Children are natural learners. They come into the world wide eyed and curious. Many child experts say that children learn as much in the first five years as they will learn in the rest of their lives!

As a child, I loved to learn. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to go to school because everyone told me that I would learn so much there. I couldn’t wait! Then I went to school, and it seemed like waiting was all we did. We waited for role call, waited for lunch, waited for our turn to play on the playground equipment, get a drink, or use the bathroom. We had to wait to learn to read until everyone had caught up on learning their alphabet. If you already knew your A-B-Cs, you couldn’t just go ahead at your own pace. Same with math. Even if you already knew your numbers and how to put them together, you still had to do only one lesson each day and work ALL of the sample equations that came on the drill sheets–several pages each day. There wasn’t much new or interesting at all. Sometime around the middle of 2nd grade, I was thoroughly disenchanted with school and with learning.

I suspect I’m not the only child whose love for learning has ever been squashed flat.

So how do we keep the excitement alive?

To preserve a child's love of learning, we must respect their natural curiosity. Click To Tweet

To preserve a child’s love of learning, we must respect their natural curiosity. Here are three ways to do that:

1-  Remember that the instinct to learn and explore is natural.

Children benefit greatly from having someone older to guide, offer options and suggestions, demonstrate, and provide safeguards. That someone can be a parent, teacher, or another influential adult, but formalized teaching is not necessary. You likely read colorful books to your children as they were learning to talk, but it would be silly to think of purchasing a Learn to Talk textbook and sitting down for mandatory daily lessons. Maybe you’ve seen funny books about potty training, but generations of children acquired the skill with nothing more than gentle, consistent encouragement.

Therefore: guide students to safe options, make suggestions, demonstrate skills and techniques, and gently, consistently encourage your children to keep growing!

2- Remember that the “job” of children is to play.

In many ways playing IS learning. A brightly colored toy often inspires babies to crawl or walk–motivating themselves across obstacles so that they can get it–and soon they’re off and running! Children learn about their world as they take walks around the neighborhood, as they visit museums or the zoo. They learn about nature by playing with bugs and rocks and pets and science kits. They learn about math as they play games and keep score. Think how many toys–from dolls and kitchen sets to miniature gardening tools and building kits–mimic adult skills.

Therefore: be careful before you shout, “Quit playing around and get to work!” When a child quits playing, he may soon quit learning.

3- Celebrate strengths and gently strengthen weaknesses.

Focus on your child’s natural bent–what they love and do well. This is often an emerging picture, but over time you will begin to detect patterns. I remember watching my five-year-old at a soccer match. Some of his teammates loved the competition and physical activity of the game, but my guy enjoyed his position as goalie because it gave him time to look for bugs. One child may be drawn to books while another is always singing. One creates with blocks and Legos, another creates with colors on paper, and still another does their creative work in the kitchen. Perhaps your child is drawn to club activities or to old people. Take note! When a child is enthusiastically learning to do what they love, it is much easier to interest them in strengthening areas where they need to develop strengths and skills that will help them progress.

Therefore: expose children to a wide variety of activities and opportunities and take note of what sparks excitement.

4- As often as possible, teach using real-world activities.

My love of writing was not inspired by the stories found in our school readers. I found most of those flat and unremarkable. They were written to introduce words and grammar skills, not to excite the imagination. No, my love of storytelling was inspired by a mother who helped me stage backyard plays and a third-grade teacher who gave me a creative writing kit and let me check out as many real books as I liked from the library. Because I loved to write, I tolerated the spelling, grammar, and punctuation I had to learn in order to be a better writer.

My husband’s love of history was not inspired by any textbook, but by visiting forts and battlefields, hearing older relatives tell great stories, and hunting for arrowheads beside a natural pool.

No textbook, drill, test, or worksheet can compare to an immersive experience in the real world.

Therefore: whenever possible, reinforce lessons with real-life activities…or ditch the textbooks and learn by doing!

It may take time and energy to adapt our way of teaching, but it takes a good deal more time and energy to reach a child who has lost the love of learning. How much wiser to preserve curiosity from the beginning!

It takes less time and energy to preserve a love of learning than to reignite curiosity. Click To Tweet

Can you relate to this idea? Please share a natural interest you’ve maintained since childhood or an experience that ignited something in you.