Love….get kids to love learning!

February and Valentine’s Day has me thinking about love. How  much love factors into the jobs of teaching and parenting. How one of our main goals as parents and educators is to inspire a true LOVE of learning in our kids. We don’t just want our kids to memorize facts and follow instructions – although that can be nice too! We want them to be confident learners who move through life excited and curious about the world. A love for learning means a self-motivated student, who seeks out questions and the answers to those questions. Who doesn’t run away from problems, but instead sees problems as a potential puzzle that needs to be solved. If we can inspire a love of learning in our kids, we can feel comforted in the fact that whatever the future holds, they will approach it with thoughtfulness and problem-solving abilities.

A love of learning is truly a worthy goal. But how do we do it? It starts with making sure kids are having fun and are engaged while they are learning tasks. More than any specific skill, we want to spark the idea that learning is a reward in and of itself. Here are some other practical tips for how to foster a love of learning in your kids:

  1. When teaching a child new skills, keep them in the confident zone. When a child is being appropriately challenged – when they aren’t bored or overwhelmed with a task – they are in the confident zone. When a child can complete stimulating tasks independently or with minimal help, they are in the confident zone. Keeping kids in the confident zone sets them up for success, and helps them enjoy the process of learning new things.
  2. Praise a child’s effort, rather than their intelligence or ability. Focusing on effort helps increase kids’ motivation to learn new things. Too much emphasis on a child’s intelligence or ability can actually discourage kids from taking intellectual risks and learning new tasks, as they may not want to try something that they aren’t already “good” at.
  3. Keep reading sessions fun! Short, engaging reading lessons that can be repeated often are a great way to help kids learn reading skills while keeping them interested in learning more. Kids can stay completely focused on one task for their age plus about two minutes. Once that time is up, switch tactics: give kids a “body break” where they can move during the lesson, have kids take a 1 min “vacation”, or try a different approach to teaching the same skills. ReadingVIPs Critter Cards and Games is great for this because all the games can be played in short segments, and you can play a variety of games to teach the same reading skills.
  4. Last but not least: praise. Praise is such a simple, powerful tool to help kids love learning. We’ve all had jobs with bosses that only talked to us to tell us what we were doing wrong. That gets old very quickly, and while it may improve performance in the short-term, it doesn’t exactly make us excited about going to work, and it decreases engagement and motivation over time. It’s the same for kids and school. If kids get mostly negative feedback about what they are doing wrong at school, they are going to associate learning with criticism. Focusing on what the child is doing correctly, and praising them for their efforts, will help kids see school, and learning in general, as something positive.

Praise and positive attention are also a wonderful way to show our kids love….and isn’t that what it’s all about this time of year anyways?!

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