by Alix Tonsgard
Two fundamental beliefs that guide everything that we do at DuPage Children’s Museum are that children learn best when they are directing their experiences and that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Social interactions with peers and adults play a key role!
Research has well documented that the role of parents and caregivers in a child’s life is profoundly important. The child-adult relationship impacts many areas in a child’s life, showing to have a positive impact not only on a child’s health and development, but also on educational progress as well as life choices.
Self-directed experience, too, have been shown to have long-lasting effects on learning. Learning that is self-directed respects the interests and pace of the learner. The caregiver becomes a facilitator who guides learning rather than teaches specific content.
The facilitator/caregiver observes the child’s interests and then capitalizes on those interests by furthering discussion that encourages critical thinking. If a child’s interest is drawing, painting, or coloring, ask, “Why did you choose those colors/shapes?” or “Tell me about…” If you have a child that loves to play in water, try including measuring cups or other containers and ask, “What happens when you fill the cup with a little water? How about a lot?” Encouraging a child to give a verbal explanation can go a long way in developing valuable thinking skills.
These are just a couple of examples of the many things that you can do to nurture a child-adult partnership and encourage self-directed learning experiences. Try some activities that interest the children in your life—and know that the experiences you have can have a great impact on their development and learning for a lifetime!
Learn more on the Museum’s blog at dupagechildrens.org/blog.
Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.