Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Childhood is a whirlwind of discovery. From the first wobbly steps they take to the joy they feel when learning a new word, children understand best when they are actively learning and consciously engaging with the world.

Learning shouldn’t just be about filling children’s days with activities so they don’t get bored and go wild. Learning should be about fostering a deep curiosity and a love of learning that will benefit them throughout their lives. 

The Science of Active Learning

Our brains are wired for active learning. This is more so when we are children. Research in cognitive neuroscience shows passive absorption (like sitting through lectures) is less effective than engaging with information through exploration, experimentation, and problem-solving. When children are actively participating in their learning, they create robust neural pathways, leading to better memory, critical thinking skills, and deeper understanding. 

  • Cognitive Development: Hands-on experiences allow children to explore cause and effect, categorize objects, and solve problems. This stimulates the growth of new brain connections, which is critical for cognitive development.
  • Language Development: Active interaction, whether through play, conversation, or storytelling, encourages children to use language in a meaningful context. This fosters vocabulary development, communication skills, and the ability to express themselves clearly.
  • Socio-emotional Development: Learning through play requires collaboration, negotiation, and empathy. Children learn to share, take turns, and resolve conflicts. This interaction fosters social and emotional skills crucial for navigating the world.

Consciously Engaging with the World 

Photo by kychan

Actively learning about something is more than just being busy. 

It’s when an environment that sparks curiosity and ignites a passion for exploration is created. 

Always try to follow the child’s lead and observe their interests, building upon them. If they show fascination with insects, help them create a backyard habitat for insects or facilitate a visit to a butterfly garden. 

You should try to fuel their natural curiosity and make relevant learning opportunities.

When conducting activities with them, don’t make ones that have predetermined outcomes. Think up activities that are open-ended and let them discover an end goal for themselves. Give them blocks, clay, or art supplies. By doing so, you encourage them to be more creative and experimental when it comes to solving problems and whatnot.

Children are very inquisitive by nature. Instead of giving answers or ignoring them when they have a question, ask open-ended questions that spark critical thinking. “What do you think will happen if these two colors are mixed?” or “How can we make it so that our bowl of candies lasts longer?”

Opportunities for Active Learning

Photo by Ismail Salad Osman Hajji dirir

Always embrace every opportunity as an opportunity to be actively learning. When children encounter challenges or make mistakes, it should be a moment to learn about something more. Additionally, make the learning fun! Turn everyday activities into fun learning experiences.

During interactions, if possible, have children engage with all five senses. Let them touch different textures, smell different scents, and listen to a variety of sounds. Sensory experiences make for a very rich foundation for active learning. 

Don’t give chores that bore! Turn errands into adventures. Daily errands have the capacity to become learning moments. When you’re at the grocery store, help children identify fruits and vegetables and have them count items or estimate quantities. 

Another aspect you can engage your kids with is nature. The natural world is a treasure trove of learning opportunities. Explore a park, plant a garden together, or observe the world around you.

Benefits that Last a Lifetime

The benefits of active learning and conscious engagement extend far beyond childhood. Children who are actively engaged in their learning develop a growth mindset, believing they can learn and improve through effort. This empowers them to be self-motivated, creative problem solvers, and lifelong learners, setting them on a path of continuous growth and success.

These skills are more critical than ever in today’s rapidly changing world. By nurturing a love of learning through active engagement, we empower children to become curious, adaptable, and thriving individuals ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

If you’re looking to get started with fostering a love for actively learning in your children, Kristina Orliczky’s Mona’s Mitten: A Story to MOVE to is a lovely start. 

With clear instructions and an engaging story, it will have your children moving up and about!

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