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Teachable Moments II

Dear Elizabeth,
I recently overheard my son's provider talking about teachable moments, but wasn't sure what that meant. What are teachable moments & how can I recognize them?
Christine Lawson
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Observe & follow-up
  • Use unplanned events
  • Follow kids’ leads
Expert Advice
Moises Roman
Moises Roman
UCLA Early Care and Educcation
Quite simply, everything is a teachable moment. Everything that happens between a child and parent and child and teacher is a teachable moment. To give a more structured definition, a teachable moment is a learning opportunity for a child to acquire new information, values, morals, a new behavior or a new skill, or a new way of expressing and coping with an emotion.

Recognizing Teachable Moments Teachable moments are everywhere. For example, when you are shopping with your child in the grocery store and you are choosing foods based on nutritional value. This is a teachable moment about being healthy and making healthy choices for your body to grow and develop. Or at bedtime, a parent is reading a bedtime story with his or her child. This is a teachable moment about vocabulary and the value of literacy. It is also about spending quality time together, the value of belonging, and listening to each other. There are lots of examples in everyday life that are teachable moments.

The Effectiveness of Teachable Moments
Teachable moments are real, spontaneous, immediate, and relate to the interest level and age of the child. By recognizing them as an opportunity, parents can have a tremendous impact on the present and future development of their children. It is important to have the timing just right so the impact of what is being taught and learned is immediate and relates to real life.

The benefits of teachable moments are endless. Teachable moments cover so much that the learning knows no boundaries. So whatever the situation or area of interest, learning is an opportunity. Children are always learning and so are adults. Many times we do not slow down enough to know how and what we are learning. The framework of a teachable moment gives us some structure to understand the teaching and learning interchange.

Teachable moments also help children’s emotional development. Many times, children feel an emotion, but are not always sure what to do with it, how to express it, etc. Teachable moments are opportunities for children to practice how to express their anger, sadness, joy, satisfaction and delight in accomplishing something important to him or her. If a child knows how to express his or her emotions appropriately at a young age, he or she has a model for the rest of his or her life.

Follow Your Child’s Lead
Children learn best when the teaching relates to their real life experiences, when the teaching is immediate, and children have the opportunity to ask questions and make sense of the teachable moment. Many times adults, parents and teachers, get caught up in their own stuff, the busy-ness of the moment, etc. and miss the teachable moment. So parenting in this way means adults have to be present and ready, physically and emotionally, and listen to the cues given by the child. If adults are distracted, then the teachable moment is missed. The good thing is another teachable moment will come right along. It won’t necessarily be like the one that just passed, but there will be another teachable moment about something else important to the child and to the parent.
Child Care Provider Comments
Jennifer Quiñonez
Jennifer Quiñonez
Mother of one son
My son has recently taken up an interest in baseball. He can’t seem to get enough baseball and he has a ton of questions. My husband and I decided to extend the learning by incorporating books. Nathan loves to read so we decided to take him to the library to check out books on baseball.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
When we are at the grocery store, she will often ask what something is, what it is made of, and what it is used for. Then, when we get in the kitchen, we take some of these items and this opens the door for what happens when you combine items together to make something. She likes being in the kitchen and is so curious about mixing things. She always asks “why” and “how.”
Tondra Gardner
Tondra Gardner
Licensed child care provider for two years
During spring time, we have a lot of “roly poly” pill bugs outside. The kids recently discovered them and have noticed that there are big ones and small ones. It just started one day and a little boy found a roly poly outside. He showed a friend and then all the kids got involved. I went to the library and got books on the bugs to extend the kids’ learning. I like to build on the children’s interests.

Teachable Moments in the Kitchen Featured Activity:
Teachable Moments in the Kitchen
Teachable Moments Featured Video:
Teachable Moments
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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