One of the most important aspects of nurturing a life-long learner is extending learning beyond the classroom. There is no question that the skills students learn in school are important for both academic and social growth. However, children must be open to the larger world of ideas beyond schoolwork as well.
The following ways to motivate your child to learn also increase academic success and the desire to engage in life-long learning.
Make reading part of the daily routine. Demonstrating the importance of reading is one of the key ways to motivate your child to learn. Children cannot comprehend why they need to learn how to read if their world is devoid of reading materials. In addition to books, magazines, and newspapers, consider other venues for print at home, such as posters and placemats with words on them. For younger children, establish a regular read-aloud time and give them the opportunity to choose many of the selections. For older children, establish a regular family reading time when everyone reads together silently and/or discusses his or her current reading selection.
Encourage your child’s interests. You will have difficulty finding ways to motivate your child to learn if you do not consider his or her interests. For example, a child may not be interested in reading or writing until he or she realizes that reading and writing about trains, for example, is a possibility. Seek out opportunities for children to further their interests whenever possible, and the learning will come naturally. You can help them start fun journal projects about their interests. A nature lover may enjoy a educational project like this tree journal featured on SCJ Green Choices website for instance.
Support multiple learning styles. Children learn in different ways, many of which begin with playing in different ways. The key to many of these playing/learning opportunities is unstructured time. Children are not able to develop their problem-solving skills and creative forms of expression unless they have this unstructured time on a regular basis.
Show excitement about your own learning experiences. One of the best ways for both children and adults to become excited about learning new information is to have it modeled for them. Children are more likely to get excited about their own learning pursuits when they see how excited their parents are about what interests them. For example, take the time to discuss how you have been learning new gardening tips from a friend and how your new knowledge has improved the family garden this year.
Inquire about school. When you ask your children how school went to today, ask them about what they learned instead of only focusing on grades and test scores. Children appreciate your interest in their learning and benefit from the chance to review their newly acquired information.
Celebrate academic achievements. When you consider ways to motivate your child to learn, seek out opportunities to reward with genuine praise. Give positive reinforcement for both small and big accomplishments to keep your children motivated to keep learning and challenging themselves.
Allow academic control. Children need strong organizational skills to be successful life-long learners. Since parents or teachers cannot oversee all of their school work, give children the tools they need to organize themselves and provide support as needed.
Focus on strengths. While it is inevitable that children have areas of academic weakness that require extra work, it is important to praise and focus on their strengths to avoid discouragement. Even when a child gets a low score on an English test, you can still praise his or her high math quiz score. Take it one step further and consider opportunities for him or her to take on new math challenges, such as an after school club or summer camp.
Maximize every day learning opportunities. There is no shortage of ways to motivate your child to learn through daily activities. From writing a grocery list to calculating miles per gallon when filling up the gas tank, your child keeps learning naturally throughout each day.
What do you find is helpful for motivating your child to learn?
About the author:
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leader in connecting their candidates with school-based physical therapy jobs and early intervention service jobs.