Herald Journal Columns
April 4, 2005, Herald Journal

Add fun, meaning to children’s learning


We all probably have heard that learning should be fun, but there is real validity in building fun into the learning process.

Learning is directly proportional to the amount of fun you are having. There is scientific reasoning that indicates the need to have fun.

When we laugh and have fun, the left side of our brain is sparked as well as the right side, and when both the left and right side of our brain are sparked, more memory is created and learning is increased.

This past week, I attended a two-day workshop on training and teaching skills and the learning process. One quote I heard again regarding learning and remembering information is, “what I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I understand,” which really tells us that we learn the most when we can use all senses and when we can take in information in a variety of ways – hearing, seeing, and doing.

And, of course, having information presented in a variety of ways is important because each person has their own learning style, a particular way in which the mind receives and processes information.

There is a lot of information out there about learning styles, and we know that some people, including children, are more visual learners, some are more auditory learners, some are more kinesthetic or tactile learners, or most of the time, combinations of each. Learning Styles Presenter Becky Thelen said that learning styles are part of a person’s personal characteristics, and that we continually learn, change, and grow throughout our lives.

Visual learners learn best when information is written out. They want to see it, and they notice the small details. When learning something new, they may like to see demonstrations, diagrams, slides, or posters. They may like to sit near the front of a room to see everything.

An auditory learner learns best by hearing things spoken. This learner prefers verbal instructions or talking about information with someone else. They enjoy conversation and dialogue, but may be distracted by outside noises and sounds. They may like to talk out loud when they are putting something together or doing some other work.

Tactile/kinesthetic learners learn best by touching, feeling, and moving. They like to be active and involved and play games, and they enjoy doing activities with their hands. They may become distracted by activity around them.

I have seen varying statistics which show that anywhere from 40 to 65 percent of the population are visual learners, 30 to 40 percent are auditory learners, and 5 to 20 percent are tactile learners.

In the book “Exploring Your Role,” author Mary R. Jalongo said caring for children means providing for total growth, in the best possible environment, designed for individual children to be messy, noisy, and quiet.

That is important for our children’s home environments as well, because we know that we, parents and caregivers, are our children’s greatest teachers. Learning is not something that children just do in school.

Dr. Stephen Reisman, on the website tennessean.com, said parents can make learning easier by helping children see how new information is relevant to their lives and interests. When we help children make learning meaningful to them, and teach and show them how the information can be applied to their lives, it makes the learning process easier and information will stick in their memories longer.

For example, how can fractions be made relevant to children? Fractions can come alive in cooking, baking, cutting a pizza, etc.

Staying hydrated and drinking enough water increases memory, as well. I have also heard that drinking one eight-ounce glass of water 30 minutes before taking a test can increase a child’s test score by one letter grade. Take this for what you want, but drinking water certainly is beneficial in many ways, and definitely won’t hurt (except possibly having to go to the restroom while taking the test).

Doing gross motor activities prior to engaging in a learning session or experience also gets the left and the right side of the brain fired, which again, increases memory.

The learning pyramid shows that we remember 5 percent from a lecture, 10 percent from reading, 20 percent when information is presented in an audio-visual format, 30 percent when there is a demonstration of information, 50 percent when information is discussed in a group, 75 percent when we practice by doing, and 90 percent when we can teach others, or immediately use what we’ve learned.

Memory is enhanced when information is presented using a variety of methods, and it’s reiterated in different ways a few different times. It is thought that information repeated three times will stick better in our memory banks, and when the information is “repeated” in different ways using different methods, such as hearing it, reading it, and demonstrating it, that’s even better.

A powerful teaching and learning tool for all of us is to have children teach us what they learned. We probably all have been in situations where our children come home with homework, and we’re glad they are the ones that are doing it! They can teach us a thing or two.

Bathtub fun

Water play is fun for children, and a lot of learning can happen while in the bathtub.

Jennifer Ellis, in an article entitled Bath Tub Science for Kids, on the website www.christian-parent.com, offers some fun learning activities for children (and children don’t even know they are learning).

Ellis said to let your child experiment with water by pouring and measuring. Provide different sized measuring cups, measuring spoons, funnels, plastic bottles, pitchers, an eye dropper, a turkey baster. Let your child try to predict if pouring water from one container to the next will fill it exactly, overflow it, or not be enough.

Predict and count how many tablespoons it takes to fill a measuring cup. Predict how many tablespoons it will take to fill other size objects.

The bathtub is also a great place for children to blow bubbles indoors. You can mix together water, dish soap, and glycerin. Sugar can be used instead of glycerin, also. The longer the bubble solution sits, the better the bubbles will last.

Pour the bubble solution into a pan and give your child different objects to blow bubbles through, such as a straw, a cookie cutter, a slotted spoon, etc. Experiment with different objects and see which work better. Discuss why this may be so. Can you catch the bubbles? Can you stack the bubbles?

Here’s a recipe for soap crayons. Materials needed are mild powdered laundry soap, food coloring, water, and ice cube trays or other small molds.

Add about one cup of the powdered laundry soap to a bowl. Slowly add water by the teaspoon until it becomes a thick liquid mixture. Stir well and begin adding food coloring until it is the color you like. Pour into ice cube trays or other small molds.

Set in a sunny, dry spot for a few days to allow the crayons to harden. When hard, remove from mold and use. (It is always a good idea to test on your bathtub sides or walls before allowing your child to use them.)

Children can practice drawing shapes, letters, numbers, and even words, or just make wonderful masterpieces! This idea is from Brandie Valenzuela on the website www.christian-parent.com

Have a great spring week and drink some water!