We asked Veronica Verdino, director of FasTracKids in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn how we can keep kids engaged in learning through the summer months, and how the gradual separation teaching style at FasTracKids can help enrich children academically.
Besides enrolling my elementary-school-aged child in enrichment classes, how can I keep her academically engaged during the summer months?
It’s a good idea to expose your child to as many different things as possible at an early age. Museums and children’s events are excellent. I took my own daughter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because there’s a lot of stuff to do for kids there and it’s very very engaging and interesting.
Keep in mind that exposure to different things is very important so that your child has a well-rounded education. At our center we do astronomy, we do biology at the kids’ developmental level, but it shouldn’t just be science that they’re exposed to. The important thing is to focus on things they are curious about. Maybe they’re going to learn about butterflies. Maybe when they observe something in nature they’ll want to go to the library and get a book and further expand that curiosity. That’s why you need to expose them to as much as possible.
Be very observant when it comes to your child. See what they play and introduce new toys, because children tend to play with the same thing over and over again and they get bored quickly. Any time you buy a toy it should be really educational. And before you just let the child play with that toy you should definitely show them how the toy should be used. A lot of parents say they buy toys but the kids don’t play with them. “We have so many toys at home but the kids don’t play. Why?” Because the kids don’t know how to play with the new toys. Sometimes they need company to play with certain toys. So it’s a good idea to sit down and demonstrate how the toy should be played, keep the child company, play together.
Definitely limit TV for sure because that’s not really encouraging the child’s thinking.
Expose children to a lot of new things, buy educational toys, and demonstrate to the child. Be very observant of your child, listen to the child, to their interests and what they want to do, but sometimes parents listen to them too much, because the children don’t know. You have to keep kids occupied and show them the world because they don’t know much yet. When I say, “listen to the child,” I don’t mean if the child wants something just give it to them, I mean be observant of what kind of child you have.
Is your child very creative? Interested in science? Then go with those interests. If your child is very artistic and likes painting you can go that direction more, but also try everything. Sometimes it seems the child is artistic but if you show them something in the sciences they’ll realize they like it, and you’d never know if you hadn’t tried. I believe in multiple intelligence and exposing the child to very many different things. It doesn’t mean you need to enroll them in 15 programs, just show them one thing at a time.
What can teachers and parents do to help kids who are reluctant about learning—especially learning outside of the school setting—to get excited about the process and become lifelong learners?
I think parents need to know right from the start that they need to educate children as early as possible. I prefer for children to always be ahead never catching up.
We’re always learning. Parents are afraid of putting kids in too many programs because they think, “They’re going to be in school all their lives, just let them play!” But what do you think they’re doing when they’re playing? They’re learning to play, and that’s how they learn things.
They’re digging a hole. They saw a worm. They’re evaluating the dirt. They taste the dirt and the parents will say, “Don’t put it in your mouth!” but what they’re doing is they’re learning the world. You cannot stop them from that.
They learn through play. They’re touching, smelling, seeing, evaluating the world…that’s how they do it. You cannot stop them, so you may as well put them in a program that encourages learning. We’re not putting them in a desk with a worksheet at two years old for two hours or five hours. What I mean is, create an environment where they can learn something. That’s my philosophy.