Our kids are learning something new every day. Every day our children learn about living– for them, almost everything is new. Not only are they learning about being a person, they are learning all the skills that we already have under our belt. I know how to use a metro card, do the laundry, load the dishwasher, pack my purse, and more. Kids don’t. Learning to get to school is as important as what they learn at school.
So how do we support them in this tremendous journey?
Reconnecting with what learning feels like, and how it thrives, is one place to start. You can use your feelings as a starting point— when you learn something new, what is it like? I’ll bet it’s a bit of everything: exciting, nerve wracking, and sometimes totally out of your comfort zone. That’s what it’s like for your kids too!
Keep them primed for learning—notice your language around learning something new, and promote ideas that keep it safe—notice and comment on effort and progress. Be mindful of critiquing people who are trying but not doing so well—kids need to know it’s safe to make mistakes, and they need our approval, even if they say otherwise.
Name for kids what they do, re-tell the stories: “Remember when we first came to soccer? It was warm and sunny and we walked together? The first day you ran all over the field, up and down, and then you practiced your first kicks?” or, “Remember when you looked at the bus and read Mary Poppins on the side? You had a bit of help from the picture, but after that you started sounding words out all the time. Now you can pick up a whole book and read almost all the words, and figure out new words!”
When you feel they need encouragement, take on the role of cheerleader: “You can do it!” and “Do you see how strong you are!?” and “This isn’t easy! Do you remember what it was like the first time?” and “Look how far you’ve come!”
Authentic encouragement from others plays a role in learning. People your child interacts with can support them with their true emotions—a stranger clapping while watching a child learning how to ride a bike, a younger sibling being grateful after getting help from an older one reading something, a waiter responding to a child reading something off the menu. Those smiles and encouraging looks can be inspirational.
Everything that’s worth learning usually takes hard work. The first steps of learning may be spread out over time, and then there are moments when kids are acutely aware of how hard it can be. Frustration with a building, a math concept, getting better as a reader, making a basket. Understanding that there are so many ways to approach the problem, and that hard work pays off, helps. Knowing that a talent or inclination in an area is a start, and only a start, helps too. You can tell your children about the brain and how it learns, how it forms new connections everytime you learn something new, and these connections promote more learning. As Ken Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”