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Activities for Learning and Bonding in the Early Years

Activities for Learning and Bonding in the Early Years


Talking WITH children, not AT children, is essential for a child’s healthy development. Developing and building a child’s self esteem needs to be done by both parents, and the parents themselves need to be positive and supportive role models.

Parents are the child’s first teachers and taking time to BE with their child is not only essential, it is critical to the child’s healthy development. A pediatrician once said, “You can never give enough love to your child.” But “love” does not mean spoiling or over-indulging the child. Lavishing affectionate love through times spent together costs nothing and helps to build strong, self assured children who will have the necessary skills to succeed in life.

By conversing and interacting with the child, a parent models how to interact with others and encourages courtesy, respect for others, thoughtful responses and problem solving. Brain development in the first five years is pivotal, and laying down a firm foundation of language is beyond important in the child’s early life and throughout childhood and adolescence.

Also, interactions with their children help the parents to learn more about their child. It is in quiet moments while doing activities that a parent can discover new things about their offspring. As every parent knows, each child has his or her own unique personality and kind of intelligence, likes and dislikes, skills and needs.

Below is a brief list of ideas for parents and children to do together. Talking with other parents about family activities can also help you learn and share exciting, stimulating, and enjoyable things to do with children.

  • Reading: Parents need to MODEL reading, demonstrate to their children that they themselves are avid readers. It doesn’t matter if the reading material is a book, magazine, newspaper, or a cookbook. Also, reading WITH children needs to happen every day, as much as possible. Some working parents find that the only time they have to read with their children is when the children are taking a bath, and that works just fine. Taking pleasure in reading and sharing stories is one of the most powerful and important things that a parent can do for their child.
  • Craft Activities, puzzles and games are excellent ways to have fun and learn, while talking together and sharing ideas. Making a game out of something as simple as observations around the house engages a child far more than making it seem like a “lesson”.
  • Clay: Pottery making is a very old tradition in many cultures, and is still done today, all over Latin America and the world. Parent and child can have fun making pottery by following the recipe below:

    Clay Recipe Ingredients
    • 4 Cups Flour
    • 1 Cup Salt
    • Approximately 1 ¾ Cups water (a few drops will need to be added while working with the clay)
    • Optional food coloring
    • Paints & brush
    1. Mix the flour and salt.
    2. Add the water a little at a time while mixing
    3. Optional - Food coloring can be added.
    4. Pinch pot: Form the clay into a ball and push down the middle for the bottom of the pot. Make the sides by pinching up and making the clay thinner with your fingers.
    5. Coil pot: Form a flat circle out of a piece of clay. Then make long rounded strips out of pieces of clay and wrap them one on top of the other around the edge of the flat circle piece.
    6. Bake at 200 degrees F for 10 – 15 minutes for the pinch pot and about 20 minutes for the coil pot, or until hard. The pots will be slightly rubbery.
    7. Let cool and paint.
    8. If you have any clay left over you can freeze it in plastic wrap.
  • Flash cards/Tarjetas para memorizar
    Make home- made flash cards by cutting out pictures from magazines, and pasting them onto cards such as index cards. Challenge your child to remember the name of the animal in both Spanish and English. Below is an example of animals, but the categories can be anything your child finds interesting: food, sea animals, clothing, transportation, etc.

    • Lion/León
    • Tiger/Tigre
    • Giraffe/Jirafa
    • Monkey/Mono
    • Fish/Pez
    • Bear/Oso
    • Turtle/Tortuga
    • Crocodile/Cocodrilo
    • Elephant/Elefante
  • Observations

    • Look for same and different
      Walk around the home with your child, and look for things that are the same or different. What do the things that are the same have in common?

      For example, what do these things have in common--roller skates, a bicycle, a ball ? (These are things to play with.)

      Why are these things different- pots, cushions, tables? (These are things we have in our homes, but they are used for different purposes.)

    • Look for shapes
      Take a walk outside and look for these shapes: circle (for example, the sun), rectangle (for example, a flag), square (for example a square in a sidewalk), triangle (for example, a warning sign on the street), oval (for example, a football), etc.

    • Look for numbers
      Ask your child: Do you see numbers inside your home? Where are they? What are they used for? (measuring cups, TV channels, clocks, etc.)

    • Look for colors
      Take your child with you to the grocery store and ask him or her to tell you the colors of the different fruits and vegetables in the produce section. Expand the colors beyond the basic ones- for example, “purple” can be expanded to “lavender blue”.

    • Walks and hikes
      Take your child for a walk or a hike and as you walk, encourage your child to observe closely what he/she sees. For example, ask, “Do you see any birds? How many? Are there different kinds?” Also ask for him/her to tell you what smells and sounds they are experiencing. Sensory acuity is an excellent skill to develop, and walks and hikes lend themselves to the development of an appreciation for nature while experiencing and learning new things.

  • Other fun activities

    • Kite flying: Kites are inexpensive and going to a park or an open field to fly one is great fun for both parents and children.
    • Soccer: Soccer is another inexpensive sport, requiring only a ball and an open field to run around in. Parents (including mothers!) can run and pass the ball with their children.
    • Cooking, baking and barbecuing: Learning how to cook is an essential life skill that can be great fun to do with children. Choose simple things for your child to do, like grating cheese or washing vegetables, and as you work together preparing a meal, you can discuss what you are doing, how you learned that recipe, and similar topics. Passing down family recipes is a wonderful tradition and also would be very helpful to the child as he/she grows up and has to eventually cook for themselves.
    • Singing and telling stories: Songs, nursery rhymes, and traditional stories are wonderful ways to teach children the rich traditions of Latino culture. Oral traditions are passed down through the generations when parents share with their children the songs, stories and rhymes they themselves learned as children. These can be shared at bedtime, while traveling in the car, when walking to school, whenever the opportunity arises.

In conclusion, ENJOY your role as a parent, a teacher, a friend, a confidante. The childhood years are very fleeting - cherish them and lavish your child with love and affection.