Children are naturally curious about the world around them. From day one, they are taking it all in and making connections that are the building blocks to their learning for years to come. As parents, we play a critical role in encouraging our children to learn. We are their teachers and biggest cheerleaders. We help them nurture and develop those skills every step of the way.
Parents and caregivers can help encourage their kids to learn (and love it!) in several ways. When we create an environment conducive to learning, it allows children to grow and develop in a healthy, well-rounded way. Here are some ways to encourage your kids to learn and love it!
How to Encourage Kids to Learn
One of the most prominent and perhaps most effortless ways to encourage learning in children is to model it. Parents and caregivers can show their little ones about learning and why it is important simply by doing it themselves. Letting your children know that learning can be done at any age and in any scenario is important.
Often children associate learning with school. Parents can reiterate to their children that the “classroom” is anywhere they are. Opportunities for making daily life with your children a series of teachable moments are endless. Be open to those opportunities and seize them when they present themselves. Your children will learn that learning can happen no matter the surroundings. Bonus points if they see you learning something new as well!
Read, Read, Read
Another simple but effective way to encourage learning in children is to read to them, then read and read some more. Reading is critical for language and vocabulary development and allows children to see the physical way that you form words as you speak. Encouraging your children to read is a great way to strengthen those skills, but it also helps them as they grow and seek out their own books to read for pleasure.
Inspiring a love for reading is a gift that will take children into adulthood and beyond. Audiobooks can be excellent as well, allowing children to “read” on the go and to tap into that love of escaping into another world for a short while. Model this by bringing your children to your local library, where they can sign up for their very own library card and take control of their reading choices. Research and sign up for local storytimes and join other families with children of similar ages to make the experience even more enjoyable. Read before bed with your child and talk about the stories and what you liked or didn’t like about them. Remember to remind your child that it’s okay not to enjoy a particular story. There are plenty more out there to try!
Teach Growth Mindset
Creating an environment of having a growth mindset is another excellent way to encourage children to learn. When we talk about having a growth mindset, we discuss the importance of knowing that there is room to grow and that we might need alternate ways to solve a problem or situation. We realize that certain things take time and effort and don’t simply “happen” for us.
This is as opposed to having a fixed mindset, where we give up when things get hard or say “I can’t.” Those operating on a fixed mindset also usually think that the bare minimum is enough in every situation. We can help our children cultivate a growth mindset by encouraging them when situations get difficult or challenging. It might be easier to give up, and we, as adults, certainly can relate to that. But it is important to show children the importance of keeping at it and persevering through a difficult task. While it might be difficult, children will see and understand the pride in sticking to something and seeing it through, even during the difficult moments. This pride will carry them to the next challenging scenario. They will recall that feeling to apply it to the next task at hand.
Parents can work with their children on having a growth mindset by challenging them when they show or verbalize a fixed mindset. Have your children reframe their statements and praise your child when they show a growth mindset type of thinking. The more it is done, the easier it becomes. Before you know it, having a growth rather than fixed mindset will be second nature to your children.
Give Encouraging Feedback
Being specific with feedback is also a great way for parents to assist their children as they learn and grow in the world around them. Parents can say statements such as, “I can tell you’re using your thinking skills by doing XYZ,” which in turn reiterates to the child that their parents are proud of them and that they are doing something important. Praise your child but avoid doing it in a way that feels fake or inauthentic. Enthusiasm is essential here. Getting excited will help your child connect that learning and growing is an exciting venture!
Reminding your child that you understand what they are going through is also key. Saying things like, “I can tell how hard you were working on that project,” or, “I know it wasn’t easy, but you stayed really calm in that situation” can go a long way toward building up your child’s emotional intelligence and nurturing that love of learning, even when times get tough. Parents can encourage an arena of learning by saying, “Tell me more about that,” to have their children expand on their knowledge. While this helps build more of the actual understanding of the topic, it can also help with confidence and pride in their work. Encourage questions from your children and avoid comparing them to others.
Fun Learning Environment
Creating a welcoming and fun environment is essential when encouraging kids to learn. Remove distractions that aren’t conducive to teachable moments. Hone in on your child’s interests to make it more interesting for them. Build upon known interests while at the same time exposing your children to new and different things.
Avoid sending a message to your children that will put a negative or stressful connotation on school and learning. Threatening or hyper-focusing on grades will only turn your child away from wanting to improve. Instead, back off a bit and use silly games or music to teach new topics and keep the fun alive. Allow for fun experiments to emerge, and don’t be afraid of a bit of mess in the name of learning (easier said than done, I know!).
Raising Little Learners
Learning in children is hardly linear. It is a roller coaster of skills that takes time, energy, and nurturing to cultivate. As parents and caregivers, it is important to encourage your children in a way that pushes them to be the best they can be while at the same time not turning them off to a lifetime of learning. Simple, right?
I know it can be daunting, but tap into your parental instinct and think about what you would like to hear when you were younger and in that situation. Think before you speak, and remember that your little ones are learning and growing at rapid rates. They are looking to you for guidance. If you have their best interests at the forefront, you have already aced the test.