The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know- Albert Einstein
Hearing your kids get excited about learning feels like glitter bombs exploding in your heart. And it’s confirmation that school and report cards are really only one sign that your kids are learning. While grades and scores are important, what about the sparkle in their eyes when they discover a “new” bug on the road, see a drawing that inspires some art of their own, and are able to balance on their new cycle? In the end we want their love of learning to go beyond school and sustain them throughout their whole lives.
Unfortunately, lots of children start to lose their passion for learning as they grow up. How do they get to that place? For some kids school becomes less about learning and more about achievement, right answers, and grades. When that happens, they can start to think learning isn’t fun. And as they get older, they want to play it cool and avoid showing a sense of awe about pretty much anything — at least to us. Even kids with exceptional grades are sometimes in it for the marks on report cards and have lost sight of learning.
The good news is that even when kids claim they don’t like to learn, they really do. It’s best to start encouraging kids to be lifelong learners when they’re little. Here are some tips to keep your kid’s love of learning alive:
Start Early, Inspire Often
Toddlers and Pre-schoolers find everything fascinating: It’s often enough just to play with sand, stack blocks, and even just stare at their hands. Parents can build on this natural inclination in lots of ways. First, you can share their wonder at the world. If your kid is amazed by a spider or delighted by the garbage truck, let yourself mirror that enthusiasm and build on it by asking questions and noticing things: “The truck’s wheels are circles. What other shapes do I see?” or “I wonder what kind of spider this is.”
Reading to your kids not only inspires learning and lays the foundation for literacy but if you comment and ask questions as you read, it shows children that reading can be an active process. And if they do watch video clips on You Tube or social media talk to them about what they are watching, these, are potential learning opportunities.
In addition to being open about your own wonder and curiosity, you can also be a role model for the learning process. Once you’re curious about something, what do you do next?
Talking through the learning process with your pre-schooler not only shows some ways learning can happen, but also that it’s for grown-ups, too. This can be as simple as sharing what you’re learning from a movie or TV show. It’s especially great to walk kids through what happens when you hit obstacles. For example, if you’re reading articles or manuals to learn a new skill at work or you’re trying a new workout, talk through the tough parts and what you do to overcome obstacles: “I’ve never done this type of exercise, so I’m making lots of mistakes, but I asked for some help and am being a good friend to myself by being patient as I practice.” And when you make mistakes, show how we can learn from them and sometimes even turn them into a “beautiful oops.”
Go Beyond Subjects and Skills
Sure, we want our kids to be great at academic subjects, but what about the so-called “soft skills” like kindness, empathy and perseverance? While they can be hard to measure, we want our kids to keep learning about how to be the best human being they can be. Like more concrete skills, building these character traits lend themselves to modelling and narrating so kids can see how grownups work through interpersonal issues: “Someone at work said something that made me angry, so I had to use some skills to calm down, and talked with her about it.” Taking responsibility for mistakes, making amends, and showing self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses is also a good way to demonstrate how we keep working on ourselves and are never perfect.
Keep it Real, Encourage Autonomy
It’s important to let kids try things, fail, and try again. Even as they get older and want to attempt things on their own, you should still let them — within reason, of course. Making choices and having some independence teaches them special lessons they can’t get anywhere else, such as resilience.
When kids are mostly told what they need to learn in school, being able to explore their own interests can be really powerful. Not only can they piggyback on their own passions, but they can also learn things that are especially relevant to their real lives, like changing a tire, organizing a toy drive, or cooking.
Believe in yourself… You are the perfect parent for your child — no matter how challenging it sometimes seems. You should assure yourself that each one of us can raise our children to be lifelong learners…exploring, discovering, and creating with them along the way.