In a world where so many people are graduating from high school with little or no desire to learn, it is refreshing to find children who love learning. But what does this mean for parents whose biggest wish is for their kids to grow up and be able to support themselves?
How can parents instill a love of learning in their children without totally turning them into little bookworms? Is it really possible to raise children who love learning in today’s world?
The truth is that nurturing the desire to learn begins when kids are young. They do not need to be raised with flashcards, math drills, phonics programs or other traditional forms of home schooling in order for this deep curiosity and love of learning to take root.
Watching your children play, reading together, exposing them to new experiences and expanding their horizons are all great ways for parents to help kids love learning in their own unique way. Here are seven tips for raising children who love learning in the modern age:
1. Let them be curious about everything
Watch your kids when they are playing and you will see that they love it when anything piques their curiosity. Whether they are trying to figure out how a toy works, what something tastes like or where a particular noise is coming from, the desire to explore and learn is inborn in all children.
In addition to giving your kids lots of opportunities for play, you can also nurture their desire to learn by answering questions as honestly and fully as possible. Never say “I don’t know” or “It’s none of your business,” and always encourage kids to ask questions, even if they seem silly.
2. Read together every day
Reading is the foundation for learning in school, so it is important for parents to do what they can to foster a love of reading in their kids. The best way to start is by reading together every day.
Start when your children are babies and continue throughout childhood and adolescence, even if you think they have outgrown picture books. The benefits will be endless: not only will you bond with your children, but you will also expose them to new experiences and vastly improve their vocabulary.
3. Encourage hands-on learning
Children learn through play, so the more opportunities you give them for hands-on activities such as cooking, playing an instrument or creating art projects, the better chance they have of developing a lifelong love of learning.
Even seemingly mundane tasks such as doing the laundry or washing the dishes can turn into learning experiences once you introduce some new vocabulary or teach your kids how to follow a recipe.
When your children see you doing something hands-on, ask them to join in with their own version of the same task so they will know that it is never too early (or late) to let your kids participate in family life.
4. Take advantage of technology
Technology does not have to be a bad word when it comes to raising children who love learning.
Today’s tablets and computers come preloaded with thousands of educational apps that turn everyday tasks into learning experiences for curious young minds.
Teach older kids about responsibility by giving them a budgeted amount of time every day on age-appropriate devices such as smartphones, iPads and laptop computers.
And remember that allowing your children to play with toys that electronically connect to mobile devices such as an iPod or iPad can also turn into a great learning experience.
5. Expose them to new experiences and cultures
Traveling with young children is possible, even if it takes extra effort and requires some creativity — just be sure you and your spouse share the responsibility so no one feels overwhelmed.
Whether you travel across the street or around the globe, new experiences open kids’ eyes to different ways of living while exposing them to new people, places and things they might not otherwise be exposed to at home.
While traveling, give your kids opportunities for fun new activities such as riding a camel in Egypt or climbing on ancient ruins in Italy, and encourage your kids to interact with people who may not speak their language.
6. Nurture a love of the arts
Watching movies, listening to music and taking in live performances can all be great ways for parents to help inspire a lifelong love of learning in children.
Take them out for an afternoon matinee at your local movie theater or let them tag along on a trip to see some live music.
When choosing age-appropriate activities, consider exposing them to different kinds of art including music, dance, drama and painting. It is never too early (or late) to expose your kids to the world of art!
7. Show that you are always open for learning yourself
Make it a point to pick up a new skill or hobby that you and your children can learn together, such as knitting, knitting or playing an instrument. Then share what you’ve learned with them by teaching them how to do the same thing. It’s never too early (or late) for parents to learn something new!
8. Play games together
An evening of board games is an age-old favorite in most families with young children, and it is also a great way for parents to improve their own literacy skills while helping kids practice theirs.
Read along with your child when handing him a card from a deck; then let him read the instructions out loud before moving ahead. Learning how to play will be twice as fun when both parents and children are able to participate in the game.
9. Talk about what you see around you
When parents give their kids opportunities to talk about what they see around them, it can turn into an open invitation for curiosity and learning. Take your child “on safari” through the grocery store by asking her questions like, “Can you find me something yellow?” or “Do you think that man has ever seen a wild animal?”
Questions like this not only help teach kids how to be observant of their surroundings; they also improve kids’ reading comprehension skills when answering. Just remember: If you don’t ask the question, your child might not share his thoughts; so make sure to take advantage of everyday opportunities to ask curious questions.
10. Make learning to read fun
The best way to encourage reading in children is for parents to make it a point to read often, try new books and make it fun, but don’t forget kids can learn something new when adults read with expression.
Read in silly voices or use different pitches when speaking dialogue aloud; then get your child into the act by asking her to read one or two sentences for you. Learning how to read opens up a new world of learning opportunities, so start early to help your kids get the most out of it.