By Michelle Salcedo, M.Ed., Sunshine House Chief Academic Officer
At The Sunshine House, we have created an educational approach that incorporates everything research tells us children need for optimal brain development.
You may have heard us talk about our brain-based curriculum. Each classroom is designed to provide active experiences in critical thinking, language acquisition, movement, social-emotional development, and sensory engagement. Research tells us education does not only happen between the four walls of school. Families who partner with teachers and who look for opportunities to support their child’s quest for knowledge produce children that are much more excited about learning. And, an excited, curious, and engaged learner is a much more successful one.
- Critical Thinking: Critical thinking means that children don’t only know the answer; they know how they got to that answer. A critical thinker is a problem solver and someone who figures things out and gets things done.
- Pose, “I wonder” questions to your child. For example, “I wonder how that plastic bag got stuck in that tree” or “I wonder what would happen if our car had square wheels”.
- Provide open-ended materials that can be used in many different ways. Sitting and playing with a box and crayons leads to much more critical thinking as it can become anything.
- Language Acquisition: The gift of words is a free one that we can give every child.
- Create stories with your child. On the drive home, start a story with “One day we rode an elephant to school instead of taking the car.” Take turns with your child adding sentences to the story.
- Challenge your child to use new and different words. How many words can you use instead of “small”? For young children, use these words when you talk with them.
- Movement: Children’s brains are engaged when their bodies are engaged. When children’s bodies are idle, their brains follow suit. Look for ways to keep your child active – even if outside isn’t an option.
- How many ways can you find to move from one side of a room to the other?
- How many jumping jacks can you do during a commercial break?
- Social-Emotional Development: The most successful people in our world are those that understand themselves and how to lead and work with others. We can build those skills from very early ages.
- Point out and talk about emotions. Look at pictures and guess what people might be feeling.
- Build a sense of connectedness for your child. Tell stories about family members and others who play a role in their lives.
- Sensory Engagement: Challenge your child to explore the world through all of his senses. What interesting things can you find to look at, smell, listen to, taste and feel?
- Go for a listening walk. Every few feet, stop and describe what you hear. For babies, call their attention to the sounds all around.
- Create a smell or texture collection.
- Have a mystery meal. Serve food in covered dishes and challenge children to guess what they are.
Learning is not about sitting behind a desk and reciting boring facts and figures. The best learning happens when a child’s brain is ignited. Let’s partner to create a fire of learning for your child.