Fostering a strong love of reading and learning starts before you even give birth. It’s known that baby can hear you talk before they’re even born, so reading to them while you’re still pregnant gives them the comfort of hearing your voice and their first stories. As children reach toddlerhood, it will get more challenging. As a baby, you’re able to sit them down on your lap and read full books. When they get older, they start to flip pages and yank the book out of your hand. It’s important to continue reading to them
From day one, babies are fascinated by life in general. Everything they see is brand new. It may seem mundane to us, since we see those objects all the time, but to an infant, it’s all brand new and needs to be explored. From the youngest age, infants start exploring by putting objects in their mouths. As they get older, the way they learn changes and as they learn to talk they will start asking questions about everything. The best way to encourage them to learn is to answer their questions, encourage exploration, take them out to show them different things and find fun ways to teach them about every day life. Silly songs, fun games, nursery rhymes and even good educational TV shows are all good ways to get your child interested. As they get older, there will be topics they are more interested in than others- make sure to take notice and gently push them towards gaining as much knowledge as they can on those 1-2 subjects. At a very young age, their brains are sponges. It’s the best time to teach them second (and even third) languages. Teach them multiple languages for basic words. Learning is great and it goes further than a classroom. Take young nature lovers on hikes, trails, to the park and to local landmarks. Take them on tours of various caves, caverns and other “field trips.” Make sure they know that life is an adventure, it’s a constant learning experience.
No matter how crazy an interest seems to you, or how mundane, build it up. If they are interested in the strange, paranormal or mystical help them make a collage to show different mythical beasts. There are books about cryptozoology creatures (some of whom have been proven to have actually existed). Take them on a hike through the woods. Take pictures of some of the bugs, reptiles, animals and plants- then go home and print the pictures. Look up any you don’t recognize and create a collage or a small book and have older kids write the names and descriptions. You could even let your child make a presentation on the solar system if they’re interested in space. Remember, the skies the limit with what they can do and the more you encourage, the more interest they will build with exploring and the more they can start to think creatively.
I have spent the last 30 years fascinated by life. If I could, I would happily live in school. I love everything about it. From the time I was four, I started reading. By first grade, I was reading at an advanced reading level and was reading everything I could get my hands on. I was that child getting in trouble for reading during class and reading ahead of the class. My friends and I did more than play “house.” We played ghost hunters, we set “traps” to catch evidence of animals (I remember setting up some string, dirt and a carrot to “catch” a rabbit), we played investigators- there was never a dull moment when my friends and I got together. Even now, I write all the time. As a child, I had a huge folder filled with poetry and now I have a whole virtual folder with fantasy drafts. My mom fostered a true love of learning in me and I developed the creative side of my brain naturally. I see it in both my kids now. My seven year old loves reading, books and nature. My two year old is already a story teller with a very strong imagination. We take them to the library weekly- last year, my seven year old won a giant stuffed Macie Mouse with a book.
Tips to Instill a Constant Love of Learning and Natural Curiosity
- By far, the worst thing you can do is silence your child. By silencing your child when they ask (what may seem like endless) questions, you are teaching them to blindly accept and not look further. You need to be able to explain to best of your knowledge (and to their developmental ability).
- If you don’t know, give them the resources to look the answer up themselves. If they ask you “why” and you don’t know why, look it up with them. Don’t just dismiss their questioning.
- Make sure they have an endless supply of books- all different topics to read at any point and never get mad at them for wanting to read. If you don’t have the budget to buy every book, take them to the library regularly and let them research all interesting topics on Google.
- Begin very early by reading daily to your child- even when your toddler grabs the book out of your hand, try to finish by making up the rest of the story.
- Take them out on nature hikes, through the woods, to playgrounds and parks and just out in the back yard
- Take up small hobbies to teach them about the world around them- making up little stories or songs, photography, even researching can be a fulfilling hobby.
- Teach them to craft- there are sewing machines made specifically for children, teach them to knit or crochet, make jewelry, teach them to cook or bake then help them make up their own recipes- there are tons of options to inspire creativity and the more they find enjoyable, the more they will love to learn.
- In good weather, take lots of pictures then look up everything you took pictures of and read as much as you can about everything.
- The best way to teach them, is by example. Let them see you studying, researching, writing or doing other hobbies or crafts. Let them help you in the kitchen. Show them how much fun learning and creating is.
- Start them young by reading and singing to them daily and as they get older, have them join in and have them to read to you or make games out of making up the silliest song.
- Make sure they go to school on time and have all the supplies they need. Even though school is only one way of learning, it is still vital- they are there most of the day during the school year.
Teenagers are a bit trickier. They are often pushed for perfection- perfect grades, athletic abilities or test scores. By high school, school starts to feel like work. The best way you can keep encouraging is by not putting a lot of pressure on them for perfect grades. If their test scores aren’t 100s, don’t stress them same with athletics- if they don’t make the winning shot for their team, don’t get mad. Remember, life is a teaching experience. They are most likely on a sports team because they love the sport, in musical theater because they love performing- not because they are trying to be perfect and seeking perfection is the number one way to burn out.
What Can I Do Today?
One of the first things you can do, is turn off all electronics for a set time daily and go out and play. Even your own electronics- go and play pretend with your toddler, go on a hike with your elementary aged child. Collect costumes and create a costume closet so when your kids play pretend, they can ake believe in costume as well. It doesn’t matter how small or how big it is, get out and start encouraging your child. Show them new ways of doing things (if you can’t think of anything, research it first).
Sit down tonight and write your kids’ names out. Under their names, write what they’re good at, their strengths and weaknesses and what their interests are. Then look at all the interests and list five different ways to encourage those interests, build up the strengths and either strengthen or hide the weaknesses. After you have those figured out, start introducing those to your kids in fun ways. Above all, remember to make learning an adventure and life fun.