What is your child learning without anyone teaching him?
If you thought learning is what happens in schools alone, it is time for a rethink. While schools may have a structured learning system, that does not constitute even a fraction of what children learn by observing the world around them, both consciously and subconsciously. Everything about the world appears new and their curiosity leads them to explore and inquire. Little surprise then that you see toddlers poking their fingers into power sockets or trying to peep inside a pot.
At an early age, much of what a child learns is based on observing adults even when they are not actively trying to teach them anything. In fact a study conducted at Cornell University shows how while playing with dolls or blocks in a seemingly haphazard manner, children are actually engaging in a rational process of making hypothesis, analyzing statistical data and going by evidence!
A large part of their learning process comes from mimicking adult behavior; your way of talking, your way of responding to situations, even the way you cuss and fight. With a little awareness, therefore, you can instill a number of life skills in them, without making the process strenuous and strained:
- Encourage children to ask questions and be patient while answering even the most inane ones. Avoid making fun of their observations or thinking. Meal time, in fact, is a good opportunity not just for family bonding but also a lot of character building and imbibing of the value system. Ensure you discuss how they spent their day and be aware of learning cues. Remember also to share your day with them so that they learn about what keeps you occupied and away from them during the day. Plonking yourself in front of the TV while eating, on the other hand, of course gives them the license to do the same and terribly curtails your family time!
- Provide them enough opportunities to experiment ( within reasonable limits, of course!). While it may be extremely tempting to protect them from any mistakes, the fact is that it is the biggest learning ground!
- Social interaction with children their age goes a long way in helping them learn to share and collaborate.
- Above everything, treat each other and the child with respect
In fact a good way to pass subliminal messages to a young child is also through play. The spirit of fun goes a long way in allowing those life lessons to sink in. Humor, fairness, honesty, generosity, empathy are all best taught this way. Remember to take advantage of everyday opportunities to explain inferences. Asking the child open-ended questions such as “What makes you think that” can open up a world of debate and discussion!
Overall, keeping sight of the fact that children learn more through observation than through reward and punishment can go a long way in creating a conducive environment for the little learners!