As a dedicated parent to an early learner, you know that first impressions last. The quality of the home school-prep and early-learning space you create for your child will shape their outlook on education while facilitating aptitude and brain development.
A light, bright and mindful, well-considered home learning space for your 4-6 year old has the potential to instill in them a passion for learning that will see them well into their adult years. So, even before they reach first grade, you can steer them toward success! But, how to create a home-learning space for your 4-6 year old that will actually help them develop?
Before we dive in, consider the fact that you have a central role in this home learning space. Learning isn’t the opposite of fun – learning is an adventure. As a parent, you are already a teacher, so there’s no need to change your persona. Be supportive, sensitive, loving, and steadfast, and accompany your child on this adventure, every step of the way.
Let there be light
Well-lit rooms are more welcoming, and they lift the spirits, driving engagement, creativity, and retention. Natural light is always preferred, the vitamin A from sunlight literally improves cognitive function, enhancing the attention span and memory.
Just remember, well-lit shouldn’t mean hot, so ensure the room is properly ventilated, with a flow of fresh air for plenty of oxygen, which has instant performance-boosting concentration, and even behaviour-enhancing effects!
Include four or five plants to improve the air quality and add a splash of nature, and give your little one full responsibility for keeping them watered, dust free and in good shape – it’s never too early to acquire green fingers. If you have space near a window, include a pot garden where you can teach your child to plant, grow and care for veggies, beans, and flowers.
Believe it, art is a miraculous learning tool that builds dexterity, creativity, innovation, and motivation, and allows your child to apply their new-found knowledge to something that they can call their own.
Think of different mediums as training for different senses and skills. Painting deals with light and colour perception, hand-eye co-ordination, and self-expression. While sculpture deals with spatial awareness, proportions, problem-solving, and gaining a sense of weight and balance.
Provide an art corner, wall, or shelf where you keep art supplies, brushes, paints, crayons, clay, and tools in easy-to-grab buckets. Make use of stacking trays that can be used to carry supplies to and from the work table, doubling up as a portable working surface. Trays will save you from having to clean up every time, and they will help your child keep track of their tools.
Include paper, poster board and even canvas, non-toxic glue, child-friendly scissors, sticky tape, and a range of beads, feathers, google eyes, and bits and bobs for making collages. Always stick to projects based on your other learning themes for the day, allowing your child to choose just one medium to work in at a time, at least to start, so that they won’t be overwhelmed by too many options and ideas.
Sing to the senses
Other than numeric and literacy skills, a great way to ensure that you create a well-rounded educational space for your child is to consider each of the senses: proprioception or body awareness, hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
Creating learning nooks or dedicated shelves with educational aids that address each sense is a great way to ensure you stimulate your child’s body and mind on a daily basis. Plant care and art are useful tools for adventures in touch, sight, and aspects of proprioception.
Additionally, you could include listening games and musical instruments, a construction corner with blocks and Lego, physical education options such as blindfolded balancing games, rope climbing or dance, and smelling cards, scented oils, and sample jars to your weekly learning routine.
Speech and Literacy
From the ages of 4-6, your little one should be starting to build their language and literacy skills, including speech, listening, comprehension, reading, and writing. Be sure to include an alphabet poster, chalkboard, chalk, writing implements, paper, and empty books for them to write in and fill.
Include a selection of children’s literacy books and aids and, to really spark their interest, include colourful illustrated nursery rhyme books as well. As far as rhyming books go, you may want to scour second-hand book stores for these, you’ll often find the illustrations to be more detailed and artful in vintage books, and the rhymes are almost impossible to forget!
You should also label everything in the room, and over time, you can teach your child to read, pronounce, write and remember every label on every item in the room – you can even ask your child to help you create them. Once they’ve learned their alphabet, try to focus on 3 labels a day, choosing items that are being used that day, for easy memorisation.
A great place to start sharing speaking, vocabulary, and expression skills is by engaging in responsive, well-spoken conversations with them throughout their time playing, learning, and creating in the home their educational space. Ask them open-ended questions about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, the tools they’ve chosen, and what they plan to do next – and don’t be afraid to use and teach them complex words in the process.
Open up the world
Knowing our place in the universe is a wonderful thing. Seeing the world in perspective against a backdrop of galaxies, stars, and planets, and then seeing yourself as one and billions of thinking, growing humans in that wide, wide world of cultures, creatures, continents, and seas…Well, it makes us aware of how much more there is to learn! It gives us humility and awe, confidence and curiosity, and that’s what we need in a learning space!
Right now, your child’s world only stretches as far as the rooms, parks, tv programs, pets, and people to which they’ve been exposed. Now, you have the opportunity to open up the world, expose its wonders, and even reveal the stars. You have the power to expand your child’s inner, imaginative playground exponentially, by showing them what’s outside their sphere, and you can do so in a way that’s safe – by adding general knowledge books.
So, use science, nature, and travel posters, national geographic magazines, old encyclopedias, and books (even if your little one can’t read yet) to open a window on outer space, the solar system, the world, and all its peoples, nature, technology and inventions, sea-creatures, land creatures, sky-creatures, the list goes on. It’s important to use illustrated materials so that, when a child shows interest in something, you can read to them about it.
There’s no need to go out and find kiddies volumes for this one, just ensure that every page and poster gets screened and that the less child-proof articles have been discretely removed – and be sure to avoid trivial topics like beauty, gossip, and fad magazines.
With all these learning aids, toys, books, and art supplies, you may be worried about who’s going to be doing all the cleaning. See this as an opportunity to teach your child the benefits of staying organised. Give your young genius the responsibility of wiping down and packing their learning aids away after sessions, ensuring that each and every item gets returned to its proper, designated, and labeled place.
This is an invaluable way to build independence, organisation, and neatness skills, and, over time, your child may even come to realise that it pays to keep a clean workspace from the get-go, especially when you’re the one who has to tidy up!