Learning can happen anywhere and anytime.
This can’t be anymore truer for children! From the age of 1 to 5 years old, a child’s brain undergoes a rapid period of development producing 700 new neural connections every second. By the age of 5, 90% of a child’s brain is already developed, which means the progression from birth to 5 years old is a critical part of their lives.
With their brains developing at such a fast and exponential pace, learning can truly happen anywhere and anytime. Here’s a really great article to help you understand a child’s brain development from age 1 to 5 - click here.
In this article, I share 17 tips on how to incorporate learning into everyday life! Yes, you do not always need expensive toys, or lots of time and effort to prep activities 😉. Find out how below!
Incorporating Early Literacy into Everyday Life
#1 Read, read and read!
What better way to learn language than to read to your child?
Incorporate reading into your bedtime routines or even mealtimes! Travis’ daily bedtime routine involves reading 5 books every night, and he gets to choose which books he wants. Sometimes, we even read a book to him during meal time, if he’s restless. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading the same books every night. In fact, research shows that reading the same book repetitively makes the child smarter! Here’s an article on its benefits - click here.
#2 Label everyday objects around the house.
Label the items around the house - television, refrigerator, cabinet, door etc. As the child walks around the house and constantly sees these labeled words, it helps them to associate the word to the item. Even if he can only remember the starting letter “Mummy, T is the television!”, it’s good enough and a great starting point to introduce words!
I also find labelling helpful in driving consistency in his vocabulary learning journey. For example, labelling the refrigerator “refrigerator” will enable other caregivers in the house to use the same word with the child as well, instead of confusing him by calling it refrigerator at times, and fridge at other times.
You can also color code the labels if you want to bring it one step further! Red for electronics, blue for household items etc.
#3 Introduce music and songs.
Learning language through songs is one of the best and most effective ways. Think about your schooling days, have you ever made up a song to help you memorise concepts which you otherwise find hard to remember? And do you realize that after listening to the same song for >3 times, you somehow could remember most of the lyrics in that song?
It has been proven that music empowers muscle memory, so why not introduce more songs to your child to help improve their language ability!
#4 Talk to your child normally.
Yes, that’s right. You do not have to use over-simplified language or extremely short sentences with your child. Just, talk to them normally! Like how you would with another family member or friend.
In our household, we do not do baby talk. We talk to our kids normally, even when they were newborns. Remember, listening is a huge part of how children learn language too!
#5 Ask about their day or experiences.
I started asking Travis about his day since he was 1 year old.
When he was 1, his way of answering me was to smile and coo at me. That was good enough for me then, it was his way of responding! When he started going to school at 1.5 years old, he sometimes answers with one word “toy”, or “bread”. Then it advanced to 2 words “play toy”, “eat bread”. And when he was 2+ years old, his responses were short sentences “I play toys”, “I eat bread”.
Now that he’s 3+ years old, his responses are longer sentences with descriptive words and more details “I play LEGO with my friends today, and we build a tall tower!”, “I ate a green and brown bread today, it’s not very nice, I think it’s kaya.”
Asking them about their day or experiences which they are excited about (for eg, “You went to the zoo with Grandma today, how was it?!”) will encourage them to use their words, and practice their language.
Incorporating Maths into Everyday Life
#6 Count, count and count!
You can literally do counting anywhere and at any time!
Climb the stairs, and count the steps with him. Going to the bakery? Count the number of bread on display with him. At a playground? Count the number of children he sees with him. At a carpark? Count the number of cars with him.
Incorporating counting into everyday life also helps in developing one to one correspondence instead of just rote counting.
#7 Go shopping
What better way to learn maths than to teach the concept of money while shopping?! If you’re buying that pack of cookies or that toy for him, give him money to pay and collect the change at the cashier. Because Travis is still quite young, we are focusing more on number recognition for the notes and coins.
“Look at this note, what number do you see on it?”
“I see 5!”
“Yes, that’s $5!”
If your child is older, you can definitely introduce the concept of money to him while shopping.
#8 Cook or bake with them!
Getting your child involved in cooking and baking is not just a good way to bond with them, but it’s also a great way to introduce measurement units, concept of measuring as well as concept of fractions!
We bake a lot with Travis at home, and get him involved in measuring out the ingredients. “Put 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 cup of flour.” Stirring, mixing, pouring and transferring are also some common actions involved in baking which help in fine motor skills.
