposed to new ways to learn! We do a lot of assignments that are printed for him to color, trace, or draw. Sometimes, the lesson takes us outside, such as when we picked leaves and discussed the fall season. He also has online websites to visit to play games for problem solving, language, and math concepts.
The IKEA Foundation also understands the value of education, and has vowed to help children get the learning opportunities they deserve. Since 2003, the IKEA Soft Toys for Education Campaign has impacted over 11 million children in 46 countries, with over $90 million donated since it began. Many of the children who are curious like Sawyer are getting the chance to learn and gain knowledge they need to make it in the future.
How can you help? Simply by making a purchase! Between November 9, 2014 and January 3, 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children for each soft toy or children’s book sold. My son loves their soft toys, so it’s a win-win for us to buy them!
The donations, which are expected to push the IKEA Foundation to over $100 million in contributions this year, benefit children in a number of ways. Over the years, the money has been used to train teachers, supply learning materials to schools, provide better water and toilet systems, and help rebuild schools in impoverished areas.
How do you get your kids excited about learning?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.