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Something I have tried to devote care and attention to since becoming a mum, is teaching Little Chap as much as I can about the world we share with him and doing as much as I can during my time with him, to prepare him for the huge opportunities to learn and explore it himself when he started school. Mayfair Dad has taken a similar approach, despite working full-time, by spending as much time with Little Chap of an evening and at weekends as he can too. I realise I am sounding a bit smug and possibly even a little trite.
That said, I don’t believe in making a song and dance of these things, important though they are. My life-long mantra has always been “Keep It Simple Stupid” and never more so since parenthood, so my approach has mostly involved me boring the poor wee Little Chap with verbal diarrhoea about every little thing I did of a day from the moment he came over the threshold of Mayfair Towers. I helped him to count from 1-10 by counting our journey up the stairs every time we climbed them for a nappy change (kept me fit too!). I taught him his colours by referring to the “red brick” or the “blue teddy” long before I ever expected him to say either and his basic understanding of addition and subtraction was born of a few raisins or blueberries lined up in front of him at meal times.
I He would eat one, I’d count them and he soon caught on that taking one away meant there were fewer (cue sad face) and adding one meant there were more yummy morsels to eat (cue huge grin)! Occasionally, on a good day, when the wind blows in the right direction and the right stars are in alignment (it doesn’t take much!) I have been known to come up with something a little more creative.
Now our Little Chap is four, his growing concentration and sense of fair play has seen us make increasing forays into the world of family board games. You know, those interactive bits and bobs that don’t need a computer screen or a mouse? (Yes. The sort of thing you and I used to do when we were kids!). What do you mean you can’t remember that far back…?
At his After School Club, he’s being taught to play draughts and is dead keen to learn chess with the “big boys”. The other day Mayfair Dad made up a simplified version of Backgammon to satisfy that urge. I have no ambition to parent a Grand Master, but I do think some of these games teach valuable life skills and I don’t want to discourage any interest he shows in them either.
Today, it was Pick-Up Sticks and though sanctioned by me, Little Chap initiated this, thinking they looked appealing as recently he surveyed the contents of our rather lovely wooden compendium of games. Actually, I think he’s been planning this move since he first caught sight of the box under our coffee table at the age of six months but I digress.
Pick Up Sticks is a simple game that requires nothing more than a pile of different coloured sticks, a sharp eye and a very steady hand. While Little Chap is not capable of adding up his score yet, (indeed, it is still entirely questionable that he might grasp the concept of higher scores for certain colours) he is still happy for us grown-ups to help him out with that bit! Instead, he has great fun sorting the sticks he’s collected into different coloured piles and then counting them for me or Mayfair Dad to calculate his score.
We have a set of sticks in a compendium of traditional board games. We’ve had one for years, having purchased it when first married, on realising we had the china on which to feed any guests their dinner, but few games with which to amuse them afterwards! So this game is appealing to me now as a learning tool, as it is free and educational!
Has your pre-schooler made you see an “adult” game in a new light? Do you shy away from letting your little ones play with “grown-up” or “difficult” games like Chess or Draughts or are you happy to let them play with the pieces and make up their own rules?
Health warning| The sticks are usually pointed, so you might want to make sure you don’t leave your child unattended with them and watch how they pull them off the pile. Too quick a snatch or too high a wave of their arm and they could do themselves an injury.