Words by Aaditya Tangri, Co-Founder & CEO of Kalebr Americas and Founder of STEAMathalon
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - 25 June 2019: There is a common misconception that the traditional notion of ‘education' is something that only happens at school, but the evidence tells us that the home environment is one of the most powerful influences in a child's development. Think about it this way - children only spend half their waking hours in school during the academic year. This means much of the learning is still being done outside the school gates.
Yet without the textbooks and library, why is home an ideal place to learn? As a start, in many cases, it replaces the traditional, row-by-row directive teaching format and instead provides an interactive, anxiety-free, and often joyful environment that by its very nature encourages play-based learning and discovery. Learning at home really refers to anywhere that isn't the classroom - the local park, holiday resort or, indeed, the kitchen counter or great outdoors. Children experience countless learning encounters in these external environments, and parents and carers can amplify the learning benefits by guiding the direction of at-home play and discovery.
Studies reinforce that we must strive for educational environments infused with fun to support the mental well-being and positive learning outcomes of young ones. The truth is, when we erase joy and comfort from learning, we distance our learners from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, may become anxious, bored or distracted. They simply aren't engaged. This is where the beauty of at-home learning further reinforces itself.
In fact, scientific neuroimaging studies have revealed when students are engaged, motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely between neurotransmitters and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. Therefore, home provides the perfect positive environment for happy and stress-free learning, even when the kids don't realize it.
Beyond the brain sparks, at home learning is also the perfect playground for building twenty-first-century skills. These skills are a hot topic in education today and for a good reason - some even call them the new building blocks for learning. Children will need to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive global landscape, and at the same time, they'll have to collaborate with other individuals from all over the world. Creativity and innovation will be highly valued alongside solving challenges with clear communication. While schools are beginning to make the shift toward 21st-century teaching, there is a lot that parents can do to foster these skills at home, too.
Help your kids learn and thrive beyond the school gates through play-based activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Problem Solving and Creativity
In the future, complex problems that we can't even conceive right now will be everywhere. With societal advancement, there will be more manageable conflicts that may be more complicated and varied. To get ahead in a competitive world, a child will need to be able to think critically, to observe, analyze, and come up with smart solutions to a variety dilemmas. The more we focus on a child's ability to devise effective solutions to real-world problems, the more successful they will become. Furthermore creativity is the process of imagining what can be done, the skill that every change maker needs. Parents can encourage original thinking by getting children to identify a problem or question, then brainstorm solutions, invent a plan and put it into action.
● Lava Floor. Create an obstacle course indoors, outdoors, or both, and have the kids get from start to finish within a time limit without touching the ground. Scatter props throughout the path such as a broomstick, bike or rope to serve as possible tools along the journey. Kids can work independently or collaborate to make it to the finish line. This game is all about identifying pathways, creating solutions, innovation, perseverance, teamwork and time management.
● Destination Alphabet. Pick a destination on the map beginning with the letter A and move alphabetically around the map with as little distance as possible between each successive town/destination. As they go, kids use a calculator to figure out distances between their alphabetically ordered itinerary of towns, with the winner coming up with the shortest distance from A to Z. This is a simple but highly engaging game useful for encouraging kids to use math, geography and their problem-solving skills to come up with effective answers.
● Scavenger Hunt. Write the letters of the alphabet on small pieces of paper and place them in a hat. Ask your children to draw out five letters, and then search the house and garden to find items or things beginning with that letter. This is a great game that encourages creative thinking and can be played almost anywhere. It'll also keep your kids occupied for a long time!
● Eye spy with my little eye. While out and about, or even at home, challenge every family member with this classic game that requires creative observation. Encourage the kids to look for more the obscure objects and compliment them on the things they observe. This game helps kids learn how to be more attentive and even encourages lateral thinking.
● NPA - Number Plate Acronyms. Whilst sitting in traffic or driving long distances, get rid of boredom by asking your kids to come up with each imaginary words for each number plate that belongs to cars on the highway. This is a useful little exercise to get them to think out of the box and is always accompanied by plenty of laughter and cheer.
Collaboration and Communication
The most successful companies know how to hire the best people and get them to work toward a common goal. Children must now possess the ability to collaborate seamlessly in both physical and online spaces and find ways to work with real as virtual partners all over the globe. This is why projects and games are good opportunities to teach children the importance of teamwork. As they work together, children learn self-control, diplomacy, empathy, and time-management.
● Charades. The classic game of communication requires kids to act out a famous person, movie or everyday object using signs and successfully reveal the title within a short time period without uttering a word or giving away any names to their team members who must guess correctly. This game teaches kids to select the most relevant information and use their body language and creativity to effectively convey an idea, encouraging observation and perception among the participants. It's also an effective way to build confidence.
● Jenga. Build up the blocks into a tower and then take turns to carefully remove the blocks one by one. Kids must work together to keep the tower standing for as long as possible, whilst being mindful about selecting the right block to minimize damage or any kind of instability in their tower. Jenga is great for encouraging communication by offering instructions and recommendations to everyone as they collaborate to produce the best possible outcome together.
● Tin cup and a string. Have the kids create a (non-electrical) acoustic speech-transmitting device made up of two tin cans, paper cups or similarly shaped items attached to one end of a long taut string or wire. Have them test its acoustics by sending messages to each other across your home or even in the backyard. This activity teaches them about a form of mechanical telephony, where a sound is conveyed through vibrations either via a liquid or solid medium before being reverted back to its original form as a sound.. This is perfect for encouraging scientific thinking, innovation and relies on physics as well!
Sure, you turn to your child for help when you set up a new smartphone, but the ease with operating gadgets isn't the same as understanding the best practices for effectively using them. Getting children in front of devices like laptops or gaming tablets tends to get a bad rap, but the ones that encourage children to pick up skills like coding or thinking in 3-D are great for positive education. The next generation must become tech-savvy and learn to judge the validity of several streams of information while navigating different social media platforms at the same time.
● Become social media collaborators. Team up with your kid to create a family blog or a social media page, where you can post photos, updates and even accomplishments s. Work together to create content, edit information and engage with your friends and family. This will not only improve your child's writing skills but help them prepare for the future when they'll have to work on reports and presentations.
● Get gaming. Video games aren't necessarily evil. They help kids learn how to create objects or even entire cities and virtual worlds through coding. They're great for building tech and spatial skills and can even help children with special needs develop several skills. Games are a blend of entertainment, engineering, creativity, and social media skills.
Fortunately, every parent can hone these essential abilities through cool activities and games that make long make long car trips and weekends go by quickly as kids learn the skills they need to be brilliant 21st-century learners.