Learning skills that feel like play

Published 10:30 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

QUESTION:  Is there a way I can help my children develop their learning and thinking skills that feels like play?   

ANSWER:  The newspaper is a great source of learning entertainment.  Here are nine different ideas. Try focusing on one for a month. Your child may really enjoy one of them and want to make it a regular activity.

Shopping — Search the advertisements and encourage your children to note prices of various food and clothing items. Allocate a certain amount of the family budget and have your children total the amount and deduct it from the allocation.

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Vocabulary — Encourage your children to pick a “Word ForThe Day” from the daily or weekly newspaper.  This should be an unknown word and children should be encouraged to use the dictionary to look up word meanings.  This activity will help increase vocabulary.

Map skills — Have your children clip out articles from the newspaper that take place in various places in the world. Have them attach the article to its location on a map.

Headlines — Encourage children to examine headlines in the newspaper.  Then clip some headlines from various articles and have them match the headline with its appropriate article.

Celebrities — Children enjoy reading about famous people in the news in all fields, whether it is entertainment, politics, or sports. Encourage your children to keep a scrapbook on these famous people by clipping their pictures out of the newspapers with some articles about them. 

Comic strips —Select any comic strip and cut it apart; place the pictures in mixed order.  Ask your children to put them in proper sequence.

Coupon clipper — Encourage your children to clip coupons for a weekly shopping trip.  Your child can then use his/her skills of classification in categorizing the coupons.

Pick a question — Pick a question for the day: “What is showing at the theater this week?”  “What is tomorrow’s weather forecast?” Encourage your children to look through the newspaper to locate the answers.        

Spelling spotters — Encourage your children to become Spelling Detectives by spotting spelling errors over-looked by newspaper proof readers. Use a dictionary to doublecheck spelling.

If you would like to talk about the challenges of raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Lnea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.