Learning is the foundation upon which we are able to live, communicate, interact, support ourselves, support others, and find purpose in our lives. Think about it, from the first moment you are born you are learning. You open your eyes and explore the world around you, trying to find some sense of what the world is. Children have a whole range of senses to explore outside of their bubble in mom’s belly. We can learn to encourage learning as they grow.
Within a couple years you can be fluent in one or two languages, depending on your household. Your child walks around naming colors, shapes, and animals sounds with a perfect knowledge of each; no child ever stops there. At some point you reach the “why” stage where that is literally the only phrase you hear escape a child’s mouth. Or, “I’m hungry,” but that’s besides the point.
You’re outside and all of a sudden, “Mom, why’s the sky blue?” Some moms have an answer, but let’s be honest, most don’t. Then we kind of give a half effort answer of, “Well, I’m not really sure, but maybe we can figure it out later.” That is a pretty good answer. That will offer you the possibility answering the question later. Answering every question can sometimes it can be exhausting to answer questions.
There seems to be a rumor going around that gives the idea that children don’t want to learn. I was taking a teacher training at a dance studio I was working at. Another teacher was giving us a lesson on how to teach the younger classes. This was fine until the phrase was uttered, “Children don’t want to learn. Children want to play, and as soon as they realize you’re trying to teach them something, they’re uninterested. So we have to disguise their learning experience.”
WHAT?! That doesn’t even make sense. Children learn more in their first six years of life the most adults learn over the course of the rest of their lives. They go from knowing NOTHING to being able to interact in our ever changing world, and they learn really fast. Think about how long it takes an adult to learn a new technology, but when you hand a child the same invention they can figure it out so quickly.
My 9-month old daughter figured out she could slide my locked iPhone screen to the side and take a selfie. A poor selfie, mind you, because she can’t aim, but a cute selfie nonetheless. The fact of the matter is, children are relentless when it comes to figuring things out. They want to learn everything that their parents are doing. Children usually don’t worry about doing things wrong or imperfectly. So, they will try everything until they’ve gained a skill set.
I never played sports when I was young so now it scares the heck out of me to participate in family sporting activities. My aim is poor, I get scared when any type of ball comes flying at me, and I don’t know what rules apply to which games, except perhaps soccer and rugby. However, children have a lot of leeway when they learn. They aren’t expected to have any experience, so naturally, learning becomes fun. And that is the basis of our methods. Learning is only not fun when adults have convinced children that learning sucks. And quite frankly, school is the best place to do that.
So how do we, in our homes, foster a learning attitude that lasts a lifetime? Here are some real world applications to encourage learning.
Sometimes we’re too lazy, sometimes we don’t know the answer. No matter what, there is no good excuse, especially with the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips in this day and age. Glenn Doman, the founder of the Gentle Revolution, teaches this practice well. He explains that parents have a multitude of options when it comes to answering a child’s question.
Let’s draw a picture of this for you. You’e at the zoo and your child asks, “Mom, what is that?” As they point to a tiger you can do one of many things.
If you don’t know the answer, help your children learn to research. GOOGLE IS AMAZING, or your local library is great too. Simply say to your child, “I don’t know, but let’s go find out together,” and they will love going on this learning journey with you.
I think this is an overlooked method of learning to encourage learning. We like to pack up a playroom with a million toys, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is so much less effort into putting together a quality home library. I understand, books can be expensive. However, they can be cheaper than many toy sets that get collected for the sake of a child’s wants.
In my household as a child my mom wasn’t much of a shopper, but golly she splurged on books. My father was never more afraid of taking my mom anywhere, but into a bookstore. Especially those old ones that smell special. Unfortunately my mother’s sickness wore off onto me, and my husband now enjoys a small apartment with more books than shelves. I’m partial to fiction, which is educational in its own way in that it can teach vocabulary, grammar, conversation patterns, and life lessons, as well as morals.
Nonfiction books are great for answering those “why” questions and instilling our children with facts that they can categories and organize in their mind.
So your kinds want more toys, do they? Head down to your local Barnes and Noble and check out their educational activities section. Their pickings are ripe with learning materials that are fun AND educational. There’s the Science Center, a collection of Arts and Crafts activities, as well as puzzles and strategy games. You can also find a lot of interactive learning activities at your local teachers resource centers. (If you homeschool, and you have a membership with a state organization you can actually get discounts at teaching stores as a “home educator” fun fact!)
Toys are often used as a distraction instead of an opportunity to learning. This is why we often sit out kids down in front of the tv or fill a room with toys and hope that one day it ends up clean again. It’s true, parents have a lot of work to do and it can be exhausting to dote on our children day and night, but that is the mission we signed up for when having them isn’t it? It can actually be a lot of fun to experience your child’s growth with them.
Planet Earth videos or a collection of audio books are perfect fits for this section. Listening material is a great background noise for tactile activities. The information will stick even if your child doesn’t give it their full and undivided attention.
Even if educational videos aren’t something that is generally looked forward to in your home, when it is all that is allowed it can become something your kids will always remember. My husband’s childhood Sundays were set aside for “no movies or tv,” unless they were spiritual in nature. My husband and his siblings soaked up every opportunity for the sake of something to do. Planet Earth became part of the mix later. They still hold fond memories of those adventures to this day.
Whether it be science, technology, the arts, or more: encourage your children to explore the world of current events. Once a week, challenge your kids to research the events of the week and give a spiel at dinner time. Your children will learn of the new happenings and find an interest in careers, hobbies, and experiences that they may never have heard of before. They will find new things to ask questions about and they will get the opportunity to teach their siblings and parents new things!
There are many ways to encourage learning and adventure in our homes that our children will love, and we should encourage them to ask “why.” Every parent wants better for their children than what they have and that is even true and applicable for the learning and knowledge we have acquired. Glenn Doman put it best when he noted (and I’m paraphrasing here) that our grandparents wanted our parents to stand on their shoulders, and our parents want the same for us. Now we can push ourselves to do the same for our children. If you’d like more activities for your kids to try at home, check out our free Homeschool Resources, which contain a list of “Day Off Activities.”
What are some traditions or habits that your family has adopted to encourage learning in your home? Comment below!
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