4 Ways to Set Kids Up to Drive Their Own Learning

By Mira Browne

As a mom of two energetic boys, I know firsthand that getting kids focused on learning is much easier said than done. Even on their best days, kids often struggle to maintain their motivation and excitement for learning. And right now, with so many kids struggling to engage in remote learning, the challenges seem to be endless. 

While we are plagued by the ongoing uncertainty of this pandemic, there is one thing we do know: kids learn best when they feel connected to learning. Learning science tells us this and as the Executive Director of Prepared Parents, I have heard this over and over again from the families we work with.

Take six-year old Jack, for example. Jack is passionately interested in learning about the Titanic. 

When Jack’s interest recently went from vague understanding to full force Titanic mania, his mom, Sarah, decided to embrace it. As his interest grew, Sarah realized the Titanic was a fabulous way to talk about history, science, and nature. It became a way to have conversations about wealth, about geography and genealogy. In fact, Jack’s excitement even led him to do research on the passengers to learn more about them. Jack was not taking these steps because he was being told to, he was motivated to learn because he discovered something that was exciting and interesting to him. 

How can your kids have learning moments like Jack’s that inspire them to dive head first into learning, while building the habits and skills for future success? Here are four strategies to help get kids excited to learn – no matter what kind of education setting they’re in. (Note: A full set of resources related to each of these strategies is available in our free UNBOXED monthly learning kits for families.) 

1.Set up daily routines that build connection: Chances are high that you start and end your day with brushing your teeth to keep them clean and healthy. The same idea can be applied to the rituals and routines for learning. Kids can establish simple routines that prepare their minds and bodies for learning. One of these is Check-In / Check-Out, a morning and end-of-day touchpoint to recognize how we feel, to get grounded for the day, to share gratitude, and to wind down for the evening. These routines are not only centering, they’re also a powerful way to connect with those around us.

2. Have kids map out their goals: Goal-setting is a lifelong skill, and kids feel more connected to their goals when they feel ownership over establishing them. No matter how old they are, kids can set goals that are personal, relevant, and motivating. They can start by thinking about their destination – their long-term goals for making this year meaningful. Then they can assess their current location – where they are now and the challenges they’re facing. Finally, they can map out the route they’ll take to get to their destination –  the short-term goals that will help them navigate the twists and turns along the way.

3. Put them in the driver’s seat: When kids explore their curiosity and pursue their passion, they can’t help but get excited about learning. There are a number of resources available to offer real-world, personally-meaningful activities that challenge kids’ thinking and inspire action. Prepared Parents has several of these, along with many other tools, in our UNBOXED digital learning toolkits.

4. Celebrate the learning process: Regular opportunities for your kids to share or present what they’ve learned helps them celebrate the process of learning. Once a month, spend 30 minutes giving your kids a stage to share their work, and celebrating their curiosity, ingenuity and creativity. When we celebrate the process of learning — interests, struggles, and all — it helps kids form their identity and honors their progress, not perfection. 

These strategies will likely take time for your kids to master, but once they do, you might be surprised at how much your kids are able to accomplish on their own, and the passion they have for learning! 

Listen: Check out our podcast episode with Mira Browne, Founder of Prepared Parents


About Prepared Parents

At Prepared Parents, we believe that learning must evolve beyond academics to include habits and skills that prepare all kids for success in life. We translate learning science into actionable tips, tools and activities that enable parents to support success at home and champion change at school. Our newest resource – UNBOXED – is a free digital monthly learning kit for students in grades 4–9 available to parents, caregivers, community organizations, and learning pod leaders. Learn more at https://preparedparents.org.

- Jenny Clark

Founder & Executive Director

Arizona native and mother of five, Love Your School Founder Jenny Clark knows full well the unique variations in how children learn. Jenny grew up in Arizona, attended her local district school from K-12, and then continued on to the University of Arizona and received a BSBA in Business Economics.

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