Everyday Learning Moments
Did you know that daily routine activities such as diapering and mealtimes provide important learning opportunities during each stage of a child’s early development? Here is some of the learning that can take place during five everyday routine activities for infants through prekindergartners.
Daily Routine: Diapering
- Through everyday routines, infants become more secure with and trusting of the adults who care for them.
- While infants are having their diapers changed, adults engage with them through touch, eye contact, facial expressions, and expressive language. In turn, infants respond to these cues by cooing, smiling, and moving their limbs to show pleasure and excitement.
- When adults speak and sing to infants, they are helping infants begin to build critical receptive- and expressive-language skills.
- Infants begin to distinguish among different settings and associate different locations with the routines that take place there. For example, when a child is gently laid on a changing table and the adult says, “Lucy, let’s get you into a dry diaper so you are more comfortable,” the child knows what is about to take place and so becomes more comfortable with the process.
Daily Routines: Songs and Fingerplays
- Young children respond easily and spontaneously to music, and because of this, music should be a part of every early childhood classroom every day. Toddlers especially enjoy songs containing fun sounds, rhyming words, and repeating lines, such as “Apples and Bananas,” “Ants Go Marching,” and “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”
- Fingerplays are rhymes or songs with hand and finger movements, such as “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider” and “Elephant Song.” Fingerplays are often a part of group-time activities and may be used during transition times, such as when children are waiting to go outdoors to play.
- Fingerplays and songs help form the foundation of receptive- and expressive-language skills in ways that appeal to young children. They also help children form essential executive-function skills, such as attention, flexibility, and memory/recall, skills that will help prepare them for future school experiences.
Discovery Preschool (Twos)
Daily Routine: Mealtimes
- Sitting together at a table and eating family-style promotes young children’s language and social skills. For example, language skills are reinforced as children discuss and reflect on the day’s events. Social skills are reinforced when children take turns serving themselves and using words such as “Please” and “Thank you.”
- Eye-hand coordination, muscle control, and the ability to focus are also skills children are working on when they practice serving themselves food.
- Children gain confidence and a sense of independence when they are given opportunities to practice skills such as putting food on their own plates.
- Tasting new and healthful foods also gives children opportunities to learn about the importance of eating nutritious foods and to express their own preferences.
Daily Routine: Outdoor Play
- Outdoor play gives children opportunities to freely explore and investigate the outdoor environment around them.
- Natural items and features outdoors such as sand and dirt to dig in, leaves to examine through magnifying glasses, and insects to investigate and wonder about, make exploring the outdoors endlessly fun and engaging.
- Indoor activities, such as drawing, painting, listening to stories, dancing, patterning, and counting, all take on new and different learning opportunities when they take place outdoors.
- Outdoor activities give children opportunities to move in ways they may not be able to indoors, such as running, hopping, and jumping. Gross-motor activities such as these are important for children’s physical growth and development, and help reinforce the importance of being physically active throughout one’s lifetime.
Daily Routine: What We Did Today Notes
- At the end of each day, prekindergarten children work with the teacher to recall some of the day’s events and to form their thoughts into a “What We Learned Today” note for families to read at pick-up time. These notes also help to reinforce for children some of the learning that has taken place throughout the day.
- Receptive and expressive language is fostered as children reflect on and then articulate their thoughts during conversations about the day’s events.
- Group writing experiences such as this one help reinforce basic elements of reading and writing. For example, they help children understand how words can be put together to form sentences, that sentences require ending punctuation, and that we read sentences from left to right.
- When children see their thoughts expressed on paper, it helps them make the connection between spoken and written words, a foundation of learning to read and write.