Marilou Hyson: She says all children "are capable of becoming more interested in and engaged in learning."

Marilou Hyson: She says all children “are capable of becoming more interested in and engaged in learning.”

By NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Published: 11/12/2012  2:23 AM
Last Modified: 11/12/2012  4:14 AM

Getting your child to become an engaged learner – one who is motivated, persistent and derives pleasure from the act of learning – may seem to some parents like a difficult task.

“Sometimes people think that some children are just born more interested or motivated or curious and some children are just not,” said Marilou Hyson, an early childhood development and education expert who recently conducted a seminar on the topic at OU-Tulsa. “Children may show it in different ways, but we really know that all children, including children who have disabilities or special needs, are capable of becoming more interested in and engaged in learning.

“It’s the experiences that they have and the support that they have in their environment that makes a difference.”

Hyson offered six practical tips, based on research, that parents can use to make their young children more engaged learners.

1. Establish a warm relationship with your child.

“The research says that if children have secure, confident relationships with their parents, they’re more likely to explore and persist when they’re faced with difficult tasks,” she said.

2. Be passionate and enthusiastic about your work and hobbies.

Show your enthusiasm for the things that you enjoy doing, Hyson said, whether that is cooking, traveling, repairing cars or exploring music.

“It’s really important for young children to see their parents as role models and to see their parents trying out new activities,” she said.

Talk out loud about your problems and make sure they see you work to solve them.

“Children need to learn that if you try something and it doesn’t work, maybe there is another way to do it. And if you get a little frustrated, that’s all right, you can deal with the frustration.”

3. Pay attention to your child’s interests.

If your child is captivated by the birds flying in the yard, or loves dinosaurs, or enjoys music, work to develop those interests, Hyson said.

4. Give your child unstructured time.

Hyson said giving your child time that is not structured is a gift that will allow them to explore, play and be creative.

“It’s really hard for children, or adults, to become deeply involved in learning and exploring new challenges if they’re constantly rushing from one experience to another.”

5. Be involved.

“Children need adults to be with them, to partner with them on what the children are doing, whether it’s doing a puzzle or looking at a book together or looking at old family pictures together,” Hyson said.

At the same time, build upon what your children are already doing, extend their thinking and challenge them to try something a little more difficult.

6. Don’t reward your child all the time.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that it is better not to reward children all the time for performing well and learning but to emphasize how satisfying it is to work hard, to master challenges, to learn new things,” Hyson said.

Constantly rewarding a child may actually decrease their motivation to learn, she said.

Original Print Headline: Kids can be engaged learners, with help


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