We know that children learn rapidly, and we often talk about how they are sponges – soaking up all of the information around them.
As adults, we can understand our learning process a little more because we have the experience. We know that our senses and experience give us knowledge, and then we act on that knowledge.
But, since we are adults, we handle things a little bit differently. Children are like blank slates; all of their knowledge is new. What they learn daily and how they apply it to their life looks different too.
So if you ever wondered how children learn and why the school systems have a select set of learning pathways to aid that, then read on!
Children start learning from the moment they are born. Just like when building a home, these become the foundations for what comes next.
And just like anything, sometimes it moves at speed, while other things take more time.
Children not only have to gather and process information, but they are also building their hand-eye coordination, balance, core competencies, and learning where they belong in the world.
It is a lot to do at once.
In the early years, those foundations were what the rest of the building balanced upon, which is why early years education and learning are so essential.
Often parents find their children reaching the ages of 4-6 and seeing these bright personalities flourishing. Working with the schooling system to ensure that their child is reaching the expected milestones. It can be confusing since there are so many terms; this handy glossary of K-12 “EdTech” terms can help with modern technology-based learning terms.
Because not only do children learn everything we learned (and more), but they also need to learn to function in a tech-focused world.
This early learning stage is where your child builds a superhighway of information, called the neural pathways.
How do neural pathways work?
Think of the neural pathways like a circuit; electricity passes along the circuit to make something at the other end work. The best example is a light switch.
Here is where it gets very cool though, we are born with a range of circuits (neural pathways) already installed and running. Things like blinking and breathing are automated and a circuit that is already working.
Over time, the activities that the child does will build new ones. In other words, the experiences and the senses behind to process things. Like when the eyes see something steaming, they might grab it – but only once. Because that is a new pathway that says when something is steaming, it is hot, and that causes pain.
The emotional neural pathways are also being built.
Children are exceptional for many reasons; another one to add to the list is that pathways also disappear. Since children have way more circuits that they need, the ones that aren’t used weaken and disappear.
Plasticity is what we call this, the ability to build and disappear neural pathways all the way up through childhood and into adolescence.
Language development happens between the ages of 2 and seven. They explore reading, using different words, trying out sounds and noises and this is why talking and reading to your children at a young age is so important.
During school, nursery, or other social settings, children also begin learning social skills. But, children at such a young age are still learning their own social boundaries and don’t often find it easy to accept being ‘told’ something.
Why? Annoying as if for parents and guardians, it is because the logical thinking process is one of the biggest ones to take shape. Logical thinking doesn’t come into its own until the age of seven and onward – however, the starting blocks are already there.
During these years, children will most often be engaging and active in almost everything. They are exploring the world and making up the information for all of those logical processes – sometimes making what adults might call ‘silly decisions’. It’s those silly decisions that teach.
After logic comes reasoning, children begin to explore the what-if scenarios. Using their knowledge to date, to make a reasonable assumption about what the outcome will be.
That executive function skill is continually developing until the age of about 20.
Slowly, over these years, the circuits that we started with will become more intricate and allow us to use our skills together.
So the answer to how children learn is speedy and slow at the same time—constantly adding blocks to their foundations with each passing hour.
But not every child learns the same, read more: How To Help A Child That Learns Differently