To develop the skills children need to live fulfilling lives, their learning should be supported by every tool we have at our disposal. From coloring to imaginative thinking, these five interesting behaviors can help support your child’s learning for greater recall, creativity, and passion for education.
Coloring and Doodling
Doodling is often given a bad rap. During class, drawing and coloring seem like a disregard for the lesson being taught. However, the reality is that doodling can be a way of engaging the brain and preventing it from shutting down or checking out.
Students from kindergarten to medical school have been found to benefit from this creative form of fidgeting. The psychology behind doodling in class is fascinating and reveals how helpful this seemingly silly practice is for retaining information and assisting in focus. These are some of the ways coloring and doodling help children learn:
• Activates the brain to assist in long-term focus
• Makes connections through ordering information in the brain
• Fights stress through self-expression
It may seem hard to believe, but the research supports these benefits of doodling. Support your child’s learning by encouraging free doodling before working on homework or beginning a class. Then, explain how connecting illustrations to the learning material through visual notes can be a great way to retain information.
Doodling is one form of fidgeting, a larger category that comes with learning benefits for many children. Much like how sports help kids move around and get blood and oxygen flowing to their brains, fidgeting is a means of activating mental responses.
That’s because fidgeting increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. This is the seat of executive function in the brain, an area vital to the learning process. Tapping into this process is a way to improve focus and retention for children with or without ADHD. However, there are a few different fidgeting styles, which you should take note of to recognize in your own child. These fidgeting styles include:
• Busy hands — engaging the hands while learning with activities like doodling or using fidget toys.
• Busy mouth — engaging the mouth while learning by snacking, chewing, or sipping.
• Busy touching — engaging through tactile stimulus by playing with putty or a stress ball.
• Busy body — engaging the body through bouncing feet, stretching, or balancing.
Support your child’s learning by understanding their fidgeting style and providing means for them to engage in it without causing a distraction. Resistance bands under the desk, a doodling pad, or chewable pencil toppers are some suggestions.
Next, encouraging your child to read aloud can be a means of supporting comprehension and engagement with a text. This practice can solidify everything from phonics to the brain patterns used for efficient reading.
For example, studies have found that when reading aloud, Broca’s area of the brain responds to the corresponding sound frequencies. After reading aloud (even with unfamiliar words), the same area of the brain activates upon silent reading. This illustrates the connections we form between sound and language, which can aid in all kinds of learning activities.
In addition, reading aloud promotes a host of literacy skills that will benefit children throughout their lives. These benefits include:
• Increased attention spans and confidence
• Greater comfort, familiarity, and love of reading
• Enhanced development of language skills
To support your child’s learning, encourage them to spend time each day reading aloud to you. Make it fun by giving them a choice of what they’d like to read, and make it a bonding experience by discussing the text with them.
Listening to Music
Listening to music is another way to support brain functionality that stimulates learning. This is evidenced in a plethora of research. For instance, Alzheimer’s patients scored higher on memory tests when listening to classical music.
Why? Music helps hold our attention, stimulate imagery, and conduct positive mood management. All these features can boost a child’s engagement with learning and foster a more connected experience. With such a variety of music to choose from, virtually any learning experience can be supplemented by an appropriate soundtrack.
Cultivate engaging learning experiences for your child using music. This can be done simply by turning on classical music while they work on homework. Or you can take a more involved approach, tying rhyme, beats, or lyrics to specific tasks, and building associations through sound.
Daydreaming is the fifth and final item that we’ll explore here. While you might think daydreaming is silly or something to be discouraged, there are real-world benefits that come with the practice.
For instance, one study found that daydreaming actually works out the brain and is associated with higher levels of working memory. This has implications for just about all of life’s daily tasks, from washing the dishes to commuting to work. With high working memory, we can conduct boring tasks while planning out others as we build the capacity to do all these tasks well.
You can support daydreaming as a means to enhance your child’s learning by demonstrating its place and time. You don’t want your child daydreaming during a lesson, for instance, but afterward — -perhaps on the bus home — you can encourage them to let their mind wander over the day. Their brain will make its own connections and fantasies that help their intellectual and emotional health.
Daydreaming can even help reduce anxiety by allowing children to explore life circumstances and learning scenarios mentally before they encounter them in real life. Foster these experiences further by promoting a love of reading and music in children. Since these tools evoke thoughts and emotions, they can also inspire daydreams that function as problem-solving devices.
Supporting Your Child’s Learning Their Way
All these items support child learning in various, interesting ways. Kids need these tools as they develop essential life skills, and you can encourage them by helping your child find ways to engage without causing distractions.
Every child doodles, daydreams, and fidgets. Understand the benefits of these activities in the right context, then use reading and music to supplement a comfortable approach to learning. A more fulfilling and engaging education awaits your child.