In Singapore, early childhood learning is considered to be essential for the country’s long-term success and well-being. To this end, the Singaporean government provides citizens and permanent residents with a remarkable range of incentives and subsidies for preschool and daycare. Several international preschools also cater to the needs of the country’s many and still growing number of expat families.
However, you don’t have to wait until your child is in preschool before you can start encouraging them to develop a love of learning. Your child’s brain will be rapidly growing from birth and throughout early childhood, soaking up information and forming the associations that define learning. By the time they enter preschool at 4 to 6 years old, they will already have formed attitudes and ideas about reading and learning, so it’s best to help them work toward developing the right kind of attitudes and ideas.
If you want your child to love learning, you can’t leave it all up to their preschool. You also need to do your part by reading to your child early on and actively engaging with their natural desire to learn. Here are some ways you can stoke the fire of learning in your preschooler:
1. Listen to Them
Children are naturally eager to learn. However, they are not always interested in learning the things you think they should. Thankfully, most young children are more than happy to tell you what it is they’re interested in.
If your child has developed normally and hit all their development benchmarks, they should be quite expressive before they reach preschool age. Make sure you listen closely to them so that you can choose books or other learning tools that they’re more likely to engage with.
2. Keep Things Fun
Forcing your child to learn things they don’t find interesting will only discourage them. When possible, try to ensure that your child develops a positive association with learning. Do what you can to make it a fun experience, and make sure to take a break when your child starts to have trouble following the subject matter or story.
It can also help to choose a preschool that focuses on providing deeply engaging learning experiences for children. Check out this resource to find an engagement-oriented preschool Singapore parents trust.
3. Let Them See You Reading
Most children will unquestioningly look up to their parents, even going so far as to imitate them. This is why it’s extremely important to set a good example for your children if you want them to acquire certain behaviors.
If your child frequently sees you reading books, newspapers, or magazines, chances are, they will associate reading and learning with positive ideas and feelings. By taking the effort to be an active learner yourself, you can set the stage for your child’s own lifelong love of learning.
4. Talk about What You’re Reading
Regardless of whether you’re reading a novel, a children’s book, or something as mundane as a product manual you can use it as an opening to talk with your child and encourage their desire to learn.
Talk about what the reading material is telling you and ask your child what they think about it. This may help teach them to truly engage with what they are reading instead of passively consuming information, helping normalize curiosity and critical thinking in your child.
5. Build a Home Library
Slowly build a home library with books covering topics that interest everyone in the household. Encourage siblings to read, share, and take care of books together. You can also make a day out of trips to bookstores to help your child look forward to reading and building out the library.
6. Limit Their Time on Electronic Devices
While tablets and phones are now incredibly popular tools for keeping young children engaged, you may want to wait until they’re older before you allow unrestricted use of these devices. This is because current research suggests that reading on digital devices tends to result in lower comprehension and a more passive consumption of information.
Even when the same information is presented on both books and digital devices, reading on digital devices appears to result in less critical thinking and in less of that information being passed on. Screen-based reading also encourages distractions, causes readers to skip ahead, and promotes instant gratification. Regular books, on the other hand, are far more singular in their purpose, encouraging concentration, contextual thinking, and deeper learning.
While the study focused on older students, there is good reason to believe the results broadly apply to young children as well. If you want your children to benefit from learning, you may want to stick with traditional books rather than their digital equivalents.
7. Get Them Books that Relate to their Experiences
As with most adults, children are far more likely to engage with content that speaks to their personal experiences. This makes it a good idea to keep an eye out for books that may be relatable for your kids.
For example, if your child enjoyed their visit to the zoo or a museum, getting them a book about their favorite animal or exhibit is likely to further stoke their imagination and love of learning. If your child recently had a traumatic experience such as a serious illness or an argument with a sibling, you could also consider getting them a book that relates to these events to help them learn and heal from these situations.
8. Read to Your Child Every Day
Preschool-age children can benefit immensely from being read to. Regular storybook reading is strongly associated with a wider vocabulary in early childhood, which in turn, is associated with higher scores on standardized tests. Wider vocabularies also allow younger children to make more sense of the world surrounding them, permitting them to learn more and develop better soft skills than their peers.
9. Don’t Hesitate to Reread Your Child’s Favorite Book
Parents often groan when children have them reread the same book for what seems like the hundredth time. However, this can be a golden opportunity to teach your child how to assess the story at a deeper level. You can ask your child what they think happens to the characters after the end of the story or what they might do given a different situation. You can even ask your child to imagine crossover stories featuring different characters from other books.
Guiding your child and ingraining a desire to learn in them will likely not be easy. It will take up a lot of your time and require you to make choices that are, at times, difficult and inconvenient.
However, by putting in the effort, you can ensure that your preschooler will soon want to learn about the world around them by themselves. And while they don’t know it yet, you can be sure that one day, they will be grateful you did.