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LEARNING BY OBSERVING:

Much of what your children learn comes from observing people, situations, and things. The principle is not complicated. For example, your infant observes people wave and say "bye-bye" when they leave. Through numerous observations, she gradually learns the custom of making some kind of parting comments and gestures upon leaving. She also learns to talk by observing people talk.

While most learning through observing takes place spontaneously, you can still do quite a lot to maximize it. First, you can encourage your child to be observant. For example, your child hears some music and asks if you like the song. You could say yes or no and let it go at that or, instead, you could encourage your child to sit for a few minutes and listen with you. As you listen, you might call his attention to different instruments, how the voices complement the instruments, and the like. If you do this with enthusiasm, he may well pick up an appreciation for music, including the all-important ability to listen carefully. As you cook, you might encourage your child to taste the food as it is being prepared and to be aware of the flavors and textures.

Second, you may want to take your child someplace special, or bring something unusual home to him. For example, a mother picked up a turtle by the roadside and took it home to show to her child. Or a child's uncle worked at a pumping station and one evening took the child to the plant to show him the large pumps.

If you orient yourself to making observation opportunities available to your children, you will quickly find interesting and unusual opportunities come up several times a week. You can encourage your children to carefully observe with all of their senses, help them to be more aware of what they are observing, and look for opportunities for observation from the unimportant to the highly unusual.

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