7 everyday activities that'll create teachable moments for your kids

Take advantage of the time you spend with your kids by sprinkling valuable life lessons into routine tasks with them.

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A family of five on vacation stumbles across a wallet in the hotel parking lot. The father takes it to the front desk and says, “In case someone is looking for a wallet, here it is.”

Instead of letting the matter rest, the father discusses the virtue of honesty with his family. He has, in fact, seized on this great opportunity to teach junior a value as well, by offering his insights about life.

Indeed, parents should capitalise on such “moments” to extend or expand their child’s learning experiences, so that this will have a positive impact on junior, explains Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

Teachable moments also occur when a child’s curiosity in a specific subject is at its highest, so be prepared to face a slew of questions like, “Why is the sky blue?”, “What does ‘we can’t afford it’ mean?”. Do keep your explanation short and simple, then wait for other opportunities to repeat it as junior will tune you out if everything becomes a “lesson”!

If you know the answer, it’s a chance to teach junior about the weather, history or language. Teachable moments are not constrained to a “classroom”, but come with stories, activities and even real-life experiences, Koh notes. Here are some ways to create your own…

Teachable moments are not constrained to a “classroom”, but come with stories, activities and even real-life experiences.

1) Watch TV, movies or commercials together

If you’re watching TV with your child and she’s riveted to a news report about an earthquake, use the moment to teach her about the forces of nature that create them. You can also discuss movie plots and themes and talk about ethics, the relationships between characters, and respect for self and others.

Take movies like Frozen or Inside Out, for example. If junior loves watching these repeatedly, point out that it’s sisterly love that saves the day, or why it’s important to be smart, kind and brave.

TV commercials or sitcoms are filled with teachable moments, too. If it shows people enjoying alcohol, use this opportunity to discuss that it’s the actors’ job to pretend to have a good time while drinking. Then, share how alcohol affects the brain and the body if it’s consumed in excess.

2) Read together

When reading a book, get your toddler to be a letter or sound detective to look for a specific letter that makes a certain sound. For an older child, ask her to share something interesting she has read in storybooks, magazines or even the newspaper.

3) Listen to music together

Kids respond to the lyrics and rhythms in music and they also provide wonderful teachable moments for your children. You can use music to let your kids know you love them, to teach them lessons about life, and to express your hopes for them.

Music has also been shown to benefit memory, as well as help children with their pronunciation and vocabulary. For parents with a musical background, why not discuss the melody or types of instruments used in a song?

Use music to educate older children about the hearing damage caused by loud music when using headphones. You’d be surprised to learn that popular celebrity Chris Martin from the band Coldplay has hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) from listening to very loud music.

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4) Cook together

Allow kids to experiment with baking or cooking. Talk about what you are doing while preparing the food. Demonstrate kitchen safety constantly. Make sure you emphasise what is hot and unsafe to touch.

5) Shop for groceries together

Teach your child how to compare prices and brands when buying groceries. If you’re paying bills or talking about budgeting, let your children watch how you manage money. Don’t be afraid of what your children will think about your financial status, your current situation could be a valuable lesson to teach them how not to make the same mistakes.

If you’re teaching an important lesson, explain it in one or two sentences using kid-friendly words. Plus, how you deliver the information can make the difference between alienating your children — or inspiring them.

6) Organise a bedroom or playroom

Make it fun by letting him work on colour matching, classifying and sorting. For older kids, it can be planning ahead, having a goal and outlining the steps to achieve that goal. All these offer wonderful opportunities to help your children shape their adult attitudes and habits.

7) Learn on the go

A car journey that’s filled with parent-child conversations is a great way to build your relationship. Point out and emphasise the sounds of the letters, words or road signs as you drive.

If your family is taking an evening stroll and chances upon teens smoking at the bus stop, point out the harmful effects smoking can have on the body, especially over a long period of time. At the beach, write letters or words in the sand for junior to read before the waves wash them away!

Things you shouldn’t do…

Remember to keep your “lessons” fun, so that your children absorb and retain the information easily. Encourage them to ask questions, too. Your conversations will help in the development of language, communication and reasoning skills as long as you avoid…

* Saying too much Words matter, if they’re coming from you, the parent. If you’re teaching an important lesson, explain it in one or two sentences using kid-friendly words. Avoid saying more, as this opens more opportunities to say the wrong thing. Plus, how you deliver the information can make the difference between alienating your children — or inspiring them.

* Getting emotional Yelling ruins teachable moments faster than anything. Most parents tend to turn important topics into lengthy lectures they give at the height of anger or frustration. “Parents at times become too consumed with their own emotions, expectations or demands, hence, they dictate what the child should do rather than teaching them how to make constructive decisions based on their knowledge or skills,” Koh notes. If you intend to create a teachable moment out of a mistake, stay calm and focused. During a teachable moment, keep in mind you’re not trying to persuade junior to agree with you or defend your position. Your goal is to teach! Even if your children disagree with you, use the moment to show them that you can have a respectful disagreement!

* Teaching in the middle of a moment Nothing dampens the moment more than when you’re with a parent who’s constantly barking safety instructions when their child is trying something for the first time, like building a sandcastle or scaling a play structure. Unless your child asks for help, let him learn the laws of tides and gravity even as you supervise them closely.

* Pointing out the obvious Most parents tend to point out the obvious and (over) react. This is because they are overcome with the notion that a particular moment in time — their child’s thoughtlessness, carelessness, selfishness or laziness — will forever define the person their child will become.

Parents need to realise that not every interaction or mistake is a teachable moment. It’s more important that you teach your children to love themselves rather than to perfect themselves.

Photos: iStock

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