love-of-learningOverview: To me the most important thing a child can learn during the early years is how to love learning. Today I share why I think it’s so important to cultivate a love of learning and a few tips for you to try at home.

Welcome to the #ChildLedEnvironments Series where we are exploring how to set up and cultivate an environment conducive to child-led learning.

  1. How to Cultivate a Love of Learning
  2. Toy Rotation: Why It’s Beneficial For You and Your Child
  3. How to Incorporate an Encouraging Home Preschool Environment
  4. 9 Reasons Why Worksheets Are Inappropriate for Young Children
  5. 4 Aspects of the Adult’s Role in a Child-Led Approach

Imagine waking up everyday to an eager child ready to head into your learning area to start the day. He asks so many questions that you can’t keep up with them all. The day goes by so quickly because everyone is immersed in their learning.

Sounds amazing right?

This is the homeschool environment I’m striving for. Lots of learning with minimal effort!

Why Focus on Developing a Love of Learning?

Forget about learning shapes, numbers, letters, and even colors. Cultivating a love of learning is the most important thing you can teach your child in the early years. Children have an innate need to learn. They crave it! They seek it!

Children are naturally curious, and it’s our job to foster that curiosity. We need to take advantage of this natural love for learning at an early age, so when learning does become difficult they will power through it to learn something new. When a child loves learning, they will stop at nothing to seek the answers they crave, even as they get older.

Related: A Hands-on Toddler Curriculum

A strong love of learning fosters a strong outlook on life. Children who love learning become adults who love learning. With our ever changing world, a willingness to learn is a must in any career field.

Not only are these children going to grow up with a willingness to learn in their careers, but they’re also going to be well rounded adults. They’re going to want to learn all the time, so their knowledge bank will be diverse.

And not to mention, learning is going to come easier and more natural to a child who loves to learn. You won’t need to work as hard to get your child to learn either, so homeschool days will be a breeze…most of the time.

How to Develop a Love of Learning

As I said before, loving to learn is as natural as breathing to young children. It’s our job to keep that love strong, and not break down their desire to learn. There are a few things you can do to help foster their natural love of learning.

1. Follow Interests and Natural Curiosity

Forcing a child to learn something they are not ready or willing to learn is the #1 reason why children fall out of love with learning. They become frustrated that they’re not learning what they want to learn.

The world today has this view that every child needs to learn the same things at the same time, but every child is not the same. Every child craves different learning opportunities and on different timetables.

Related: 3 Ways to Develop Natural Curiosity in Kids

Following your child’s interests is the #1 way to foster that love of learning. When we follow a child’s interests the learning becomes meaningful to them. They have a purpose for learning the things they want to learn, so it’s our job to provide the opportunities for them to learn those things.

2. Invite Questions

Don’t just rely on your observations and their interests for learning opportunities. Chase those questions and inquiries! Use their questions to provide invitations to explore different topics.

You never know what learning journey a question might take you on. One simple question could take your child on a year long journey exploring different related topics.

Related: Child-Led Learning:Staying Organized with a Wonder Journal

For example, lets say your child asks “How long does an ant live?” After exploring and discovering the answer to this question, it might lead to learning about the life span of different animals. You might explore how the size of an animal relates to life spans. You might start learning about different habitats and how they effect the life span of an animal.

With all the different animals and all the different environments, this one simple question about an ant could possibly take you on a year long journey learning about different animals and habitats.

Not only are you exploring biology concepts, you’ll learn math when comparing sizes, reading skills while researching different animals, and geography as you study different habitats.

3. Don’t Do It For Them

One of my fondest memories of learning is 4th grade, and not just one unit in 4th grade. It was the whole 4th grade year. I went to public school, but this teacher knew how to integrate child-led learning into the curriculum. I learned a great deal about dolphins and Claude Monet during that school year.

I remember most everything I learned about those two topics because not only did I choose them, but I explored them on my own. My 4th grade teacher did not stand in front of the room and lecture us all day.

In fact, she never really “taught” us anything. She was a facilitator…a guide! She provide the materials and let us be. Every once in a while, she would ask us questions to help us delve deeper into our learning, but that was about it.

Kids don’t really want you to answer their questions. They need you to provide the materials, resources, and environment to discover the answers on their own. Become a facilitator in their learning. Provide resources and keep track of where the learning is headed, so you can change the environment to follow their learning.

When needed, ask questions to help them delve deeper into their learning. Think before you ask…Does my question help them dig deeper right now? If not, leave them be and wait for a time when they are struggling or are only looking at the surface of a topic.

4. Keep Supplies Readily Available

You never know when a creative moment might spark in a child. Keep most used materials available at all times.

Think about how your child learns. Do they love art? Then keep a wide range of art supplies at their reach. Do they love building? Then keep blocks, clay, and any other building materials available at all times.

Think about what they love to learn about the most. Maybe they are interested in animals or architecture. Keep books, toys, and materials that relate to their strongest interests out on the shelves even if they aren’t actively learning about that topic right now.

5. Show Your Passion for Learning

This might be hard if you are not a lover of learning, but sometimes we have to rewire our brains to love learning. Young children want to be just like the adults in their life. If they see you constantly learning, reading, and writing then they will want to follow suit.

love-of-learning6. Encourage Open Ended Play

A big part of learning is being able to solve problems on their own, ask questions, and think through different situations. Open ended play provides a natural environment to practice and build problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Related: Importance of Play in Early Childhood

Not to mention, open ended play has no end or expectation. You never know where play might lead and what ideas might pop into their heads, so open ended play leads to knew interests and discoveries.

7. Make it a Family Affair

Learning alone is no fun! Plus, young children want to be just like Mommy and Daddy, so why not learn some things as a family. Have a trip planned that your child is asking a lot of questions about? Spend some time at night researching and learning together.

Vacations lend to a natural exploration as a family. Before a vacation, spend time together researching the area and planning out your trip.

So forget the colors! Forget the numbers! Forget the letters! Focus on developing a strong love of learning before you focus on the content.

Happy Learning!