It’s almost a cliché to say that children learn fast; that they are like sponges Have you ever wondered why? Let’s check some aspects of their (natural and innocent) wisdom:
1. Children are ready to make mistakes
They do not think ten times before uttering a word or a sentence. Children take risks all the time. They do not like to be laughed at, but they soon forget that laughter can happen when they make a mistake. I love this specific forgetfulness (and forgiveness) kids have within them. We have so much to learn from these creatures. Without knowing it, children use the ‘trial and error’ approach all the time. They do not see a problem; they focus only on attempts. Very often we adults work in a very different way. We drag problems around with us and create obstacles that only suppress or limit our potential. When learning something, we have to watch that we are not our worst enemies.
2. Children accept correction
Although children throw tantrums to make their point or get what they want in many circumstances, when language is at stake they want to get it right. They pay attention to your correction and even repeat what you have said. Children are extremely clever. They do not really take note or care whether you are being arrogant or trying to be superior. They want to learn, which is the main thing to them. You see, children pay more attention to what is relevant. As we grow older, we become too aware of people’s way of saying things and their intentions and we get easily offended. It is too much thinking and precaution that spoils everything. When we get what we need, we grow; when we concentrate on how it could be or how wrong is being done, we simply do not enjoy learning.
3. Children love stories
We all love stories, but we tend to leave fiction behind as we grow older. What is offered to us is gossip with juicy details of the lives of celebrities and that is the closest thing to fiction and fantasy that we have. Children are more realistic when it comes to fantasy! They demand really impossible plots and amazing heroes. Kids want it all. No wonder the industry for this audience does so well. Now, the stories for kids are interesting for us not only because of the unlikelihood of their events and the characters that make us laugh. They present a simple language, yet sophisticated thoughts and great imagination. If you want to learn more English and invest in your writing, kids’ books are great tools: simple structures with lots of verbs (they need lots of action, you see!) and other new words. Have fun reading this one: The Brave Monkey Pirate.
4. Children learn all the time
We tend to be concerned with time for studying and methods to use. These concerns are important, but they can be real dampeners. When we think we have to plan too much our learning, the whole thing becomes a bit of a burden. Not that we should not plan; we just need to enjoy everything around as learning opportunities. Did you read the Brave monkey on the link above? A child would make connections with real life and reproduce what the monkey does and the way he responds to his challenges. When children are walking around, they point to things and sometimes we do not have a clue what they mean. However, they do. They are linking knowledge, characters and situations. The best way to learn is to do it all the time, because it is then just another moment, not a specific time to stop and learn. Children demand meaningful learning. Even fiction is applied when they use their toys to come up with a new story, having learned new things from animated videos or books. When we incorporate learning in our daily lives, everything makes more sense. It is not isolated knowledge here and there; it is ‘incorporating experiences’.
5. Children have fun
Among other activities, I looked after three kids here in Ireland for a good while. It was a dream job for those with a student visa, as I worked 4 hours a day from Monday to Friday with good wages and I loved it. Calvin, the oldest child, was way too smart and I had to be thinking ahead of him all the time. I can’t really tell you how much English I learned from him. Children are great teachers and the best thing is that they do not assess you! Calvin arrived one day from school saying to everyone, “I dare you!”. It was so much fun for him to be running around shouting ‘I dare you’. I could not help myself; he had me in stitches. Another day when I asked Calvin to get into the buggy and prepare to go to the park, he came with his newest expression, “No way!”. I decided to play his game and said, “Yes, way!”. At that point, he burst into laughter and said that ‘yes way’ did not exist. He loved it though. When we got back home from the park, the cleaner said to Cal that he was ‘not’ allowed to play near the ironing board. Guess what he replied, “Yes way!”
Enjoy learning as a child!