September 12, 2014
If you’ve ever spent time with a three-year-old, you know that you run the risk of being bombarded with endless questions. Children love to learn and for them to make progress, the best thing we can do is to meet their desire to grow and help them to learn what they want to learn. This is especially true during the preschool years.
There are two great advantages children have during these early years. One is the ability to memorize, which is virtually at its peak. Another is the ability to learn easily through short, enjoyable study sessions. The flexibility (plasticity) of a child’s brain at this age is the key. In addition, pattern recognition ability is high, so it’s easy for them to learn. And, when learning is paired with enjoyment, the distinction between learning and play disappears. It’s the easiest time to encourage the desire to learn, to build self-initiative, to lengthen concentration, and to keep track of growth. If you watch closely, you will be amazed by what such young children can accomplish.
Let’s look at some ways to foster the abilities that a 3, 4, or 5 year old child will need in the future, while still remembering that children love to play and learn at the same time.
Sing songs together. Songs help children to build memory skills. Even if they don’t understand the words at first, with the melody and rhythm of the song, they will begin to remember the words. Memorizing songs gradually increases a child’s vocabulary—the more songs, the better. Toru Kumon, the founder of the Kumon Method, recommended “200 songs and 10,000 stories.” (They can be repeated!) The first step in raising a bright child with high reading ability is to expose them to many songs and to speak to them often.
Read stories together. Most children love to listen to their parents read to them. Concentration and motivation grow out of reading books together. Children who are read to frequently—into their school years—will eventually begin to read alone and will find reading enjoyable.
Use patterns to engage the brain. Curious minds look for appropriate stimuli. Feed children’s innate curiosity and inquisitiveness so that they can absorb many things. Jigsaw puzzles provide an opportunity for children to work their way through a task without losing interest. If the child doesn’t show interest in a puzzle, then it isn’t the right one. Select the just-right number of pieces, and keep advancing to puzzles with more pieces.
During these early years, children are reaching milestones in movement, gross and fine motor skills, language, cognitive ability, and socialization skills. Their intelligence is growing, and they are beginning to have the ability to control their emotions. They become more independent, and they learn to follow more complicated requests, like—“Put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, and go to bed.” You may still hear, “Why?”, but enjoy the questions! They’re part of growing up.
About Mary Mokris, Ph.D. – Senior Advisor, Materials & Instruction, Kumon North America
Dr. Mary Mokris is a senior advisor for Kumon North America. She began her career at Kumon more than ten years ago as the director of a company-owned Kumon Center, instructing 200 math and reading students in Atlanta before being relocated to Kumon’s headquarters in Teaneck, N.J. Prior to joining Kumon, Dr. Mokris was a tenured Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska for six years. Dr. Mokris also spent five years teaching at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro College, and High Point University. She has led Kumon’s Reading Department and worked to develop and revise the reading curriculum, which covers materials from preschool to high school. Dr. Mokris holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in English Language and Literature and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
About Kumon Math and Reading Centers
Kumon is an after-school math and reading enrichment program that unlocks the potential of children so they can achieve more on their own. Founded in Japan in 1958, the learning method uses an individualized approach that helps children develop a solid command of math and reading skills. Through daily practice and mastery of materials, students increase confidence, improve concentration and develop better study skills. Kumon has 26,000 centers in 48 countries and regions and more than four million students studying worldwide. The company’s North American headquarters is in Teaneck, N.J. Visit www.kumon.com to learn more.