What you can do to make children learn faster

‘It’s more about looking at what you are doing to slow them down.’

Parents often worry about how fast their children learn. Learning is an ability that helps children build new skills and gather new knowledge, so the speed of learning can affect how quickly a child would gain new skills and knowledge while growing up. This makes it worth worrying about. You would not want your children learning later than their peers.

Your children would learn faster, if you could:

Stop slowing them down
Child development researcher Matthew Poes argues that, ‘You can’t really help kids to learn faster. Instead, ‘It’s more about looking at what you are doing to slow them down,’ he says. Do not be the barrier stopping your children from learning quickly enough.

While the same rules of learning that apply to adults also apply to kids, Poes says that younger kids ‘learn quite a bit from their life experiences and so simply exploring new things become new learning opportunities.’ And, ‘If they don’t have these varied experiences they won’t learn. It’s not just about going places, it’s all about new shapes, sounds and textures,’ he explains.

Let them follow interest
Research has found that humans generally perform better at things that they previously have interest in. When children are allowed to follow their interest, expect them to do better.

After a seven-year long research, Judith Harackiewicz of the University of Wisconsin writes that, ‘Research has found that interest is a more powerful predictor of future choices than prior achievement and demographic variables.’

Annie Murphy Paul writes in a post on MindShift that, ‘One study found that students who scored poorly on achievement tests but had well-developed interests in reading or mathematics were more likely to engage with the meaning of textual passages or maths problems than were peers with high scores but no such interests.’

Allow independent practice
After gaining new skills and knowledge from guided learning and practice, children would need to get time to do it on their own. This is often the only way for them to confirm what they have learnt and trust that they have truly gained proficiency in it. Allowing children practice on their own can also help them find learning methods that work best for them and boost their self-confidence.

‘Especially when a child isn’t doing well, the natural response is to provide less freedom, not more. But research has shown that children who have some choice and control are more enthusiastic about learning than kids whose parents always tell exactly what to do, and when and how to do it,’ Kathy Seal, coauthor of Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning, says.

Make them unashamed of failure
Neils Bohr, a great physicist defined an expert as ‘a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.’ Children must understand that failure is an important part of learning. Their attitude to failure would affect their progress when learning new things.

Do not make your children feel that they have to be flawless and never make a mistake. This kind of feeling could discourage their learning. Make them feel good about their performance when they succeed, and praise them for their effort when they fail.

At the end of a series of experiments on fifth-grade kids, Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, observed that praising kids for intelligence encourages them to look smart, which means that they should not risk making a mistake.

Dweck splitted the kids to two groups and had them take two tests. After the first test, the kids were told their scores and one group was praised for intelligence, while the other got praised for effort. The second test had the same level of difficulty as the first, and kids praised for effort had their score improve by 30 percent when those praised for intelligence had about 20-percent drop in their score.

Give room for networking
Peer groups can influence how children learn. When your children get opportunity to meet other children, they find a chance to meet people of their age who share similar or different attributes, values and experiences with them. This is networking for them. It is an opportunity to validate their own ability and knowledge, and learn new ones that they find useful and interesting among kids of their own age.

The type of relationships that children find with their peers [kids of the same age], according to Gary Ladd, Arizona State University professor of psychology and human development, ‘differ from those they have with their parents and siblings and teach them unique skills that impact their development.’ He explains that, ‘Peer relationships are more balanced and the partners tend to bring similar levels of ability, reasoning and skill to their interactions.’

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