Did you cram for your exams? Did you stay up late the night before trying to learn it all in one heroic push? How much of that subject-matter do you remember now?
That's because laying down memories doesn't work that way.
Our brains remember best through repeated exposure. It's called spaced repetition, and the idea is that you revisit a topic several times over a period of months.
Preschoolers thankfully don't have to sit exams, but there's still plenty for them to learn. Letters, numbers and colours, for example. However, I'm not advocating flashcards or rote memorisation. At this age, it's all done through play. The trick is to offer regular opportunities to practice.
For example, if I wanted to help my daughter recognise the first letter in her name, we could try the following:
- Roll out long strips of play-dough and curl it into the shape of a 'C'
- Potato print 'C'
- Set up a pretend doctor's surgery and call out patient names from the appointment list (guessing from the initial letter)
- Label objects in the house that begin with 'c'
- Fish for the letter 'C' using a magnetic fishing rod and magnetic letters
- Eat alphabet spaghetti
Not all these are play-focused, perhaps, but I hope you can see that repeated exposure doesn't have to mean repetitive. Just make sure you revisit the topic regularly.
Keep it fun and the learning will be effortless.
Here's the rest of the series:
Encourage open-ended play for creativity and focus
Understanding schema play in toddlers
Independent play and why it matters
Insider Guide: Small World Play and Language
Tell Almost Any Story with Just a Handful of Figures
A simple guide to choosing the right toy