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Learning Through Everyday Activities

Dear Debi,
The kids I care for seem fascinated when I’m cleaning up, setting the table or doing dishes. Is it OK for me to let them help out, or should they just be doing kid stuff?
Darlene, Carson, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Children learn through everything they experience
  • Encourage learning with interesting activities and interaction
  • Everyday activities actively engage children
Expert Advice
Sabra Smith, Ed.D.
Sabra Smith, Ed.D.
Education and Curriculum Specialist
Children learn through everything they experience during the day – not only through specific activities that you plan for them. Adults should encourage children’s learning by providing a range of interesting things for children to do and they should interact with them to help them make sense of these experiences. Good learning experiences are ones that are actively engaging and enable children to use many of their senses, such as touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

Adults’ set the stage for learning by providing an environment and materials that encourage children to actively explore, play, experiment and try out their own abilities. The concept of preparing the environment is very important because young children learn best through their own self-initiated activities.

Adults also help children learn by interacting with them based on their observations of individual children’s responses to encourage active engagement and to promote their concept and skill development. These two things – availability of interesting materials and experiences and adult involvement – determine the course and extent of children’s learning and how they feel about themselves as learners.

Child Care providers need to know something about the developmental stages and individual characteristics of the children for whom they care to make sure the environment, materials and their expectations are appropriate for what children can and should be able to do. Observing and reviewing over time how children are responding to planned activities enables you to discover what children need to reinforce concepts or how to challenge children to take the next step.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 2 years
Everyday I have the kids help me set up the table, the dishes, and they have to count how many of them will be eating. The kids also help me wash the dishes, and they pour and serve each other. They clean and clear their own dishes off of the table, which teaches them responsibility.
Family child care provider for 4 years
I use the grocery store for learning. When we go shopping, the younger ones just pick things out, while the older ones make a list and give money. For the younger ones, you can use a list with pictures on it, for example, a drawing of an egg or a carton of milk, etc. The older ones help me write the list.
Child care provider for 8 years
I use cooking, gardening, cleaning… I use pretty much everything as a teaching opportunity. I like cooking because toddlers and preschool kids are still learning about human interactions and trust. I think it’s really good because baking cookies and making shakes are so hands on, you can give every one the chance to be involved.

Household Math Games Featured Activity:
Household Math Games
Learning Through Household Activities Featured Video:
Learning Through Household Activities
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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Children Learn Best When You… pdf
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