When I follow my daughter’s lead, it seems there are endless teachable moments that pop up all around us. As a mom and speech pathologist, I love looking for spontaneous and fun opportunities to teach concepts in the context of what kids love to do. Play builds so many skills and it provides a fun way to interact with your children and support their developing understanding of the world around them. It can also be fascinating to let them run wild (safely of course) and watch them in free play as they develop creativity and problem solving skills by trying out different ways of doing things.
My daughter and I were at the park the other day and she saw a big bridge. She wanted to cross the bridge, so I followed and watched her explore it. When she wanted to cross it again, she pointed out that her shadow was crossing the bridge too. I thought it would be fun to illustrate the tiny teachable moments we found.
Here are some fun concepts we talked about while crossing the bridge:
- Prepositions: First we were on the bridge and then we went across/over the bridge. I asked her “where are we?” and she said, “on the bridge.” Learning prepositions can help children understand the concept of location, which helps them follow spatial directions (e.g. put your shoes on, put the crayons in the box).
- Shadows: When my daughter pointed to this dark, body-shaped thing on the ground that seemed to follow her around, I asked her, “what is that?” I paused to see if she’d respond and then told her, “it’s a shadow!” She was so excited about the new word she learned to label this cool phenomenon! For older kids, it might be fun to talk about the science behind a shadow.
- Senses: Talking about what the senses are perceiving is a great way to build language in any moment. We talked about what we saw (the bridge, shadows, colors, etc.) and heard (birds chirping) as we crossed the bridge.
- Action words: I love talking about action words because it often means we are doing something fun! In this case we were walking, talking, and then later my little one decided to skip across the bridge.
- Vocab words: bridge, shadow, park, on, across, over, bird, chirp, see, hear, walk, talk, skip
- Other ideas for learning fun: Pretend the bridge is a pirate ship, a space ship, etc., count things you see, talk about what letters/sounds the vocab words start with, or simply have a quiet bridge walk and practice mindfulness if your little one (or you) are in need of some calming time. Keep in mind that as parents, we don’t have to feel like we need to frantically cram learning into every moment. Kids naturally learn many new things. Our job is to support and encourage their love of learning in the ways they enjoy learning when the moment is right.
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We know that there are endless opportunities to learn in any moment. What other fun things could you teach in this scenario? We want to hear your awesome ideas in the comments below!