As parents, we want to instill in our children the joy of learning.
Yet, we can make a mistake by allowing their world to be carved into “school” and anything “not school.” Artificial barriers that segregate “learning time” from other parts of our children’s lives can squelch their natural curiosity.
Kids are born curious. They love to learn. From a very early age, children begin to explore everything, from their own bodies to the world around them. We go to great lengths to “child proof” our homes because naturally inquisitive toddlers want to explore everything they can see, touch or taste. Whatever else we may call it, they are joyfully learning about their world.
When learning is encouraged, good things happen. Swiss psychologist Dr. Jean Piaget, a pioneer in studying how we think, figured out that curiosity – the urge to know more – is the single most powerful ingredient in learning. His research and many follow-up studies proved that when kids are curious about something they learn it far more easily, remember it far longer and learn at a deeper level.
Parents can play a crucial role in nurturing this joy in learning by supporting and expanding on their child’s natural curiosity.
First, ask yourself, “How do I feel about learning?” In order to teach children to love learning, you have to love it yourself. So think about what you are learning now and how you go about it. What do you see as learning challenges? How do you feel as a teacher to your children?
Look at the world through your children’s eyes. When was the last time you sat on the floor and saw things the way your child does?
Observe your children. What attracts their attention? What do they want to touch and explore? Where do they feel most comfortable?
When we create a space for them that encourages exploration and allows them to make choices, take risks, develop their own ideas and express their feelings, we encourage them to grow up to embrace learning as a normal part of everyday life.
Learning is not just teaching children to a set of academic standards. Early childhood education expert Ellen Booth Church says, “Learning is a process, a series of experiences that lead to the great ‘aha!’ moments of life.”
Finnish educators and researchers Taina Rantala and Kaarina Määttä have studied ways to restore the joy in learning in schools. Their research* offers 10 insights that parents can use to help their children find those “aha” moments every day:
#1: Experiencing and celebrating small steps is important on the way to the larger goal.
#2: Play may not look like learning to an adult, but children structure their environment through play.
#3: “Children’s free play should not be regarded only as side action that occurs when nothing important is happening and all the ‘real’ tasks are completed. A free student is inquisitive and creative.”
#4: The joy of learning does not like to hurry. “As the joy of learning is often connected with finishing a task, hurry does nothing to enhance the achievement of these goals.”
#5: Your child will only truly commit to a task that is meaningful to him/her.
#6: A student naturally strives for the joy of learning.
#7: Friends and shared experiences help make learning fun.
#8: The joy of learning does not include listening to prolonged speeches. “A student should be at the center of the learning situation.” Children want action and doing, not sitting and listening.
#9: Allowing children in the decision-making process of their own learning strengthens the joy of learning.
#10: You never need to say, “Now it’s time to learn about…” It’s always time to learn. Look at your everyday experiences as the learning opportunities they really are.
* Ten Theses of the Joy of Learning at Primary Schools, Taina Rantala & Kaarina Määttä, Early Child Development and Care, Volume 182, Issue 1, 2012
Where’s the joy of learning, The CreativePost.com, Aug. 17, 2012
Curiosity: Nurturing the urge to know more, Aboutkidshealth.ca.