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Make Learning Fun!

Roshini Sakhrani, Darpan, 15 Mar, 2014
  • Make Learning Fun!
Growing up 20 years ago meant riding on bikes, playing in the backyard, reading a book or maybe even having an imaginary friend. Today, the 21st century family has either a smartphone or a tablet available to their children as a means of entertainment. 
 
Spending more time in front of an iPad increases likelihood of children developing social and emotional vulnerabilities. Studies show that younger kids need to have physical interaction in order to develop strong socio-emotional skills.
 
“Playing with your children is one of the most important childhood activities and often we take away time from playtime because we think other things are more important,” says Dr. Guhn, assistant professor at UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). 
 
Guhn specializes in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and stresses the importance of family bonding and stimulating creative social playtime.
 
HELP collects data annually from kindergarten teachers about their student’s development across the province by a network of faculty researchers from universities across BC. The partnership’s mission is to apply acquired knowledge to help families succeed. 
 
A third of BC kindergarteners are coming to school with vulnerabilities in the emotional and overall well-being scale, but show higher competency in language and cognition. 
 
Literacy skills have been increasing annually because the province has rolled out programs such as StrongStart and Starting with Stories that closely work with families and their children to promote early childhood literacy.  
 
In 2010, the province announced the implementation of full day kindergarten so that teachers could provide more time to students for focused learning and eliminating vulnerabilities. 
 
Reading to kindergarteners doesn’t only stimulate learning and active imagination, but also helps form a relationship with the person that is reading to them. The main reason that children experience emotional immaturity is because of the geographical distribution of families and unequal access to childcare services. Some families may live in poorer parts of the city and may not be financially able to sustain childcare costs. Therefore, parents constantly need to play an encouraging role in their child’s life to achieve necessary milestones in early childhood development.
 
For parents that spend time at home with their children, an excellent way for them to increase their child’s vocabulary at an earlier age is having them participate in conversations with other adults. This helps stimulate their language skills enabling them to pick up new words and phrases.  
 
Moderation is key during childhood, setting a time limit for playing games on iPads or other tablets is essential so that they can focus on developing their motor skills by playing with toys or other children. Technology has an effect of depersonalizing relationships because it restricts children from having human interaction; therefore, portable devices are inefficient with developing fundamental skills.  
 
Guhn explains that children who do not have optimal social and emotional competencies may cause children to display aggression or behavioral disorders later in their lives. Spending time with family in a healthy environment creates an ideal atmosphere for kindergartners to conceptualize relationship-building skills. “As long as you get children to play and read with other children in a safe environment with trained professionals who offer good opportunities, you will definitely see good results,” says Guhn. 
 
Though technology is a great means of teaching and providing entertainment, its uses need to be regulated during early childhood development to avoid negative impacts. The importance of playtime and reading should be emphasized to promote cohesive bonds over the social detachment that comes with certain forms of technology. 
 
Many parents feel that apps are a good means of educating children because of the interactive visuals, however it is more of a sedentary activity and less social. Long-term games that require children to be fixated in one spot cause them to become less physically active when they should be running around.
 
Who remembers what a Rubik’s cube is, or what it means to have a virtual pet Tomagatchi? Virtual pets were a good way of teaching children what it meant to have responsibilities, such as feeding their pet, providing it water and shelter. The average 90’s kid was hands on playing with some toy or another, where most children these days are being gifted an iPad during the festive season.
 
As the world moves forward, it is important to remember to sustain important relationships with children for optimal social and emotional development during early childhood. Nature walks are highly recommended by schools because it has a natural calming effect on children and helps stimulate their imagination. 
 
Balance is important in everyone’s life, it’s important to keep in mind that children need the same. Ultimately there is no substitution for human interaction in a child’s life, and a strong support system makes family learning fun.
 
Tips for Parents
 
A third of BC kindergarteners are coming to school with vulnerabilities in the emotional and overall well-being scale, but show higher competency in language and cognition. 
 
Studies show that younger kids need to have physical interaction in order to develop strong socio-emotional skills. “Playing with your children is one of the most important childhood activities and often we take away time from playtime because we think other things are more important,” says Dr. Guhn, assistant professor at UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). 
 
-Teachers recommend more than an hour of reading to children daily.
 
-Nature walks are highly recommended by schools because it has a natural calming effect on children and helps stimulate their imagination. 
 
-Encourage your children to play and read with other children in a safe environment.
 
-Set a time limit for playing games on iPads or other tablets, and encourage children to develop their motor skills by playing with toys or other children.
 
-For parents that spend time at home with their children, an excellent way for them to increase their child’s vocabulary at an earlier age is having them participate in conversations with other adults. This helps stimulate their language skills enabling them to pick up new words and phrases.  

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