Most people don’t think of clothes as a learning tool for young children. However, if you think about it, clothes are a perfect medium for parents to use to introduce, size, color, number and purpose to young children. I remember one of the very first things I did with my own children in teaching them colors, was to show them how their socks and shirt matched or their mittens and their hats.
Art Skills – You can find many examples of designs and patterns in your families clothing. You can also learn colors and shades of colors this way.
Science Skills – When Children grow out of clothes they are experiencing real examples of size. They are growing larger and their clothes are not. Clothes are also good for feeling and identifying different textures.
Math Skills – Clothing materials often contain shapes for children to become familiar with. Let your children help you sort clothes, it will help them notice different sizes and types of clothes.
Social Skills – Cultural Awareness can be introduced through examples of clothing from different countries.
Coordination Skills – Important coordination skills are learned with clothing. Working with buttons, zippers and even Velcro help children become more coordinated and self- sufficient.
Dramatic Skills – Dress-up has long been a favorite pass time for young children. Through this creative play, children not only try on different clothes but they try on different personalities.
Language Skills – Rough, soft, warm, silky, hot pink all describe different clothes. Help you child learn new words that relate to their clothes.
Problem Solving – Choosing between two outfits can help children learn to make choices.
MAXIMIZING TEACHING MOMENTS
As you work hard to be available and help your children succeed, just remember that usually the best teaching moments happen by accident. You and your child are walking along and you happen to spot a caterpillar. Your child is excited about this discovery. Here is a perfect teaching moment. Or – Your child drops an egg and it cracks open. A mess – sure it is – but more important, it is a teaching moment. Not only does it teach about being more careful, but about why eggs are hard on the outside and soft on the inside or the different ways we can cook eggs.
The successful parent will soon learn to recognize these natural teaching times and take advantage of them. Just remember to:
Capture the moment,
Follow their lead,
Build on the wonder
Build on their need.
Look for beginnings
For reasons to know.
Capture the moment
And knowledge will grow.
Below are some fun and educational activities to do with your child using clothes.
SORTING LAUNDRY (Ages 3-6)
Let your child help you sort dirty or clean clothes. Soring between colors before you wash helps children with color recognition. Sorting clean clothes gives children practice in recognizing likes and differences, size and function. You can start your child off by asking his help in sorting the socks; first by color, then by size and then by similarities.
DRESS-UP (Ages 2-6)
Children love playing dress-up with old clothes. Try to give your child a variety of clothes, ones that can be used to create different characters. As children try on different clothes, they often try on different actions and different words. This help increase their vocabularies and their understanding of words.
HATS, HATS, HATS (Ages 2-6)
Start a family hat collection. The whole family can use them at Halloween but preschoolers can use them daily for pretend dramatizations. Garage sales are great sources for hats. Hats from other countries are great for introducting your child to likes and differences found here and far away.
MAKING CHOICES (Ages 2-6)
When we allow children to help choose their own clothes at the store or at home, we are giving them practice in learning to make choices. You wouldn’t let them choose from everything available, the smart parent lays out two choices and allows their child to choose between these two options.
GROWING BIGGER (Ages 3-5)
A fun activity to do with your preschoolers is to bring out some old baby clothes of your child. Let her examine them and then compare them to her current clothes. What has happened? Sometimes it is hard for children to understand size and growth, but trying to put on an old shirt, makes learning easy. This activity could lead to one where you measured your child each year by marking it on a wall or growth chart. Each year your child will be thrilled at how much she has grown.
SPECIAL DAYS (Ages 3-5)
Turn a blah or rainy day into a fun day by naming it a special color day. Example: Blue Day. Help your child dress in all blue and do the same yourself. As a surprise, make a special blue snack.
Another fun day children like is Backwards Day. Help your child put their clothes on backwards. Be sure to stress the words “backwards” and “forward” so your child will attach meaning to these new words.
MEASURING (Ages 3-6)
When out shopping with your preschooler and looking at clothes, show them how to hold two articles of clothing, one on top of the other to measure which is the longest or the shortest.
ZIP, ZAP, POP (Ages 3-5)
Clothing has always been a means of young children learning to button, zip and snap. Often these tasks have been frustrating to preschoolers but the advent of Velcro has helped a lot. However, buttoning, snapping and zipping are still common and offer children a great opportunity to develop small muscle coordination skills. Find examples of these devices for your child, then take time to show him how to successfully perform these tasks.
MITTEN TEXTURE GAME (Ages 4-6)
A fun inexpensive texture game to make for your child, is to make small pairs of mitten shapes cut from a variety of material textures. Example: Cut out two wool mitten shapes; two silk, to corduroy, two cotton, etc. Mix up the cut out shapes and give them to your child to sort back into matching pairs. You can also make this game using different types of paper cut outs.
OBERSVATION GAME (Ages 3-6)
This game is great for teaching observation and memory skills. After you have spent some time with your child, go into another room and wrap a blanket around yourself. Go back into the room with your child and see if he can remember what you were wearing. Surprise your child with this game about once a week. You will be surprised at how observant your child will become.
PAPER DOLLS (Ages 3-6)
Paper dolls are a great toy for learning appropriateness, or what goes with what. As you play with your child, suggest several outings the dolls are going on and what clothes would be appropriate. Examples: Time for bed, Playing in the snow, Going to the Beach, going to a party, etc.
If you don’t have any paper dolls, you can just play a verbal game where one of you suggests a destination and the other one says what would be appropriate to wear.