Every child has innate abilities, interests, skills and habits – or what could be referred to as a distinct set of potentials. By keeping an eye out for these innate qualities, you can enhance children’s learning abilities, spark their interests, foster their talents and generally help them develop into well-rounded and passionate adults.
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Here are some ways you can encourage the innate learning abilities of children:
Support Their Interests and Passions
Studies show that children’s learning is improved when they have a choice to choose their topics of interest. According to Sally Reis, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, the best way to unlock a child’s potential is to find and develop their interests. As either a parent, educator or caregiver looking to enhance these interests and spark new ones, children should be exposed to a wide range of diverse experiences – you can take them to museums, art galleries, zoos, libraries, theater shows, and appropriate music gigs. It is also important to expose children to a wide range of different pursuits, hobbies and creative projects and to pay attention closely to what they really enjoy from this ongoing selection process of potential passions which once identified can be fostered and nurtured further.
You can also facilitate better learning and engagement by delivering content in a way that is related to a child’s interests. For example, if you want to teach a child to read and this child happens to be interested in safari animals, help them to read books about animals in Africa.
Make Learning Hands-On
Research shows that active, hands-on learning is best for children. When children are able to learn through moving, seeing, touching and experiencing, they are better able to grasp new concepts, and their interest is piqued and maintained. Most children won’t enjoy learning from a textbook, through rote memorization, or by taking notes. They need hands-on activities that contextualize their learning. For example, if you teach children math, you can have them do sums using objects like crayons or marbles. Similarly, you can enrich their learning by giving them real-life examples of things they are learning about. For example, if your child is learning about aquatic animals, you can take them to an aquarium. Or, if they are studying an artist, you can take them to see the artist’s work in a gallery. The goal is to make learning adventurous and connected to actual engaging real-world experiences. By doing this, you will help children to learn more effectively, and you will also foster a genuine love of learning.
Use Multimodal Teaching and Give Children Regular Breaks
Children have different learning styles. Where one child might learn best by hearing their teacher describe a concept, another child might prefer to watch a video about the concept, or to interact with a physical demonstration. A multimodal teaching approach involves teaching concepts using various modes, or channels, and gives groups of students multiple touch points to understand new content. Modes are experienced in different ways by the senses (usually visual, auditory or tactile). These senses often interact with each other, which creates a dynamic learning experience.
Teachers should attempt using at least two or more modes to provide a well-rounded learning experience. Just some of the different modes you can use to teach concepts include:
- Facial expressions
- Writing and print
For example, if you are teaching children about the moon, why not have them create a song about it, draw a picture/build a model of it, and tell a story that takes place on the moon? This type of content will engage all the different learning styles, and encourage children to be engaged, excited and curious.
Another idea that can be useful and prevent learning burnout is to give regular breaks and opportunities to break up the learning with fun activities or rests. Learning new content is tiring, and can become stressful, frustrating and discouraging without breaks. By getting creative and not overloading children, you can show them that learning doesn’t have to be stressful and help them to develop a genuine love of learning that will serve them well into adulthood.
Be Supportive & Patient
Children can quickly lose their love of learning if they associate it with pressure, struggle, anxiety or anger. If they are terrified of getting something wrong or failing a test, they will avoid learning new things, give up easily, lose their self esteem, and shy away from engaging with teachers and lessons. To prevent these common symptoms, children should be encouraged and supported, especially when they get something wrong or have trouble grasping a concept. They should also be shown that learning success comes from curiosity, perseverance, practice and failure. According to Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck, students score higher on intelligence tests when they are praised for their effort instead of their ability. So, teachers and caregivers should praise children and use positive reinforcement rather than punishment. They should also make sure that they have reasonable expectations for children and show encouragement, not frustration, when a child struggles or makes a mistake.
Reis, Sally M., and Joseph S. Renzulli. “The schoolwide enrichment model: A talent development approach resulting in opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all students.” Creating equitable services for the gifted: Protocols for identification, implementation, and evaluation. IGI Global, 2022. 39-57.