By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Whether your child is four or fourteen, there are a number of ways to nurture his or her passion for learning – all the way through his or her schooling. Here are a few tips to raise an inquisitive and interested child who continually seeks new knowledge:
Notice what subjects your child enjoys.
As your child grows older, it’s natural that his or her interests will change and that some subjects or activities will become more appealing than others. Pay attention to the things that captivate your child and offer him or her opportunities to practice those skills (or learn new things about the subject). If your child enjoys math, for example, research math clubs or competitions in your area (or find fun math games online or at a book store). If your child is a bookworm, make sure he or she has plenty to read by visiting the library often, and talk with him or her about favorite books, topics or characters.
Welcome all questions.
As any parent of a baby or toddler will attest, young children are infinitely curious. Even the simplest of things can spark their interest – a game of Peek-a-Boo, the cracking of an egg, rain falling from the sky. As some children progress through school, however, they grow more self-conscious about their knowledge (or lack thereof) on a topic. They become less likely to raise questions in class for fear of sounding “dumb” (or alternately, “too smart”). You can help your child at home by responding positively to questions – no matter the question. Never respond with annoyance or make your child feel that there is something wrong with asking lots of questions.
Arm your child with his or her very own “discovery tool box.” If your child asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, why not research the topic online or at the library together? Helping your child to be resourceful teaches him or her to dig to find answers to burning questions, to seek further information when he or she wants to learn more about or better understand a particular subject. Learning doesn’t stop in the classroom – life is full of wonder, especially to a younger child.
Boost your child’s confidence.
Research shows that children who are confident approach school and life with optimism and are more likely to strive for future success (and not get down when they sometimes fail). Show your child that you believe in him or her, praise his or her efforts often, and do whatever you can to build your child’s confidence.
Be a good role model.
Children learn from their parents, so try to be open to new ideas, to embrace new activities and hobbies. Let your child see that you also enjoy and value learning, whether by teaching yourself to play the guitar, taking a class or watching a documentary on a subject that interests you or learning a new sport.
Point out the connections.
While your child’s teacher is a great person to show him or her how and where school subjects apply to life, you can reinforce this at home, too. Math homework may seem a little more interesting when your child discovers that astronauts, engineers, architects and other professionals use math every day. The more you can show your child the value of and meaning behind homework, the better.
There’s no magic formula to getting children to enjoy school, but by raising your child to appreciate learning and never lose his or her sense of wonder and curiosity, you will help your child discover that learning – and school – can be a lot of fun.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at (253) 582-4901.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.