Babies are born for learning, and their brains develop through experiences. Our children need a stimulating environment with plenty of different ways to play and learn. They also need opportunities to repeat and practice what they’re learning. Children are innate explorers. They create a vast storehouse of knowledge through their curiosity and discovery long before they start school. Babies and young children best learn about their world chiefly by healthy, warm, engaged and responsive relationships with their primary caregivers.
As parents, we play a vital role in helping our children learn through their early years. We are our children’s first teachers, with our homes and playgrounds and backyards being our kids’ first schools. Our children will keep learning from us as they grow older. Parenting can be challenging and it’s impossible to achieve perfection, but there are many big and small ways we can help our children learning and growing in a healthy environment.
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We know how important it is for long-term development that our children learn and grow as much as possible early on. We want them to explore the world around them and always be learning about new things. The best ways for a young child to pick up new ideas is by experiencing things firsthand. By exploring their surroundings, they’ll absorb a lot more information than if we just tell them about it. So how can we encourage our children to explore? You don’t have to become an expert in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (although you can if you want!). There are easy ways to implement knowledge growth through activity. Let’s dig into the details!
Why is physical activity vital for young children? How does it enhance learning?
During the first two years of life, when their brains are growing quickly , kids need lots of physical activity to develop properly, both physically and mentally. Movement is just as crucial for learning for pre-school age children as it is for physical development. They learn to control their bodies, explore their surroundings, and interact with other people and objects through movement. Physical activity also helps children to develop confidence and a positive attitude about themselves and the world around them. When they feel good about themselves, they can concentrate on their education and growing their knowledge of any topic.
Research shows a positive correlation between physical activity and better working memory as kids continue to grow, even among older school aged children aged 8–12 years, Childhood is a critical and sensitive period for cognitive development. Young children learn about their surroundings chiefly by physical activity – by touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, and moving. Their bodies are growing rapidly, and their brains are developing at an amazing rate. All their senses work hard when they are awake to take in information and impressions, which will help them grow in knowledge and understand more about the world around them.
What are the top 8 physical activities that help young children learn through experience?
Young children learn about their world chiefly by experiencing it. While much education takes place through communication in social settings, it’s hard to beat physical activity. Through physical activities such as running, climbing, and jumping, they develop large and small muscles for good health while also understanding spatial relationships, cause and effect, and even social skills as they play with others. With each new experience, they refine their motor skills and expand their understanding of their environment. However, we should always remember that each child is different and so it is important to try different activities as not every kid will love every activity. For example, my son Will loved swimming lessons until they started asking him to put his whole head under water. Then he rebelled and I had to try something new. As parents it’s important that we encourage our kids to try new things, but also know when to shift gears. Here are a few activities that might be exactly what your child needs for this chapter of their life.
Floor-based activities for infants
Babies and very young children learn about their world chiefly by exploring it through their senses. They touch things, shake them, throw them, lick them, and squeeze them. In other words, they use their bodies for learning. That’s why floor-based activities are so important for infants. When they’re sitting or lying on the floor, they can reach out and grab things, roll around, and explore different textures and surfaces. These experiences help them make sense of their surroundings. So don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and play with your little one. It’s good for their development!
For older babies and young toddlers, consider making a busy board like this one to help them safely engage their senses and satisfy their curiosity. If you’re not feeling handy, I get it! You can always purchase boards already made (Melissa and Doug makes a great one), or even these convenient fold-up boards that are perfect for keeping them entertained and building on that natural education while traveling, all without a screen!
Busy boards are a fun way for them to get a literal feel for things before moving on to more structured education in schools, or to get them used to experiential learning for homeschooling and other hands-on knowledge growth.
Free play for toddlers/preschoolers
Kids expand their horizons by playing. When they are given free play time to explore independently, whether they are running around the house, playing with building blocks, reading their favorite robot book, or exploring the natural environment at parks or the playground at school, they are actually learning essential life skills. They discover how to solve problems, cooperate with other children in social situations, grow their language skills with new words, and manage their emotions. Free play also helps children to develop their imaginations and creativity. So, the next time you see your toddler or preschooler playing on their own, know that they are actually doing some very important work. It’s essential for their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Let them play – it’s good for them! And it’s good for you too – if they can do a little solo play time, it can be a wonderful break from the demands of parenting, trust me.
Is your little one shying away from making new friends? Let the book “I Am a Good Friend” help them learn about sharing, respecting, and working together with other kids.
Classic ball games and other sports
Kids learn by observing and imitating the behavior of adults and older children. This is especially true when it comes to playing games. Ball games and other organized sports provide children with opportunities to develop a wide range of skills, from hand-eye coordination to teamwork to a knowledge of the history of the sport. Useful sports like martial arts teach our children about self-discipline. They also teach a child how to follow the rules and accept defeat gracefully. In addition, ball games and organized sports are an excellent way for children to burn off energy and have fun while setting themselves up for a lifetime of good health!
As our kids expand their personal universe one experience at a time, it’s so important for parents to provide a child with a safe environment to play and explore. A swimming pool is a great place for kids to have fun and learn, but it’s also essential for them to have a solid education in how to use the pool safely. Swimming lessons not only teach kids concepts for staying safe in the water but also provide a great opportunity for a child to socialize and interact with other kids their age. In addition, swimming is an excellent way for kids to exercise and promote good health. Schools often do not have swim programs, so check out your local park systems’ continuing education schedule for swimming classes or look into health clubs or private swimming schools.
