By Alix Tonsgard, MS, Early Learning Specialist, DuPage Children’s Museum
The crisp fall air and the turning of the leaves has a way of triggering the part of our brains that hold memories. For many of us fall evokes memories of things that are cozy, comforting, and involve quality time with important people in our lives. I love fall for this reason but I also dread what comes after fall and this year, as we continue to juggle raising a toddler while working from home, I am dreading winter more than ever. Anyone with me? Don’t worry my friends, we’ve got this, we will get through this together.
One thing that I am trying to be mindful of is not using up all of my best indoor activities prematurely. There is still so much learning to capitalize on outside! Did I mention juggling working from home? I realize that many of us are managing e-learning or working from home and with that in mind, another strategy that I use is building a learning activity into something that we already enjoy doing together like taking a walk.
Scheduling time to take a break from meetings to walk outside with my little guy does a world of good for both of us and all of the natural materials falling from trees and fall decorations in our neighborhood present us with endless opportunities to build math and language skills and strengthen other areas of development too!
Here are a few things to try:
Take a bag, wagon, or basket and collect natural objects like acorns, leaves, black walnuts– whatever your little one finds interesting. When you get home talk about their attributes. Can you find ways to categorize them based on this discussion? Maybe some are smooth and some are bumpy. Once you have divided them into categories you can count and sort them.
Maybe your child is interested in looking at decorations. You can create a simple scavenger hunt and let them mark off the objects as you go. For a younger child keep it simple and involve them in the creation of the list. “Today we are going to see if we can find a pumpkin, a spider web, and a red tree.” When they find each thing, let them mark the paper so they can work on their fine motor and early literacy skills! An older child might be ready for an additional challenge like counting and recording how many of each object they can find.
Follow your child’s lead and let them guide the learning. You might be surprised with where their interests and ideas take you. And remember, the most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy time together. If what you and your little one need today is just a quiet walk then honor that. Walks can also be a great time to check in and talk about your child’s feelings.
Alix Tonsgard is the Early Learning Specialist at DuPage Children’s Museum. She holds an MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute. Acting as the Museum’s advocate for early childhood development and learning, she ensures that the latest research in Early Childhood Education is represented in all Museum exhibits, professional development initiatives, and public programs.