When I was in university I used to work in the experiential education department, and even wrote a paper for a professor on experiential learning.
Since having a daughter I have realized how important experiential learning is for her development. For the next four years (or more, depending on how we choose to educate her), I will be her primary "educator". I am choosing to use experiential learning as my formula to teach my daughter new things.
First, experiential learning defined:
What does that look like in a toddlers life? We want our kids to learn, but it's difficult when their mobility is limited, and their verbal communication is barely existent. Here's what we're doing with our nearly 1-year-old.
SAFE EXPLORATION: At first when Penelope became mobile I was very nervous. I didn't want her getting into things. Finally, I realized I needed to either relax a little or I'd go crazy. Now, Penelope spends time throughout the day exploring our house, her toys, and surroundings. I am not constantly hovering over her, but I have an eye on her and don't let her out of my sight for more than a minute. But, I can still clean, cook, and do other things while she explores independently.
what happens when you look away
NEW PLACES: I think every child is different, but for my child, she loves to explore new places. I like taking her on walks, exploring different parks, shops, etc. She loves it all. Penelope especially likes to be around other children. Taking her to the library or the park allows her to interact with children of different ages. I also like taking her to familiar "new" places. We have a couple of areas we explore together that are familiar to her, but always exciting and new at the same time (park near our house, library, and nursery at church are the main ones).
the swing = baby bliss
DOING LIFE: One thing that I've learned this year as a mother is that my life doesn't stop just because I have a child. Things need to get done, but I can do them in a way that is educational for my daughter. We always do laundry together, and even though it takes twice as long (because I end up folding everything twice!) it's a great learning opportunity for my daughter. Same goes with cooking and allowing them to watch, or doing other household chores. Penelope really likes going grocery shopping with us, and I'll often give her the chance to touch the different fruits and vegetables that we buy.
TEXTURES, SOUNDS, TASTES: This is a big one. I love giving my daughter different sensory experiences. This can fall into an "organic experience" or "planned experience". Both are equally valuable and educational. Some things that we do are play music, dance, make music with homemade instruments, taste different foods with various textures, touch different household items, water play...the options are endless.
she chews chunks of apple, and spits them out.
ENCOURAGE THEIR INTERESTS: Can a 1-year-old have interests? I don't know. I do know my daughter and her likes and dislikes. I know she loves splashing in water, she loves knocking over block towers, she'll take every book off of a bookshelf, and she'll take every item out of a bin (and sometimes put them back). These are activities she enjoys, so I encourage them and spend time with her finding new and innovative ways to "play".
What about you? How do you encourage "experiential learning" in your kids?