Children are constantly learning new things and exploring the world around them. But what happens when a child is struggling to learn a new concept? This may be colours, their body parts, maths sums or even cursive writing.
As adults we are able to learn concepts by explanation or reading, but for children to optimally learn, this should be done physically or by using an object, preferably in play.
How to stimulate optimal learning:
- Tap into your child’s interests. If, for example, your child loves Paw Patrol, but is experiencing difficulty identifying colours, then use the Paw Patrol characters to teach colours for example “Which colour is Skye’s clothes?”, or “This banana is as yellow as Rubble’s helmet”.
- Furthermore, if a child is experiencing difficulty grasping a new concept, then bring the concept right back to the foundational levels. Our foundational level of learning is with our body, which we term the whole body approach in OT. What this means is that we first have to learn to do something with our body before we can build or write this (complete on a 3D or 2D level). An example of this would be if your child is struggling to form their letters correctly, then you could draw the letters with chalk on the floor and get your child to walk over the letter. Or if they are struggling to learn their body parts, then complete this in a mirror or on their own body. For example, “Let’s put some shaving cream on our nose in the mirror”.
- Multisensory learning stimulates a child’s learning. This means that if we incorporate as many senses as possible, then it will promote a child’s learning. An example of this would be when practicing spelling words that your child copies the words in flour or sings a song about how to spell the word… or even BOTH!
- Repetition is a very important factor in learning. The more a concept is repeated, the better a child learns. Research shows that children learning through play will require less repetition than a child who is taught a concept.
Remember you do not have to use just one of these approaches but combine them and see what works best for your child. No one knows your child as well as you do.
Some extra tips to promote learning?
- When teaching your child a new concept or assisting them, try not to direct them, as this will reduce their opportunity to learn. Rather, guide them by using questions such as “ I wonder where I should start the letter ‘a’?” or “I wonder if this colour is pink or blue?”.
- Limit external distractions that could affect their learning. Make sure the TV is switched off and put away any cell phones or tablets.
- Complete the action near the child, so they can watch you for assistance. Don’t do this in a manner of teaching them, but completing an action with them. For example, “I also want to write the letter ‘a’, I am going to write mine here.”. In this way the child will not feel directed and can reference you only if needed.
- Always break a task into smaller parts and successfully complete one part before moving onto the next. Children love feeling successful!
Remember that we all learn in our own way and have our own individual weaknesses and strengths.
Please don’t hesitate to contact an Occupational Therapist should you need ideas, or are concerned about your child’s learning.
Written by Ashley Brecher (Jones), Bright Eyes Therapy.
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