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As parents of young children, the Corona virus pandemic and its effects on traditional schooling has made us question what ‘Learning’ actually is about for our little ones. Schools are shut down, parents are unable to keep up with the physical and financial demands of online schooling, and everyone is somewhat forced to homeschool one way or the other. If the schools do not re-open until another six months, does this mean your child will not be engaged in any form of ‘learning’?

Child-led learning is basically following your child’s interests and signs of readiness for both academic skills and their own curiosity.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider Child-led learning as this would make your child a lifelong learner, whether at school or at home.


Children are Competent Learners from Birth:

Understand that children are capable of learning, right from birth. A baby’s brain already has synapses and neurons connected necessary to aid learning; all we need do is to consistently build on them. Allen (2001), one of the Early Childhood Development experts writes in his book that “during the first three years of life, 80 percent of the basic architecture and social and emotional structures of the brain will be laid down for life.

Peckham (2017) also adds that in these early years, sensitive windows of time for a number of processes (learning opportunities) close long before children reach school age. Stimulating the child’s brain should even start at conception, or latest by birth, not until they start school. So, first erase the thought that there is a certain age to reach before learning starts.

What exactly is ‘Learning’?

Learning doesn’t start at a certain age. Learning is Continuous. Learning is in its application to life itself. Learning in ‘non-academic’ areas aids learning in ‘core academic’ areas, so do not think of one as superior to the other. Several researches have shown that certain life skills have become more necessary for thriving in today’s world than just core knowledge. Imagine a child who grows to be very intelligent, smart, yet lacks basic social skills of team work, communication, and confidence. You do not want your child to be able to seamlessly solve a particular Math problem but is unable to understand that that same concept can be applied in another life situation.

Children do not even start traditional school until age 4/5 in some other more developed climes:

Does this then make those children ‘duller’ than ours who we put in school from age 1 just because it’s the trend and we think we are on the wrong side if we don’t? The question is, what learning opportunities are you providing your child with even outside school? Do you talk them through your everyday routines? Do they have a basic understanding of the job you do, if possible, even your workplace. Take them out to public places and explain to them the functions of those places they see and what activities are done there. Allow them play interactions with older siblings and family friends. Talk to them about the social workers in the community. It is these rich and sensory experiences that set the pace for learning structures in the brain even before your child starts traditional school.

Note: This is not to sound insensitive towards parents who just have to put their children in school really early because they cannot have it any other way; but let school not be the only time and place learning takes place.

Children need to explore:

This must be embraced. Children only adapt well into the world after they have been able to make sense of it. Think about it this way, (and please don’t say they will survive just the way you did) a child is born into a place as new as the world, they have not been here before, and we expect them to magically understand and just flow along with whatever they find? As they grow, you have to intentionally aid their curiosity. They are born curious by the way; and that’s why a baby wants to put everything in his mouth to have a feel of it.

When they begin to be aware of their environments by staring at the rolling fan when power is restored, having a long look at a thing when out with you on a ride or a walk, startling at the sound of a siren, or attempting to even touch, don’t let those moments slide, encourage their curiosity, take the time to explain what it is they are curious about, even if it’s to an under 1 year old.

Child-Led Learning is more about the Process than the Results:

During play, you do not have to always focus on the end-result of the play, rather on the process. Focus on the calmness the sensory feeling gives, the concentration from trying to stack or fix a puzzle piece, the energy expended from jumping and kicking a ball or balloon around which is necessary for muscle development, the numeracy, science, and building-based vocabulary they develop while playing like building a tower, the creativity that flows through the unique ways they get to play with the materials, the empathy learnt when caring for a doll, the list is endless. Just focus on the process. A whole lot of learning is taking place if you pay attention to the process.

Children thrive more on Open-ended play materials:

Open ended play materials encourage free play and creativity. It encourages children to invent and evolve even in their play. It is not exactly a play that can be conclusive or played in one way, but can be reinvented and learnt from in various ways. Play materials that are open-ended include art materials, pretend-play props, books, stacking cups, puzzles, building blocks, legos, flash cards, etc.

Learning does not always have to be dictated to the child. When the child sees his everyday activity as a learning opportunity, they are better prepared to be in sync with their environment, to have a natural love for learning, and they become life-long learners.


Mercy Okoli

Photo Credit: Google.

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