Afternoons are not a young ones ‘prime time’ and as a result ‘surviving’ the afternoon with tired kids can seem an daunting task. Recently however we made a small change. In the words of Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (authors of The Whole Brain Child) we have changed our afternoons from a time of “surviving” to a time of “thriving.”

There is considerable evidence across a multitude of philological studies that questions like ‘what made you feel happy today?’ What happened today that made you feel sad/angry’ and ‘what did you do today that made someone else feel happy?’ are all hugely beneficial in the development of social and cognitive skills later down the line.

Recalling emotions, activities and moments in time help us better deal with those type of situations in the future. Then there is the widespread movement of parents ‘bully proofing’ their children by making them aware through reflection that the actions of others effect their emotional state (and of course the other way around!)

Talking about these reflective things with your child is fantastic and proven to be hugely beneficial. But has anyone come across the concept that ‘those who can teach another are the ones who fully understand’… Things like this (in various forms and quotes) are bantered around and have become engrained in our way of teaching.

It is worth noting that the statistics thrown around with this statement have actually been proved to be rather inaccurate from a scientific point of view, though the sentiment rings true (ie. being able to reflect and demonstrate concepts has been proved to be linked with a better understanding, though being able to teach another did not increase ones likely hood of understanding beyond that.)

However, demonstration is not something I can call into action from my children without a good reason, so here’s our new plan:

When we get home from picking up the older child we have some snacks (replenish the afternoon nutrition low) while reading our ‘little readers’ book from the school (at this age that means ‘homework’ is done). Then it is teaching time.

6yo Anica has to teach her sister something she learnt at school, then 4yo Elka has to teach her sister something that she learnt through the day. (Above you can see Anica how became the leader and taught Elka how to make craft bunny bag out of a paper plate. Then Elka became the leader and showed Anica how to do some moves she learnt at little gymnastics.)

This not only gives me some time to sort the afternoon out (rather than in the past where they both needed my full attention all afternoon, you know how afternoons can be!) but this act of taking responsibility to teach another usually sparks the beginnings of truly self directed play as they travel off with their game and become entirely engrossed in their own little world of play…and we all know how healthy that is for the brain!

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