Playful learning step-by-step: Step2, getting familiar
A step-by-step guide to help any kid learn something new playfully.
Now that we spent a whole week helping our kids to become inspired by the activity they are about to learn, step 1 (full article here), we can move to step 2.
We are going to spend another week getting them familiar with the activity first-hand. Ideally practicing daily even if for just 1 minute, which is still 100% better than nothing.
Some might argue I am going too slow but, in my experience, it is always better to take more time at the beginning to increase the chances that children will genuinely like the activity. This way they will become passionate, autonomous and will always have fun!
During step 2, bring your child in the setup you designed for practicing and let him/her free to explore the environment and the tools.
The first objective is to let your child become familiar with the environment and the tools so he won’t be afraid when it is time to practice.
Put the material for the activity in the center stage and let him discover it autonomously. If the first day he/she ignores it completely, try again the next day before starting altering the setup.
For the very first time, the best moment of the day is soon after breakfast when they are fresh, active and curious.
The second objective is to notice if the setup you initially imagined needs to be modified. You can ask questions to your child (what he like, or don’t), rely on his/her favorite themes or search inspiration on the web.
For my daughter, having colourful stickers on the piano keys that she placed her-self was the game changer. For my son, having the piano opened and watching the hammers striking the chords made all the difference.
The third objective is to build your child’s confidence. He/she needs to experience the joy of feeling capable of practicing and able to improve.
For this you can use an ice breaker exercise. It has to be something short and simple, to give confidence to your child. If the exercise you imagined doesn’t work, change it quickly. Get inspired by things your child tries him-self. Also don’t forget to felicitate your child, highlighting how great he did.
For introducing my kids to the piano, I found an exercise where they had to play the first two black keys (C# and D#) of different octaves. Unsurprisingly it didn’t work. My 2 years old boy preferred a different variation where he had to play the third white key of different octaves as the keys all had a yellow sticker, his favorite color. My 5 years old daughter preferred to follow a beginner’s book with colourful notes on the pentagram and always played the same note but with different durations (rhythm). Later she switched to playing all keys one by one with both hands.
The bottom line is that learning can always be playful but it requires the tutor to actively observe the pupils and make changes to please them without sacrificing effectiveness too much.
Stay tuned for step 3 coming next week!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!