Learning with Daily Activities
Posted on June 24, 2022 by CHS
The daily tasks we perform are opportunities for children to learn. When children assist with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening, or caring for pets, they gather knowledge and practice skills. This type of learning is important because it integrates, or connects, learning. This means that children are using a combination of skills and knowledge to complete an activity, making it more meaningful. Working together as a family to complete daily tasks also builds a sense of family community and supports children’s developing independence. The following are ways to support children in learning with daily activities.
Developing a consistent daily schedule supports children in understanding the passage of time and provides practice in sequencing, or putting events in order. Children learn the order of their daily activities when a daily schedule is consistent. This allows them to anticipate what will happen next and provides them with stability. It also develops independence and teaches children how to set goals and make plans.
You can keep a family calendar or use an interactive schedule with younger children. You can hole-punch index cards and attach them to a ring to create a daily schedule that you can take with you during activities. Draw or find pictures of each activity and glue them onto the cards. Add a clock face that shows the time of each activity in the corner of the cards.
Cooking and Cleaning
When children assist with cooking and cleaning, they develop language and literacy skills, strengthen motor skills and coordination, and practice math and science concepts. Invite children to help wash fruits and vegetables, put groceries away, and prepare meals. Young children can prepare salads, making sandwiches, prepare instant pudding, and much more. Teach children proper cooking hygiene, such as washing their hands before handling food, and after handling uncooked meat.
Build literacy: as children put groceries away, talk about the sizes, shapes, and colors they see with cans, boxes, and other packaged items. Try reading labels together, or ask your child to find words with a specific letter. Keep a cookbook or folder with recipes and teach children the different vocabulary words used in cooking, as well as the words for cooking utensils, pots, and pans.
Practice counting, classifying, and recognizing numerals: count fruits, vegetables, and other groceries as you put them away, and count ingredients when you are preparing to cook. Ask children to sort fruits and vegetables in separate drawers, and group cans or boxes of the same items together on shelves. Look for numerals on packages and practice counting the numerals you find on your fingers.
Explore the science: encourage children to notice how food changes when prepared or cooked. For example, when instant pudding is prepared, it changes from a powder that dissolves into a liquid and then becomes a solid after time in the refrigerator. Pointing out these changes to children and discussing how they happened expands their knowledge of cooking.
Your child can help with cleaning activities such as dusting lower shelves, picking up and sorting toys, organizing books on a shelf, folding laundry, sweeping, or setting the table. Dusting and sweeping help children build motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness. Sorting toys and organizing books on a shelf develop classification skills. Folding laundry and setting the table practices geometry skills such as recognizing shapes, one-to-one correspondence, and matching.
Going to the Grocery Store
Children can learn valuable lessons about healthy eating and money management from trips to the grocery store. Ask children to help you plan what meals to eat the following week. Based on that, create a grocery list. Older children can help write the list or clip coupons from newspapers or flyers.
Before leaving, assign each child a job to do according to their age and ability. For example, jobs might include: pointing to where items are as you read them off the list, reading the list and marking off items, placing items in the cart, using a calculator to add up the prices of items, placing grocery items on the checkout counter, handing coupons to the clerk, loading them into the car, etc. Having a job helps keep children occupied and teaches them how to shop.
As you walk through the store, talk about the different foods that you see. Discuss the colors and shapes of items and count items as you place them on the checkout counter or load them in the car. Ask older children to read the nutrition panel to compare similar items and choose the healthiest option (less sodium, sugar, or fat; more protein, vitamins, or fiber). Learning how to make a list, use coupons, and select the healthiest food options teaches children how to manage their money wisely.
Gardening and Caring for Pets
When children care for plants and animals, they develop empathy and learn about living things. Even caring for two or three plants on a window sill or a couple of goldfish in a small tank can improve children’s understanding of science. If you already have a garden, encourage children to help care for it by pulling weeds, watering plants, and removing dead leaves and flowers. If you do not have space for a garden, try planting herbs you can use for cooking on a window sill, or you can try growing cherry tomatoes as a hanging plant on a patio that receives direct sunlight.
If you already have a pet, involve your child in its care. Although caring for pets has numerous benefits for children, it is also a big responsibility. Start small with a small pet, such as a goldfish, and see how your child does. Research a pet you are thinking of adopting to make sure that it will be the right fit for your family. Most pet stores, pet adoption centers, and veterinarians can explain the care needed for each pet and direct you to resources for learning more. The following websites provide additional information and resources for how children can learn at home through daily activities.
References and Resources
- Cooking Activities by Children’s Home Society of California
- Cooking with Kids by PBS
- Cooking with Kids: Tasks and Recipes for Age and Stage by Healthy Little Foodies
- Everyday Shapes by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (español)
- Fun, Easy Ways to Play with Math at Home by NAEYC (español)
- Gardening with Kids: How it Affects Your Child’s Brain, Body, and Soul by PBS
- Go on Cooking Adventures with These Books by PBS
- Grocery Store Learning Activities for Kids by VeryWell Family
- How Caring for Living Things Helps Kids Build Empathy by PBS
- How to Build Your Own Upside-Down Tomato Plant (video)
- Learning about Healthy Foods by Children’s Home Society of California
- Make Meal Times Learning Times by NAEYC
- Make Your Next Grocery Store Trip a Learning Experience by Pathways
- Math: It’s Important and Fun by NAEYC (español)
- Positive Solutions for Families: Family Routine Guide by the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) (español)
- Preschoolers are Natural Mathematicians by NAEYC
- Visual Supports for Routines, Schedules, and Transitions by NCPMI (español)
- Ways to Build Your Child’s Literacy Skills While Doing the Laundry by NAEYC