Every day I notice our little ones picking up new skills and it blows my mind just how much they can learn and how fast they develop, right under our noses. Some skills affect their lives forever, like speaking another language; whereas others might just help them better understand that no, in fact, eating leaves off the footpath does not taste good. Their seemingly infinite curiosity fascinates me, and as a mother of two children under the age of 6, I know their desire to learn won’t always stay as high as it is now. I often wonder how we can peak that curiosity and fuel their desire to keep challenging their growing minds (while they still want to 😉
- Role model your behaviour
Like everything else that we want to pass on to our children, we must model the desired behaviours first. If we show them we are interested in the world and what it can offer us, they’re sure to follow suit sooner or later. For example, when they ask about a certain animal, why not suggest to look it up together online or find a book/documentary to watch. If they see you struggle to put together Ikea furniture show them how you refer to the manual to better understand it all (even though on the inside you’re probably screaming…. in Swedish). Showing our little ones we’re not afraid to learn new things ourselves can only increase our own desire to develop more skills and enhance our knowledge as well. I mean, nothing wrong with learning new stuff, right?
- Growth mindset
Encouraging a growth mindset (where we believe our talent can be developed through practice, hard work and self-education) will give our children the right attitude to learning. It gives them a sense of: “I might not know this information yet, but I can learn it”. It’s a great mentality to have ourselves and a great way of thinking to pass on to others.
- Expose them to books!
This may sound puffed up or pompous, but seriously, no harm has ever come from exposing children to books. Although today’s technology has given us a wealth of means for them to learn things through games, videos etc… the power of books is still something extraordinary and shouldn’t be put on the sidelines! Having them physically turn the pages, allowing them to soak up the information in their own time, going back and forth between images; can all spark a conversation or plant a seed for further reflection on their part. In our house, as much as we also use screens to educate and entertain our children, books are still ‘da bomb’ as far as we’re concerned and we’ll never say no to a gifted book to add to their collection.
- Some freedom in choice
Children love routines and need boundaries; but they also like to know they have a say in the world, and not feel powerless. Give them some freedom in what they want to learn. Where possible, let them choose the activity they want to work on at that moment. It’s a rather Montessori-esque approach which I personally feel has its own pros and cons to it, but together you can develop what works best for your child and you.
- Don’t discourage but offer alternatives
Small children, especially my two year old, want to learn about and touch absolutely ev.er.ry.thing!! I’ve lost count of the amount of times she’s picked up something random off the street, touched prickly plants, patted an animal, or tried to bolt across the road because something had caught her eye. Rather than scolding them for showing an interest in something; try to find an alternative that will still fuel their curiosity, but in a safe way. For example, my toddler loves cleaning (go figure…. let’s see where she’s at in another 12 years from now). She constantly heads for the cleaning products which obviously is a big no no, so as an alternative we have gotten her her own cleaning rag and use an all-natural product that won’t harm her if she chooses to have a little taste (which ofcourse she has). She enjoys helping me around the house now and although cleaning isn’t quite rocket science, I’m grateful for the skills development and the extra hand 😉
- It’s all relative
Showing them how their interest in something directly relates to their life can also fuel their desire to learn more about it. Our eldest showed a keen interest in music from an early age onwards so it didn’t take us long to share our own passions and taste in music. A friend gifted her this great educational toy where she essentially chooses instruments to play a song, learning how each one sounds individually and how they can create something together. As a result, she started to identify instruments when listening to classical pieces and the little rebel can even tell apart John and Paul when listening to some Beatles tracks. I’m not trying to convince you my kid’s a genius, I mean most days she still puts her pants on backwards, but I love how she’s developed her ‘ear’ and has made listening to music a big part of her life. (She’s now gotten more into pop songs, which we do monitor a bit closer. I’m all for having a good dance and a shake to “party rock anthem”, but don’t think she needs to see the music video to ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ just yet …)
- Answer clearly and in accordance with their developmental level
Children love to ask questions, and it can be ridiculously draining some days, sure… but don’t quench their thirst for knowledge with short and annoyed answers. Try to be as clear as possible as well as give age appropriate answers. For older children we can even encourage them to go find the answer together (consequently teaching them to eventually do their own research). I’m pretty cocky here because the questions I deal with only involve things related to toddlers. Ask me again when they’ve become teenagers and topics like sex, bullying, and relationships are put on the table, I might whistle a different tune 😉 We do live in a world where information is so easily available it’s making us lazy and easier to manipulate though. Encouraging the next generation to question what they read a bit, and to look further, can only be a good thing if you ask me…
So there you have it, my two cents worth for the day. Let us know if there are other things that have worked for you or anything you’d like to add to the above…. after all… we’re all happy to learn over here 🙂