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Motivating Your Child!

April 15, 2009

Looking for ways to motivate your child?  It’s really all around you!  Watch your child’s glee at seeing a butterfly emerge from its cocoon or when they are mesmerized watching a magician or fascinated by the small pieces of color within each handful of sand.  Listen to their questions about the world around them.  What are they interested in, what reoccurring topics do they go to again and again?  These are all clues to your child’s unique and wonderful passion.  These are the things that will make your child yearn to learn more, and the beauty of it; they will want to learn it.

Motivating your child to become a life-long learner isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Allowing your child to follow their passion, what interests them, what they get excited about will instill in them an internal drive towards discovery that will last their whole life.  Also you, the most important person in their life, showing your child that you value their interests will encourage them to believe in themselves. They also get more learning out of it when they are involved.  You never know if your attention and encouragement will inspire the next Madame Curry or Jacques Cousteau.  Taking an interest and letting your child develop in whatever direction their interests lead them, can guide your child to a bright new future.

So- how do you go about making their interests more than just a passing fancy?  You can sit down with your child and brainstorm a list of things that you can do together that would relate to their interest.  They will need direction and ideas from you but start with what they want to learn.  Look for unique features about the topic to explore in more detail.  There are many ways for children to develop and learn more about an interest. Although books are great and should be used, take the ideas beyond just using books.  Make it real and as hands-on as you can. Here is a list of some ideas that I have used with great success in the past:

  • Have your child draw out then create a paper mache model of their topic.
  • Have your child create a survey about the topic that they can ask others and then they can graph out the information gathered.
  • Whenever it is applicable, have your child relate their topic to geography and mapping skills.
  • Making a scene, like in a diorama, that captures some aspect of the topic is a great way for your child to show comprehension.
  • Create a collage of images or drawings of their topic and present the information to others.
  • Making charts or writing lists of information that they feel is important is a great way for you to see what they are learning and it might spring up another idea to explore further.
  • Interviewing an expert in the field or emailing questions, is a wonderful way for children to put their thoughts together and go beyond the facts.
  • Writing books and illustrating them about their interest is a great activity for children to put it all together.  You may even want to have the pages bound at a print shop to give it that professional look.

It may seem like a lot but when your child is interested in a topic that is what they are thinking about and it doesn’t seem too much to them when they are immersed in it.  For example, if your child was into trains you could brainstorm this list with your child:

  • Take a short train ride.
  • Learn what the various cars responsibilities are from the engine to the caboose>
  • Map out the rail road tracks in your local area
  • Learn some of the history of trains and how the influenced the growth of our nation
  • Sing some railroad songs
  • Make a model of a train or just make one car in detail using recycled boxes
  • Learn about the trains in England and Japan that run on magnets and how they work
  • Read some stories about trains
  • Learn the difference between a steam, coal and diesel engines
  • Go visit a museum that has trains that your child can get up close to like The Henry Ford Museum.
  • Learn what kind of jobs are there on a train
  • Take a family trip through the Rocky Mountains on a train and sleep in a berth. What an adventure – and your child will always remember it.
  • Go to a round table and see it in action.  It is amazing.
  • Get an engineers cap for your child to wear to encourage role playing.

These are just a few of the ideas that you can come up with, the next step is to have your child pick what they would like to do.  Some of the ideas will take a small investment but others will be just an investment of your time.  As you can see, while your child is involved in their topic, they are reading (or listening to you read the material if it isn’t written for children), writing information that they feel is important, problem solving, doing story problems (how many rail road ties would it take to cover the city, state, country?) but because they want to know the answer, it isn’t boring.

’ve worked with elementary children that wanted to study about the Sydney Opera House, Ancient Egypt, submarines, stained glass, lions, robots, and roller coasters to name a few.  These topics they explored in depth and became the “local expert” (in the school) on the topic that they were happy to share with others their new found knowledge. Their interests were varied and their enthusiasm was incredible.  The girl that studied the Sydney Opera House made a 3D model of the building, while the child interested in robots made one using various parts he found at home and the child studying Ancient Egypt dressed in the style of Cleopatra to experience the times firsthand. One family traveled across the state to visit a submarine docked there so their son could see it first hand.

These were families that encouraged their children to follow their passion and reveled in their children’s learning.  Each of these children took away more than appeared on the surface.  Yes, they learned about their topic of study but they also learned about themselves.  Struggling to learn a new concept takes determination to not give up.  They also grew to have more confidence in themselves.

If you need more ideas on how to approach a topic of study, send me an email and we’ll do some brainstorming and get back with you.   It is always fun, and very gratifying, to see what children do when they are given the chance to direct their own learning.  Let us know what you think!

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