I read an article recently about just this topic and it touched on the notion of being engaged rather than just involved. It didn't go into any more depth and so it got me thinking about how exactly parents today should or could find the balance of being engaged versus just involved.
Be engaged rather than just involved. What does this mean?
We all want what’s best for our child and so, ask any parent if they strive to be ‘hands-on’, and the answer is more often than not a resounding “Yes!”
But equally ask a parent ‘how’ they achieve this and the answers will vary significantly. In our fast-paced modern world, where we are bombarded with information on how we should/shouldn’t parent it can be easy to loose sight of the simple and to find ways to be engaged rather than simply involved.
We know that being a hands-on child is all about the natural exploration by a child of the world around them and all the sensory delights it has to offer. Learning is an outcome of this exploration. Here are six ways you can engage with this exploration rather than just being involved in it.
1. Let your child lead
Observe- Look for what your child is interested in or engaging with
Wait- Give them time to initiate play, or give a comment/gesture
Listen- Listen to ‘what’ they might be saying rather than ‘how’.
2. Talk, Talk, Talk
Parrot your child and they will parrot you!
Oral language is vital for children’s language development. Remember to talk to your children through out the day. If they miss pronounce something try not to correct them, instead model the correct language by repeating their meaning back to them. For example, if a young child says ‘Last day, I runned all round the park’, you can respond with “Yesterday, you ran around the park? Wow!” The child’s feels validation that you have engaged in the communication that they have initiated and motivated to continue the exchange.
3. Play and have fun
Giggles and laughter are an important part of childhood and building the bond you share with your child. Play is considered the pillar upon which children build knowledge. So channel your inner child and surprise your child with a funny voice or a silly dance.
4. Connect to past generations
Family and traditions play an important role in developing a child’s sense of self and their place in the world. Try telling your child a story from when you were young or print up photos of family for the fridge. You could even ask a grandparent, grand friend or other relative to teach your child a rhyme or song from when they were young.
Imaginary play and language development are considered to go hand-in-hand. It is also a way for children to make sense of the world around them as they play out different scenarios. Think role-play, dress-ups, puppet shows, playing doctor, playing teacher etc. Whenever you are ‘playing’ with your kids try and think outside the box… what else could an item be? For example: a tissue box can be a phone, a shoe, a hammer on the end of the hand, a hat, a treasure chest, an animal (with the opening its mouth).
6. Engage with the senses
As adults we block out a lot of the sensory delights around us, because we are so used to them. But try looking at the world through your child’s eyes and help them explore and label all the facets of an experience. For example sand can be hot, cold, hard, soft, crunchy, wet, dry, course, smooth. You can scoop it, sprinkle it, let it sift through your hand, pat it into a shape, blow it and even rub it gently on your skin.
I myself need this reminder sometimes. Particularly when it comes to school events. It is easy to get caught up in the organisation and just fill in the form, or pack the necessary items on the day and forget to engage with the kids about the experience (pre and post) or better yet, if time allows, be in attendance to check in with the kids and enjoy some of the experience with them.
And therefore have fun learning together!
Your hands-on helper,