More and more parents are finding themselves educating their young ones at home these days. Whether it’s a personal decision to homeschool or mandated virtual learning, for many, the classroom has moved from the school to home almost overnight.
We caught up with Tanya, mom of two, homeschooler extraordinaire, and the woman behind @you.are.my.sonshine (Instagram) to see what advice she has for other parents who are dusting off their teaching hat to educate their children from home.
Here’s what Tanya had to say about using play dough in the at-home classroom.
• Bring the lesson to life
When Tanya started to homeschool her boys last March, she quickly found that the best way to keep her boys excited to learn in a new environment was to structure their lessons around a unique theme for each week. The boys chose the theme, and she would have all of the worksheets, activities, and lessons revolve around the theme of the week and then would use dough from The Dough Parlour to bring the lessons to life. When the boys were learning about the ocean, Tanya set up play dough invitations which helped them to freely create creative sea creatures like flounders, stingrays, and comb jellies out of play dough. When the boys were learning about anatomy, they used the dough to create organs in the body, making shapes for the lungs, heart, and stomach. Tanya suggests using play dough, or other creative materials like paint, to move the lesson from a paper worksheet to something they can touch and feel; it not only encourages creativity, but is also a way for everyone to enjoy a calming sensory activity together.
• Don’t stop at art class
Using dough doesn’t have to be reserved for art class or break time. There are so many ways to incorporate dough into different school subjects to keep your children engaged and focused while learning at home. Tanya shared with us that they will often use play dough balls for counting and easy addition and subtraction, and they also use dough to spell out new words they’re learning that week.
• Preparation is key
Like anything in life, homeschooling tends to go smoother with a little bit of prep work. Tanya suggests looking on Pinterest beforehand to get inspiration for creative activities and then modifying them to be more age appropriate if necessary. Pinterest is filled with clever ideas for painting projects, play dough creations, and ways to make learning more fun for your kids. Tanya also shared that physically preparing the learning space has made all the difference in setting their school week up for success. She has an ‘art cart’ for each of her boys, right near their desk, equipped with sketchbooks, paint supplies, play dough, drawing materials, and loose parts. This way when inspiration strikes, the materials to create are never too far away.
• Take their lead
Kids have bright young minds, with tons of ideas of their own. Instead of mapping out every moment of the day, sometimes it’s a good idea to be flexible and follow your child’s lead. Tanya told us about the week the boys were learning about nature. They had done a lot of hikes and learned about different types of trees and birds, and the boys became quite fascinated by bird nests. Tanya worked off their ideas, tapping into the momentum of what was interesting to them, and followed her son’s suggestion to create bird nests of their own out of dough. They picked grass and sticks to add to the nests and even made little dough bird eggs to make it complete.
• Create with them
Roll up your sleeves and create alongside your kids. Tanya suggests that it’s best if you’re truly part of the process; sitting with them, teaching them, and helping to expand their vocabulary. Get them talking about what they're creating and introduce them to new words related to their creation. She mentioned that Dough Parlour is great for this as the colours are bright and beautiful and the dough scents are so good it’s hard not to take a bite! When young ones see their parents having just as much fun, the enjoyment is reciprocated and they're also more likely to stay engaged in the activity for a longer period of time. If you’re looking for permission to have a little fun and play – consider this it!
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