Teachable moments occur every day. They are not large milestones like learning addition or how to read. Rather, they lay the groundwork for deeper learning by connecting to the present. The child remains engaged because what he is learning directly relates to what he is seeing and doing. Teachable moments appear without much notice and little preparation; so, here are some tips to embrace moments of spontaneous learning.
- Children are always watching.
- Caregivers are important role models in the life of a child, the way we act (even subconsciously) sends a message. As children watch, they model their own behaviors after the way their adults act and react. As you experience different situations and emotions, talk with your child about how you reacted and why.
- It’s easy to give answers, but take time to ask questions.
- When a child starts asking questions, resist the urge to answer and instead ask your child what he thinks. As he explains his thinking, ask the child to tell you more about why he thinks that way. By challenging your child to provide reasoning, you are empowering him to believe he is competent and capable in his own learning.
- Try and try again.
- Failure is a part of learning. While it is hard to watch your child struggle, children (and adults, too) learn more from problem solving than from having others solve problems for us. Listen to your child’s concerns and frustrations about what isn’t working, and help him discover alternative solutions rather than giving an answer.
- Slow down and be in the moment.
- While it can be challenging to wait for a child to finish exploring, remember that he may be exploring these concepts for the very first time. If the activity is one that’s been investigated repeatedly, remember that repetition is how children learn and practice skills.
- Use everyday tasks as learning opportunities.
- Everyday tasks can teach children valuable life skills, like cooking or washing dishes. Having your child help with these tasks will also teach about responsibility and working together.
These are just a few ways to take advantage of the teachable moments that happen daily. By giving a child the chance to practice new skills and answer his own questions, we are priming him for future learning. So, don’t be afraid to use moments of spontaneous learning to the fullest!