Learning does not begin and end in school. A child’s knowledge is expanding every day and parents can play a key role in that area. One of the best methods is by using “teachable moments.”
This method relies on paying attention to what is going on in a child’s life and in the world. Taking a current event, for example, serves as a conversation starter to gauge what your child knows about the event and enhancing it with age-appropriate information he can add to his knowledge base.
Teachers use this method all the time. They understand that we all learn by attaching new information to existing information in a meaningful way, thus expanding our knowledge.
An example of a teachable moment for a younger child might be when you are taking a walk with your child and you notice your shadows on the sidewalk. This can generate a discussion about what a shadow is and how it is made. (If you aren’t totally knowledgeable about shadows, it’s a good opportunity to Google it and learn). Spending a few moments watching your shadows as you move in various ways can even create some laughter.
With respect to climate change or significant weather events, these can be used across a variety of age groups with the verbiage tailored to the child. A younger child may want to know what causes a hurricane or tornado and that can be explained in a way they understand. Older children can discuss the impact of those weather events on the communities experiencing them.
When cooking dinner, you might be using the microwave and that can also be a teachable moment. How does a microwave work to cook food? Is the microwave better than the oven? Why or why not?
You might teach appreciation for today’s technology with your middle school or high school student when you talk about telephones, from the rotary dial phones to the cell phones we all use today. Not only does this increase their knowledge of technology, but it also enhances their appreciation for what they have access to today.
Teachable moments can also enhance empathy in your child. If your school-age child is assigned to read a significant book such as “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “To Kill a Mockingbird,” you can discuss that book with your child. If it’s been a while since you’ve read it, consider reading it again while your child is reading it. This will allow you to discuss it as you go and gauge what she is taking away from the experience.
Using those same books, look for information on the Internet about that time is history to widen their perspective about what contributed to those books when they were written.
Old-fashioned board games are excellent as teachable tools for children. “Life” and “Monopoly” allow kids to manage money and life decisions in a game format to help them begin to make good choices for better outcomes.
Teachable moments around science abound in the simple act of planting some seeds in a flower pot. Every age is fascinated about this process and much knowledge is gained in addition to the flower or herb that results from that planting. This process applies in baking as well. How does dough rise? What happens if I use baking soda instead of baking powder?
Life lessons and teachable moments are everywhere you look. All you need to do is take advantage of them. Giving this gift to your child will ensure they become a life-long learner and it will be a gift they give to their own children as well.
Mary Migliaro is a veteran educator, parenting mentor and consultant who lives in Cherokee County.