Experiential learning – is this just a ‘chi-chi’ term used to describe the way your children learn? Well, no, and let’s try to break it down into simpler terms here.

Imagine this…

You’re given this chicken noodle soup recipe – what’s the first thought that goes through your mind?

(Source: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/26460/quick-and-easy-chicken-noodle-soup/)

For starters, this looks simple enough. Butter, onion, celery, carrots, chicken, noodles… all common ingredients easily found at our local supermarket. Mhm… definitely do-able!

And then…

You start cooking up this pot of goodness…only to realize…you need more salt, you need more pepper, you need perhaps a little thyme or dill or just a dallop more butter!

(Source: https://bmexdi064h-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Homemade-Chicken-Noodle-Soup-foodiecrush.com-0121.jpg)

Could you have really figured this out without cooking the recipe? Well, if you’re Gordon Ramsay, maybe. Most of us, however, will need to go through the entire experience to discover more about ourselves, our preferences, our likes, our dislikes, and only then can we make sense of it all.

You know what? Our children are not all that different!

In order for our little ones to learn, they must experience and engage. Some might argue that the “flash card” / “memory” method works just as well. Hmm… perhaps in standardized tests. However, what we’re looking for here is true understanding, passion, curiosity, and a keenness for knowledge.

How then can we ensure that our children are learning the hands-on way?

We understand your concern. Well, things like arithmetic or grammar rules or phonics can be somewhat tough to teach in an experiential way, right? Wrong.

The first thing we highly recommend is to put yourselves in your children’s shoes. What do they like to do best? What are their favourite games? What activities would pique their interests? What kinds of toys do they gravitate towards? What kinds of colours are they most attracted to?

In essence, design your children’s learning goals around them. Let us give you some examples…

Learning about numbers through songs and games!

i) Through games

Three-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse practicing numeral recognition and rational counting through a fishing game!

Through this game, children get a chance to fish out their desired fish. They will then share with their friends the numeral written on the fish as well as count the number of scales found on the flip side of the fish.

ii) Through nursery rhymes

Four-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse learning the concept of ‘subtraction’ through the nursery rhyme “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”!

The rhyme goes:

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed

Three little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed

Two little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed

One little monkey jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said,
Put those monkeys right to bed

(Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWO9uP_VJV8)

With every stanza, children will take turns to “fall off” and enact out the concept of “subtracting one”. Understanding this arithmetic concept right down to its very basics will help to build the strong foundation for our little ones to work on more complex arithmetic problems with ease.

Learning phonics through different senses!

i) Through experiments

Two-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse learning all about the letter ‘h’ by exploring a delicious block of honeycomb!

Children were learning all about the letter ‘h’ by exploring a delicious block of honeycomb. They got to smell the delicious sweetness of honey, observe the unique geometry of the honeycomb, explore and feel its sticky texture, and even got to taste the delectable treat! Throughout the entire experience, children practiced the letter ‘h’ sound by singing the song “oh how sweet the /h/, /h/ honeycomb, oh how sweet the /h/, /h/ honeycomb, oh how sweet the /h/, /h/ honeycomb, /h/ is the sound for <h>”.

ii) Through games

Three-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse practicing initial letter sounds by jumping into the hoops whose letter sound corresponds to the initial sound of the displayed image!

Children engage their brain and body muscles with this fun and engaging game of jumping hoops. A stack of picture cards is placed at the front and children take turns to jump into the hoops that contain the initial sounds of the pictures. For example, /f/ is the initial sound for ‘fox’.

Mastering mandarin in a hands-on manner!

i) Through sensorial engagement

Three-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse learning how to write the Chinese stroke “竖”!

Children learn how to write the Chinese stroke “竖” by using paint-filled zip lock bags. They are mesmerized by the bright and vibrant colours and especially love how the paint feels on their little fingers. This activity is great for honing children’s fine motor skills and is also a great tool to help work on their attention spans!

ii) Through craft work

Two-year-olds at Viv’s Schoolhouse learning more about the Chinese culture and mystical creature (“龙” dragon) through a colourful hand printed project work

Hand printing is great fun! Not only do children get exposed to this brilliant art medium, they also get to be fully engaged in the craft activity. Here, children’s finger prints represent the beautiful scales that can be found on the dragon’s back. As they work together on this project work, children also learn more about compromise and effective communication.

As you can see, there are just so many types of activities you can plan to engage your children in experiential learning. Remember, the most important thing is for everyone to have fun whilst taking in the exciting world of new knowledge and information! Enjoy the journey!