You are your child’s best educator. Providing teachable moments at home.

Alison Featherbe, Alison Featherbe Learning and Development
  • Education is key.

    There can’t be many people who disagree with that statement, but when you’re a new parent, you realise that you need education too. You turn to the internet for advice and reassurance and find inspiration in articles and blogs as it dawns on you that you are your child’s first and foremost educator. If you’re looking online for solutions, ideas, and creativeness so that you, as a parent, can be your child’s best educator, look no further.

    I have over 35 years of knowledge and experience to share with you. I train all those who provide care and education for babies and children aged 0–5. I was awarded ‘Trainer of the Year’ by Nursery World in 2021 and have a successful business providing training, consultancy, and mentoring to the Early Years sector. I am also a mother to three grown-up children, a daughter, and twin boys. Believe me, I know how hard it is to balance your responsibilities as a parent with your work obligations as well as juggling all the other balls.

  • The crucial years

    Studies have shown that the most crucial years of learning take place before a child enters full-time school. Your early years provider is well aware of that but no amount of ‘day care’ can compare to the influence of parents, who teach children every day, from early morning to late into the night. As parents, you’re in a unique position to influence learning in a variety of ways. As a family, you provide your child with more of an impact on their formal education than even the highest quality provider. Without your encouragement, guidance and direction, children will find it really hard to succeed at school.

  • “I can’t teach…”

    You might be thinking, I’ve not had any training to be a teacher, I’m just a parent with no skills as an educator. Well, the good news is, whether you’ve had training or not, you are your child’s first teacher, and you’ll be there for them way beyond school. Just remember we need lifelong learners, children who see themselves as learners and are motivated to know more, do more and be more.

  • Learning through play

    Children really do learn through their play.  ‘Play is the work of the child’ according to Maria Montessori. Our role as parents within your child’s play is fundamental to making learning exciting and impactful. Never has it been so essential to provide children with high-quality interactions in the form of teachable moments.

    A teachable moment is an opportunity to teach something impactful. Teachable moments lead to significant learning. They’ll be the most memorable part of a child’s day. The more teachable moments you provide, the more excited children will become about their learning.

    Research shows that warm, responsive relationships and high-quality interactions between knowledgeable and experienced adults and children are crucial to learning outcomes. Parents are, by definition, the knowledgeable other. They have learnt more, experienced more, and have interactions with their children throughout the day, and these are opportunities for children to learn.

    Every day we plan activities and provide experiences for children to create opportunities for them to become deeply involved in their play and give them time to explore. What we can do as parents is to add to the play by giving them opportunities that provide challenge and risk and help them to find out about themselves and others around them. We can also reinforce positive behaviour, empathise with thoughts and feelings, and give children more time to think and respond.

  • How do I recognise a ‘teachable moment?

    Teachable Moments arise when you least expect them. Recognising them requires good observational skills, knowledge of the child’s learning style and preferences and the ability to tune in to what the child is thinking and intending to do. They can happen as part of your daily routine, during toileting, snack time and getting ready to go out, or during play and exploration with the resources, activities, and experiences you provide. Above all, children need to feel happy, safe, and secure. This is where children are the most receptive to learning a new concept or skill.

  • Using ‘teachable moments’ to enhance play

    To develop communication and language…

    Ask children to tell you what they’re doing and show a genuine interest in their exploration and investigation, but remember, don’t step in too quickly. Mixing two colours together might be easier for you to do, but children need to overcome a challenge and make mistakes to learn. Give them the time and watch as they learn through their play.

    • Talk about an idea for play, expand on a story you read together.
    • Provide a running commentary for everyday tasks such as preparing breakfast or getting ready to go out.
    • Add new and exciting words to children’s play. For example, talk about ‘full’ and ‘empty’ when pouring a drink.
  • To enhance personal, social, and emotional development…

    You could encourage children to see you as a partner in the learning. Being a play partner is an excellent way for children to learn to play and get into ‘flow’.

    • Talk to children about their thoughts, allow them to experience a range of emotions and name their feelings throughout the day. For example, use “you’re telling me that you feel happy, sad or cross” when your child displays a big emotion. In this way, you acknowledge their feelings. Be careful not to see unhelpful emotions as unfavourable. All behaviour tells us something, and it’s up to you as adults to work out what this is!
  • Pay close attention to physical development …

    You can add resources to the play to encourage new skills, such as handling a pen, crayon, or scissors. Use new vocabulary to explain new skills and demonstrate safety.

  • Thoughts. Feelings. Action.

    Children are born to be curious. They’ll have interests and fascinations, such as posting items, pushing cars around, and throwing and lining up toys. All of these are the ‘prerequisites’ for later learning. They can be linked to formal areas of early education and are vital for the curriculum they have in schools, such as literacy and numeracy. If your child is writing on your walls, they are practising being a writer! Help them to continue this fascination by providing an area where they can write.

    Children are constantly exploring the world around them. That’s what they are born to do. Observe them, see if you can work out what they are trying to do and provide the right environment for them to explore. Otherwise, you’ll be telling them that exploration is not positive, and your child will gradually think that learning is not fun, which of course, it is.  Knowing what your child is genuinely interested in and valuing their fascinations will help you create many meaningful teachable moments for your child, and you.

     When adults use teachable moments effectively, children’s outcomes do increase. This means they will know more, do more, get more absorbed in their play, and knowledge will stick. You’ll find that:

    • Children will be able to play increasingly on their own. They will see the adult as an essential part of their learning and not someone who stops the learning process.
    • As a parent, you will better understand how to help your child as they play, learn, and explore at home. You will have richer conversations and a deeper relationship.
    • You will be a good role model for your child. They will see you as a learner, too, a partner in their play. Well-being for you and your child will be higher.

    Remember, you can’t plan for teachable moments, but time spent interacting and playing with your child will be an investment in their future.

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