Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them “learn how to learn,” they will be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. While some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment.
Tips for building learning skills:
- Let them choose.
Give kids a chance to make simple choices, such as what to wear or what to eat for a snack.
- Help them finish what they start.
Children experience great satisfaction when they try and finish new things. Give them a bit of support when they need it, but be careful not to take over completely.
- Nurture creativity.
Encourage children to ask questions, try different ways of using materials, or offer them a wide range of new experiences.
- Don’t rush activities.
Whether at home or in preschool, children need extended periods of time to really get involved in activities and to experience the “engagement” that is such an important foundation for learning.
- Provide encouragement.
All children start life eager to learn, but if adults are critical, that eagerness may disappear by the elementary grades. Look for achievements to praise and acknowledge your child’s progress whenever possible.
When it comes to learning, four-year-olds are developing greater self-control and ingenuity. Their pretend play is more complex and imaginative, and can be sustained for longer periods. They can also make plans and complete tasks. Four-year-olds want to try new experiences. They also want to be more self-reliant, and seek to expand the areas of their lives where they can be independent decision-makers
Initiative, Engagement, and Persistence
- Further expands areas of decision-making (e.g., child may say, “This morning I’m going to work on my Lego building.”).
- Has an increased ability to focus attention, and can ignore more distractions and interruptions (e.g., at preschool, can focus on a drawing even when other children are nearby; might say, “I’ll play with you later. I want to finish this.”).
- Is increasingly able to complete tasks, even those that are longer-term and less-concrete (e.g., keeping track of the days until his or her birthday on a calendar). Has greater ability to set goals and follow a plan (e.g., child says, “I’m going to pick up all these branches,” and then works until it is done).
- Increasingly makes independent choices and shows self-reliance (e.g., chooses clothes, feeds and dresses self).
Curiosity and Eagerness to Learn
- Asks to participate in new experiences that he or she has observed or has heard of others participating in (e.g., says, “Jack goes fishing. Can I?”).
- Asks questions about future events, as well as about the here and now (e.g., asks, “When will we go to Sarah’s house again?”).
- Starts to show more enthusiasm for learning letters, shapes, and numbers (e.g., while looking at a book with dad, points to a word that contains the letter “S” and says, “S! That’s in my name! What is that word?”).
Reasoning and Problem-solving
- More flexible and able to draw on varied resources in solving problems (e.g., tries to build a large structure with blocks, but the building keeps falling down. After several failed attempts, he or she tries making a larger base. May also look at how other children have made their buildings.).
- Seeks help from both adults and peers, and has a greater understanding of the kind of help that may be needed (e.g., says, “Can you hold this end of the string for me, so I can tie this?”).
- Grows in ability to understand abstract concepts, especially when his or her thinking is supported by physical interaction with materials (e.g., systematically pours sand into measuring cups, then looks at and comments on amounts).
Invention and Imagination
- Engages in more sustained and complex pretend play (e.g., creates a long scenario with several other children, taking a pretend trip with many stops). Expands the roles acted out in pretend play. Is less dependent on realistic props.
- Offers creative, unusual ideas about how to do a task, how to make something, or how to get from one place to another (e.g., says, “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s walk backwards to the kitchen!”).