Dancing to different kinds of music
We all know that kids are famous for imitating their parents, teachers, and other influential adults. When our children see us dancing, they will be more likely to try it themselves. Dancing is an excellent way for us to bond with our children, and it also provides an opportunity for children to explore their creativity. As they experiment with different movements, they will develop a better understanding of their bodies and how they can interact with their environment. In addition, dancing is a great workout for both parents and children, so it can help to promote a healthy lifestyle. You can also help expand their cultural education by trying out some music from different countries or in a different language. So next time you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your child, put on some music and start dancing! It’s okay if you don’t know the words!
Get inspired by adventure-based books or movies
Okay so reading and watching movies aren’t exactly physical. But when I was a kid, my play time was greatly influenced by books I read and movies we watched. Tell me if this sounds familiar: the family watches a martial arts movie, and suddenly everyone is out in the front yard using their kung fu to fight the bad guys. It’s natural for kids to mimic what they read and watch, so make sure it’s something that encourages them to get out and experience life in a physical way. Watch some (clean) action flicks or read chapter books together. Chapter books that inspire activity (and can even teach kids some history and new terms outside of school!) like the Magic Treehouse series are family favorites.
Inspire the hero inside your child with Robot Activated!, the story of a brave robot who saves a train full of teddy bears!
Interactive field trips as a family
When kids get outside, their universe expands. That’s why field trips can be such powerful learning experiences for kids. While they do provide education, field trips don’t have to be just for school. When they visit a new place, kids can see, touch, and smell things they’ve only read about in books. They can also ask questions and get first-hand answers from people who work in the real life setting they’re visiting. Plus, field trips tend to be more fun than classroom lessons, so kids are more likely to pay attention and retain the knowledge they’ve gained. Of course, field trips can be enjoyable for adults, too. When parents go on field trips to places like zoos, petting zoos, hiking trails, touch-a-truck events, etc. with their kids, they can help them make the most of the experience and it involves a lot of quality parent-child interaction.
You can also turn family vacations into education. Whether you are visiting a new city in your state or across the Atlantic to England or Germany, part of your trip can include informal curriculum. Visit museums to learn about history and science, botanical gardens, state parks, and more. Your children will get an interactive education with fun activities and your vacation will be enriching for everyone – no school room or chapter book required. You can even expand their language horizons by learning some worths in a foreign language!
Get them on wheels
Kids’ bodies were made for movement! When they get tired of running, put them on wheels! All kinds of wheeled toys, from tricycles and wagons to scooters and roller skates, provide opportunities for children to explore their world through movement. And since they are also great fun, youth are more likely to stay engaged in learning activities if they can do them after having burned off some energy on wheels. A tricycle or a 3-wheeled scooter can help a child develop balance and coordination, while also giving them the freedom to explore their neighborhood or local park. And as they get older, a bicycle can provide even more independence and a sense of adventure. So if you want your child to discover and expand their natural education, put them on wheels and let them roll! If you want to invest in your own health too – and I hope you do – get yourself some wheels and try to keep up with them!
[H4] Does your toddler or preschool age child struggle with what they can or cannot do? Help them celebrate their milestones and cope with their struggles with the book “I Am Bigger”.
Encourage imaginative play for real life situations
Kids learn a lot by acting out what they see happening around them. This type of play reinforces their social and cultural education in a natural way. They often use dolls, robots, or stuffed animals to represent people in their games. As they play, they experiment with different ways of handling problems and situations. Although this kind of pretend play is just a game, it is actually very important. Through imaginative play, children try out new ideas and roles. They also learn how to express their feelings, work out conflicts with others, and develop a better sense of self. So go ahead and give your child some room to imagine—you’re helping them build a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning.
Encourage them to create their own play restaurants, schools, and stores, take an airplane trip on the sofa, or give them costumes. (I love costumes for play based on people from history, jobs like firefighters or chefs, and even confidence-building superheroes!) This type of play that mimics real life are great ways to teach useful concepts, manners, processes, and even grow their education outside the walls of schools.
There’s no real-life curriculum like real life play. Yes, play based on real life is an excellent opportunity and a natural way to turn this activity into education – you can teach them new terms, some math, or a little bit of history. You can show them how to add up the cost of the meal they made or the price of the books you buy from their bookstore. Oh yes – be sure to take part by visiting the restaurant or buying something from the store yourself!
Experiential Learning: The Key to Helping Kids Grow Up with Confidence
Young children are always learning about their world by experiencing and exploring things, and that’s not limited to what they do at school as students. They observe and learn from everything we do as parents or caregivers. That means we need to take charge and pave the right path for their physical growth, social skills, and general education. Physical activities and sports play a significant role in their cognitive development as well as physical and mental health. A child requires all types of healthy interaction with adults and other kids to develop physically, mentally, and socially.
It’s important that we make time for our young ones during this critical chapter of their development. School related activity is great, but it’s just not enough for solid grounding on its own. Our kids need US – you and me!
One great way to create intentional time with kiddos is through books! Be sure to check out these self-esteem, friendship, and fun boosting books and help those growing brains stay confident and connected. The robot books even include a glossary of terms to help kids expand their language base with new words and concepts while they act out their own versions of the stories.
So stay active, stay engaged, and always be learning. You’ll thank yourself later that you made the effort!