Learning is like exercise — both are necessary, sometimes both are fun, and sometimes both make you want to throw up. If you are a parent looking for ways to motivate your child to learn, here’s a quick list that can start you down the path to success.
Learning Is Hard
Learning new skills takes time, diligence, and the ability to motivate yourself. And none of those skills are things preschoolers tend to have.
It can be especially demoralizing when school is the thing that your child isn’t motivated about. Obviously, you want your child to have a good experience with preschool so they can feel good about education for the rest of their lives.
Here are five ways that you can help your struggling preschooler get excited about learning.
- Put your child in the driver’s seat. You know them better than anyone, so tap into that knowledge and work to make this process work for them. Does your child like numbers but struggle with letters? Have them count all of the “E”s on a page from a book you’re reading with them. Do they love robots? Involve robots in literally every learning activity you can think of. Do they learn best when they’re moving or holding something? Make sure they learn by doing something with their hands or bodies. Which leads us to …
- Make it a game. Part of what your child could be struggling with when it comes to learning is the way the information is conveyed. Sometimes, gamifying the process is the spark they need to get interested. And while not every game needs to be competitive, don’t be afraid to pit your child against themself! However, the most important thing to remember about gamifying learning is …
- Focus on the effort, not the outcome. Instead of asking your child to read one more book today to beat a personal best, see how many days you can string together where they read at least one book. That way, their effort and dedication is rewarded and not just sheer output.
- Explain why what they are learning is important. And put it into terms that matter for them. Don’t tell a 5-year-old that math is important because they’ll need the skill as an adult. Tell a 5-year-old math is important because, without it, they won’t know how old they are or how many pieces of candy grandma is allowed to give them.
- Recognize and celebrate their achievements. Again, make this unique to your child. Do they love to dance? Have a dance party at the end of every learning session. Do they love doughnuts? Go out for one after they’ve read for five days in a row. What they’re doing and how hard they’re working matters. Make sure to encourage them as they learn and as they make progress.
Tips for You
Let’s circle back to you, the parent or guardian.
As you’re trying to keep your child motivated, here are a few tips for you and a couple of things to watch regarding your child’s attitude toward learning.
- Show excitement for learning. Even if school and learning aren’t “your thing,” find ways to be excited about it when you’re talking with your child. It’s a great time to be honest with your child about areas where you’ve had to buckle down and learn a skill and how it helped you in the end.
- Ask what your child is learning in school, not about achievements. Don’t ask, “Did you get an A?” Ask what they’re learning, and pay attention to their reactions to the different topics. Get excited with them about the things that invigorate them, and work with the places where they struggle. All without discussion about some kind of pre-set measurement on success.
- Watch your child’s self-talk. If all you get from your preschooler is “I can’t” or “I don’t know,” help them change the way they talk about themself. EF Education First gives a great list of ways your child can express when they are confused or don’t know something without all the negative self-talk.
No one loves school 100% of the time, so your children will go through phases where it’s harder and easier to learn. Regardless of the circumstances or the subject, the loving support they get from you will be an enormous part in how they perceive learning. Work with them, keep the five points above in mind, and make sure they know that doing their best and persevering even when things are hard are the most important parts of the learning process.