A study conducted by the University of Michigan reported in Science Daily suggests preschoolers actively contribute to their own development of learning about their world. Of course, this is hardly earth-shattering news to any parent who has had to answer an unending salvo of “why” questions from their preschooler in response to what they foolishly thought was an innocuous statement. Because they have such an innate curiosity about the world, developing thought-provoking activities for your preschoolers doesn’t require much effort.
Indoors or out, treasure hunts are ideal thought-provoking activities for preschoolers. Decide on a premise for the treasure hunt, such as nature, pirates or a holiday theme. Hide rewards around the house or yard and create a map that leads your preschooler on a treasure trail. Include a clue with each hidden reward that your preschooler must decipher before proceeding to the next step, such as solving a word game or math problem. If you have chosen a nature theme for the treasure hunt, make up a riddle about an animal, such as “I live in a hole, have two big ears, two big teeth, love carrots and like to hop. What animal am I?” Just remember to keep the clues age appropriate, or you will end up having to solve your own riddles.
Be Like Plato
Preschoolers are oh so much smarter than mothers often give them credit for. Unlike when you were little, today’s preschoolers sometimes seem to know things that you didn’t learn until you graduated high school. So, if you have a 4-year-old going on 40, try turning the tables on your little inquisitor with “Socratic Inquiry.” Modeled and named after his mentor and best buddy, Socrates, the Greek philosopher Plato designed a method of teaching known as the Socratic method, where the teacher is actually a guide. So, when your little gal asks why her favorite dress doesn’t fit any more, why sunglasses make it look darker or why she got left out of your wedding pictures, ask her what she thinks before you give her the answer. Right or wrong, her answer will make her think about her questions. However, the philosophical premise that people have all the answers to all their own questions doesn’t necessarily apply to preschoolers.
Construction-style educational toys are exceptional thought-provoking activities for your preschoolers, all of which require him to challenge and stretch the limits of his growing little mind. Alphabet blocks will help your preschooler learn to spell; buildable, mechanical-style toys, such as cars and airplanes, help teach engineering skills; and log and erector-style building toys just might help your budding architect become the next William Lamb (that would be the designer of the Empire State Building). Have your preschooler tell a story about his creation or have him try to guess which way the blocks will fall if the tower he is building gets too tall — but be sure to keep him away from the new 40-inch plasma.
As if you need someone to tell you, preschoolers love making up stories, so take advantage of her natural inclination for prevarication and exaggeration. Have your preschooler make up a story or tell about the time she visited the zoo, took a trip with her grandparents, or lost her first tooth and how much money the Tooth Fairy left her. Help her make a book out of construction paper and look through old magazines together for appropriate pictures to paste in her book. Ask her, “What do you want to tell people who will read your story?” and write out the text for her — just don’t be too upset if she insinuates the Tooth Fairy is a cheapskate.