If your child would rather watch a YouTube video, go next door to a friend’s house, or play Xbox rather than learn, he is not alone. As our children grow, the enthusiasm for learning can wane — but the good news is that it doesn’t have to!
In this email, we share our best tips for how to encourage the wonder of learning again. Whether your child is 8 or 18, we hope these ideas will help him or her to make the connection that not all learning has to be boring.
When our kids think they don’t like to learn, it’s often not the learning itself they dislike. It’s the packaging in which the learning comes. For example, if your child needs to learn his sight words, and he gets a list each week to try and memorize, it can feel painful simply repeating words over and over.
Studies show that Generation Z and Generation Alpha both are geared toward gamification. So how can we apply this concept of “leveling up” or winning a prize to sight word memorization?
1. Try to make it a game. You can use this idea with just about anything that needs to be memorized.
Remember the “I went to the market and bought…” game? You would take turns each adding an item to the list and go around and around in a small group until someone missed an item. You can adapt this with facts such as dates to memorize or scientific vocabulary – anything that will help your child adapt working memory to a school memorization assignment.
For example, I found 1,776 founding fathers (the year the U.S. was founded), 50 states, and 13 colonies. In the sight word example, once words have been memorized, you can add spelling. I went to the store and bought an envelope — e-n-v-e-l-o-p-e. Then, you can add a word, spell it, and keep going through the list.
If you’re helping your child study for a test, you can play too and add things from his or her study sheet as you play. Get the whole family involved, and it’s a game that may strengthen everyone’s memorization skills.
2. Pair learning with activities your child already enjoys.
This is one of the easiest ways to make learning fun for kids – and tailor it to their age, level of development, and current interests. Examples include visiting a science center to explore rocks if they are studying geological formations and they love field trips or getting outside to play soccer while talking about a book they are reading for school. You can ask questions such as, “What do you like about the book? Dislike? Which character do you most identify with?” These are simple ways to explore literature and play a game they already enjoy.
Other ideas include talking through vocabulary words while making friendship bracelets, getting together a group of your child’s friends who are also studying and letting them play memorization trash-can basketball, or creating their own vision boards for fascinating facts related to a particular topic. Vision boards can be especially helpful for presentations, speeches they need to memorize, and literature units for older students who enjoy design and art.
3. Set your studies to music.
If your son plays guitar, see if he can come up with a ridiculous rhyme that tells a story about what he is learning in history. Or if your daughter wants to be on the next series of “So You Think You Can Dance,” have her create a dance routine that would incorporate the personality traits of a book character related to the literature she is reading for school.
Making learning fun is the key to keeping the wonder alive – it teaches students of all ages (adults too) that learning something new does not have to be boring. If attempting to gamify some of your child’s school assignments clashes with messages he is hearing in class, it may be time to rethink how your child is educated.
If you’d love a quick and easy checklist to help you think through ways to enliven your child’s learning, you can we’ve got one for you!