#9 Play board games together.
We usually take out our board games on days when he’s not feeling well and confined at home. He’s 3+ years old, so the board games we play with him are really simple ones - such as Snakes & Ladders, or a self-modified version of Monopoly.
How do board games help in early numeracy? Roll the dice, and get your child to count the number of dots on the dice. Then move his marker with him while counting with him. I find Snakes & Ladders a really great first board game to introduce to younger kids!
Introducing Everyday Concepts
#10 Talk about time periods in your day-to-day lives.
What do I mean by time periods? Introduce morning, afternoon, evening and night in your daily conversations with your child when you talk to him about his schedule.
“You are going to be in school in the morning and afternoon, and mummy will be fetching you in the evening.”
“Look at the sky, it’s dark, it’s night time now so we will get ready for bed.”
This helps the child to associate certain periods in his schedule to the time of the day. It also helps them to understand how a 24-hour day is being broken down.
At a young age, kids cannot grasp the concept of time. This means they have no idea how short or long 5 mins feel, or how short 15 mins is relative to an hour. By providing simple count-down for them during their activities, it can provide them a sense of how 5 mins feel. For example, if they have an hour of playtime, let them know when they have 30 mins left, and then 15 mins, and 5 mins and 1 min. This not only provides them a feel of how short or long 5 mins is, it also gets them mentally and emotionally prepared to move onto the next activity.
#11 Go on nature walks!
Going on nature walks is the best way to learn! Point out that butterfly to them and tell them how the butterfly is formed from a caterpillar. Point out those flowers and describe to them the life cycle of a flower. Ask them questions!
“Why do you think the leaves are swaying?”
”Which tree is tallest here?”
”Can you find the brown leaves on the ground? Why are they brown?”
”See those holes in the leaves? What do you think cause them?”
“Let’s find some insects! What can you see?”
There are just so many things you can learn by being out in nature, and not to mention, it’s always great for children to be exposed to the outdoors as much as they can!
#12 Have weather talks!
You can teach so many different concepts just by talking about the weather with your child!
It gets him to observe what’s going on in his environment - does it feel hot, is it windy, are the skies blue or grey today? Associate the weather conditions back to how he’s feeling - Are you sweating? Do you feel chills? Or carry out further associations to what he’s wearing - Do you think you need a raincoat today? Would you prefer wearing a sleeveless tee?
If you live in a country with 4 seasons, there would be so much more you can teach about Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter!
#13 Be conscious of your surroundings.
Children are curious by nature, so make full use of this curiosity to point out things in their surroundings to them.
“Look at that traffic light, can you see colours in it?”
“See that red object on the floor? That’s the fire hydrant which firefighters use.”
Use the surroundings to point out different colours and shapes. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much they can remember through all these random fun facts you are giving to them everyday!
#14 Play the car game!
This is one of our favorites! Whenever we are in the car, we play the “car game”!
”Who can spot a red car first?”
”Who can find the biggest lorry?”
”Who can find 3 black cars first?”
Travis absolutely loves it! It helps to pass time especially if the journey is longer than usual, and it introduces colours and different kinds of vehicles to him as well.
#15 Introduce food during mealtimes.
Introduce the different kinds of food he’s eating during his mealtime. Talk about the colours and tastes of the food. Ask him about his likes and dislikes. This is also a type of sensory activity. Sensory activities involve the 5 senses, and in the usual sensory play, it’s tough to incorporate taste and smell into it. So mealtimes are great opportunities to talk about tastes and smells!
You can also expand on this, by explaining how that particular food comes about.
#16 Get them involved in household chores.
This is not only in line with Montessori principles, it also gets your child to help out with household chores. Getting him involved in chores will be a great way to introduce some of the household appliances to him.
Travis once asked me how the washing machine works when he was helping with the laundry. He also asked about the oven during one of our baking sessions!
#17 Lastly, always take time to explain.
Take time to explain to your child whenever he has questions. Children have an innate thirst for knowledge - have you realized how many ‘why’s your child can ask you in a day?! 😂 Satisfy that urge to learn by taking time to explain to them.
If you brush them aside all the time, the questions will eventually stop coming and the learning will come to a halt.
I hope these tips help! You don’t always need paper and pen, or elaborate activities to teach and learn.
Sometimes, the best kind of learning happens outside of the classroom!