Integrating Learning into Everyday Routines
Children are always learning! Whether it is a trip to the grocery store or eating a meal, everyday routines can be prime learning opportunities. This blog series aims to highlight these moments and describe some simple steps to enhance your child’s learning and development.
This week we are focusing on getting dressed! Making decisions about your wardrobe was tricky enough when it was just you, but now that you are responsible for someone else (or even several someones), it can be downright exhausting. We don’t want to make it more difficult, but we hope by seeing the learning possibilities you will recognize how you can, with little effort, be your child’s first teacher!
Give Yourself 10 Extra Minutes
Allowing extra time isn’t exactly a developmental milestone, however it can really make a difference. It will help relieve some of the pressure you feel in the mornings as you rush to get out the door. Children not only feed off your energy, but they also model your behavior. So by taking extra time in the morning, you are setting a good example of how to manage their time. In reality though, that ten extra minutes can be hard. On those days when you are running late, remember to take a deep breath and remain as calm as you can – a smoother morning will lead to a better day.
This skill will look different depending on the age of your child, but children are pinching, grabbing, pulling, and pushing while they are getting dressed. Exercising these small muscles in their hands is an essential pre-writing skill. It enables them to develop the strength they will need to hold a writing implement properly. These small motor movements come naturally while they are getting dressed. Pulling a zipper, pinching their fingers to pull up socks and pushing buttons through their hole are a just few examples of this skill at work! While these are very difficult skills that take time to perfect be sure to allow them the time to try it themselves. For example, when learning to zip, make sure you model slowly so children can see what you’re actually doing, assist in starting the zipper and then allow the child to pull it the rest of the way up. You know how to zip a coat, give them a chance to give it a go!
Hopefully getting your child dressed in the morning involves less gross motor activity (running, jumping, climbing, etc.) than other parts of their day, but it will probably still include some more controlled big muscle exercise. A younger child will probably be sitting as you assist them with their dressing. In this situation, they are using their core muscles to sit up and maintain balance as you pull on their clothes. For an older child they may be balancing on one foot as they put on their pants or push on their shoes.
Math for a young child doesn’t look the same as it does for school age children. Math is about categorizing, sorting, counting, measuring (short, long, longest), and weighing (light, heavy, heaviest). Getting dressed actually involves a lot of math. For example, as your child puts on gloves, they are doing simple addition by deciding that each hand needs a glove, so they will need two gloves. The same is true with socks and shoes! You can also emphasize these math skills by counting as they push buttons through the holes and put their fingers in their gloves. They are also sorting and categorizing as they match their shoes, socks, and gloves!
Cause and Effect/Consequences
The idea of consequences can be quite abstract for a young child. Giving them concrete examples of “if this…than this” is an important part of their development. These opportunities come very naturally as they are getting dressed. A child may protest putting on a particular item of clothing. I encourage you to allow your child to feel those consequences (within limits) of their choices as they get dressed in the morning. For example, if a child does not want to wear shoes on a cold wet day, allow them to step outside the house and experience how it feels without them. It allows them to make their own independent decision and to discover the consequence of their behavior.
Learning is a natural part of everyday activities! Be sure to check back in two weeks for our next installation. We will be exploring more ways parents can use getting dressed as a way to help your child learn.