How Do Young Children Learn? | Part I-The Science

What do we mean when we talk about ‘learning’? When I think back to how I learned in school, the first thing that comes to mind is reciting the ABCs, copying high-frequency words repeatedly into Hillroy notebooks (ensuring to stay within the little red lines) and chanting my times tables. A large focus was on memorizing content, reciting it back and, unfortunately, forgetting it.

Perhaps your experiences were similar in which case you may be asking yourself: “Isn’t there a better way to improve the processing of information?” Good news, there is!

As a teacher with a number of years of practice in early years settings, it became imperative for me to understand the science behind how young children learn, in order to engage with them in a meaningful and productive manner. Some of you may not be so familiar with how your child’s brain actually works, or your own for that matter. I’d like to share this information to help you support your child’s development in the best way possible.

First and foremost, everything we learn comes to the brain through the senses. As adults, we tend to take this for granted. Information that we assume to be automatically known is anything but. We know things because our brain has taken all the sensory input from our experiences and turned them into memory. Connections have been made which help with the processing of new information. An infant, however, has come into the world with no prior connections. So how do infants actually make these connections?

The diagram below explains how a child’s brain works through a system of sensory input:


As you can see, children need to be engaged and happy to make those important learning connections that are then stored as memory. But what does that look like? How can I keep my toddler interested for more than two minutes before he gets distracted?!

Stay tuned for this answer and more in next week’s edition – How Do Young Children Learn? Part II-Practical Tips.

talia_HeadshotTalia Shapero is an experienced dual qualified teacher in Ontario and the UK who has a passion for early years education. She is co-founder of the Smart Cookie Club, a holistic, play-based learning program for toddlers and preschoolers and their parents and nannies.




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