Conversations with Dads
By Maureen Penko
I remember how "adventurous" my father was, serious about finances, crazy about sports, firm about manners and discipline, but very kind. Every one of us will have memories about our fathers and will likely observe some of those traits transferred in what we do and how we talk with our children. In thinking about communication, and reflecting about my father as well as observing other fathers it became obvious that topics shared are different between fathers. The style in which fathers communicate is also different than mothers but the joys and worries are mutually shared between each parent. So, let's talk about what fathers have shared with me that they love to do and how they focus on developing their child's knowledge and vocabulary from gardening to neighbourhood walks.
"This year with the Covid-19 restrictions we decided to plan our garden in the winter. We researched what grows in Manitoba's climate and then created a visual garden. We talked about the flowers that would attract bees which is important for pollination and then what vegetables we like eating."
This idea allows for so much learning and vocabulary building as well as the fun of getting dirty. Learning about categories of flowers, vegetables and fruit along with size, shapes and colours can be taught. Cutting out the pictures, drawing, colouring and laying out the garden plan will build your child's skills in thinking, planning and creating. They will benefit from the joint attention (sharing) of doing a task. Talk about what plants can grow together and why? This idea of swapping plants around allows your child to decide with your help and teaches them problem solving skills. You can include numeracy in counting out the seeds and plants to fill the space. Questions such as "What if(can be posed)we tried carrots next to lettuce?" Using inquiry statements such as ëI wonder if we should?' or ëDo you think?' promotes modelling sentence structure and question formats.
The hands-on gardening tasks can be done with toddlers and become more sophisticated with older children. Correct pronunciation of the various plants names allows for repetition of the names/ words. Try counting syllables as in the word ëto ma toes' 1-2-3 parts clapped out to make one word. Let's try this technique with other plant names. Vocabulary can be taught through books such as National Geographic readers by Kathyrn Williams or Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini.
The idea of charting growth is something we do with our children. Watching something grow and measuring how much bigger it will get will add to the excitement, and build math concepts and vocabulary. This whole process can be a lot of fun and the idea that you can reap the fruit of your own work will be the greatest joy for both father and child. Don't forget to take pictures and save them to be shared with family in person or online. The review of the gardening process allows for speech and language practice.
Gardening is hard work, but it can also be a relaxing task a much-needed experience these days. This shared feeling with your child builds a sense of accomplishment and pride. We can also achieve the same goals in the next scenario.
Outdoor walks and biking / exploring the neighbourhood
"I love going for a walk with my son who is learning to ride a toddler walking bike. He looks forward to dressing up in all the gear and riding/walking down the street. We look at the numbers of each house and talk about the different signs. Sometimes we sing the wheels on the bus as we travel. He loves saying Stop over and over again and loves to ask What's that? Sometimes we see the letter carrier getting out of the truck and the mail being delivered which gets us talking about our favourite book "The Jolly Postman" by Allan Ahlberg.
Learning about what different signs mean can be taught early in an engaging way. As each sign arrives you can carry out the action. It might sound like this "Stop, now look both ways, no more cars, okay we can GO". This sequence shows how language can be modelled by the parent for a toddler and certainly much more detailed for the older child. Learning how to ride a bike and where you can ride teaches responsibility. What a great way to learn about the neighbourhood you live in from a young age. Dressing up for an activity teaches about the clothing we wear for the activity and the weather.
Talking about how many (counting) houses down from the stop sign you live. The activity on the street allows for building vocabulary around who is doing what (verbs) from mail person delivering mail to someone cutting the grass with a lawnmower. If you are riding on a trail, there will be nature experiences and the signs will signal the names of the trails as well as look outs.
Both of the activities shared by these fathers highlight how special time is spent and gives the child an appreciation of nature and the environment.
Since the pressures of virtual and distance learning have come into our child's life, along with numerous changes for all in daily life, teaching relaxation is very important whether it is through listening to music, creating and building, gardening, or walks and rides together. Take time to have a tea party together, be a pirate on a voyage, or read a book in costumes. There is so much to be shared in pretend play and modelling of language.
Whatever you as dad do with your child, the love that you share in teaching and the joy in learning that will come from these moments will form the memory. So, do enjoy your fatherhood and your day.
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