The importance of children learning by experience

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Helping your child grow up to be a responsible adult is one of the most important parenting goals.

You may think this means helping them concentrate on their academic achievements, acquire marketable skills and become productive members of society. You may even believe that this is a job for the educators and leave everything to their teachers. 

However, this is not the case. 

Many teachers focus on helping children succeed in school and leave behavioral development to the parents.

And in any case, our kids spend too little time at school for them to develop good habits. 

Therefore, as parents, we should proactively engage ourselves in teaching our kids how to behave well. And that requires a lot of nurturing and support. 

How do you teach your child good behavior?

The first point of call when shaping your child’s behavior is to create a collaborative relationship with their teachers.

This will enable you to learn how they behave at school and work together with their teachers to ensure they are always at their best. 

Discovering your child’s talents is the next step in supporting positive development. That way, you will direct your parenting efforts in the right direction.

Focusing on your child’s abilities throughout their learning experience is critical for their successful growth. The best way to achieve this is by using a proven method of successful parenting known as experiential learning.

What is experiential learning?

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Experiential learning involves teaching kids principles that help them develop soft skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and good social interaction by mimicking real-life situations. 

Experiential learning was first introduced by David Kolb, a psychologist who believed experiences influence learning in a big way. He came up with two types of learning styles known as reflective observation and active experimentation. 

These concepts help us to group people into doers and watchers. The two groups of people are divided when it comes to assimilating information into our lives. It determines what we do with our experiences.

Experiential learning helps children become doers instead of watchers. They learn how to do things themselves rather than depend on their parents or guardians to do it for them.

An excellent example of experiential learning is where you actively show your child how to cook through observation. 

Telling them what you are doing in each step and why is the best way to help them become expert cooks.

It is different from giving them a recipe and asking them to follow it without telling them the reason behind each step.

Experiential learning also teaches children about cause and effect, helping them make better choices in life. 

It takes children out of their comfort zone into an area where they need to actively participate, learn how to do things and discover how and why things are as they are. 

For instance, visiting an art gallery outside school to practically experience art skills differs from learning about it in a classroom setting.

Experiences shape a child’s personality and behavior more than a factual store of knowledge. This is why experiential learning is such a successful way of parenting kids.

Different types of conditioning in experiential learning

Experiential learning succeeds due to three types of conditioning that shape a child’s behavior. These are; 

  • Classical conditioning. Helps children to associate a response with a stimulus. For example, associating a school bell ringing at midday with lunch. 
  • Operant conditioning. Helps children associate rewards or punishments with actions. For example, if you congratulate your child for excellent results at school, they are more likely to repeat the same performance with the hope of being congratulated or rewarded.
  • Behavioral conditioning. Where kids learn how to do things by looking at those around them. For instance, adopting a behavior such as neatness by watching their parents keep a clean home.

These three types of conditioning show us that kids learn by example. And that is what experiential learning is all about; teaching your child by example. 

Therefore, your responsibility as a parent is to expose them to good behavior and environments that will help them cultivate model behaviour.

7 ways to teach children to learn by experience

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Experiential learning is more valuable at certain stages of a child’s growth than others. 

Experts insist on adopting this kind of learning approach as early as possible in a child’s life because their brains develop quickly during the first six years.

Here are seven ways you can use experiential learning to shape your child’s behavior.

  1. Motivate them to learn

Find ways to expose your child to experiences that will shape their thinking. For example, taking them to a farm where they can see cows being milked is different from giving them a packet of milk and telling them it comes from a cow. 

The live experiences motivates kids to discover how things work. It also shapes their minds differently from reading books or listening to a teacher.

  1. Shape their behavior positively

Children act on what they see. If you teach a child to wake up early, make their bed, and brush their teeth, it will become a beneficial habit they adapt throughout their lives. 

However, if they spend time around untidy people, they will follow that pattern of behavior and make it a habit. For this reason, it is always a good idea to show kids how you want them to behave.

  1. Teach them how to communicate 

When you engage your kids in conversation and expose them to different words, languages, and emotions, they learn to clearly express themselves in any situation.

Encouraging them to repeat words after you and telling them what those words mean expands their vocabulary from an early age. 

It helps if you can demonstrate, describe, or create stories that tell them what different words mean. 

For instance, if you say the word “angry,” associate it with an emotion and explain why it happens.

  1. Assist them in learning new skills

We should focus on exposing children to ways of actively learning new skills rather than letting them read books all the time. 

For instance, if you want to teach your child the importance of saving, do it actively by paying them a few dollars for chores and then showing them how to use the money wisely and save it. 

  1. Expose them to nature and its wonders

Practically exposing your kids to nature is better for them than watching nature programs. 

You could plant a home garden and let your kids learn how things grow. Seeing plants grow from scratch will teach them more about plants and nutrition than buying them from the store or reading about them. 

You could also take them to see animals in parks and zoos rather than seeing them on TV. 

  1. Help them to choose a suitable career

Exposing your child to different professions such as law, medicine, art, social work, computing, etc is a great way to help them learn and discover what they would like to pursue in the future. That is why most schools have career days. 

Any chance you get to show your children how different professionals work is a great way to help them identify what they want to be when they grow up. You could also take them to your workplace and let them see how you work. 

Your child will decide who they want to be through such experiences.

However, we must issue a word of caution. Be careful to not push your child into a particular career based on what you think they should be, as opposed to what they are truly interested in. Pursuing a career you are not fully interested in can create a lot of unhappiness and dissatisfaction throughout your child’s lifetime.

  1. Show them how things work

Allowing children to experience interesting things, such as engaging in simple science experiments from an early age, teaches them how things work. 

Experimenting and copying are the only ways that kids learn skills and behavior.  

Any situation where they can mimic good behavior or perform experiments that expand their thinking capacity is recommended. For instance, you could take them to educational camps in Summer.

You should also take advantage of your time with them at home to teach them how things like the dishwasher work. These experiences will grow their skillset tremendously.

Last word

Now that you know what experiential learning is all about, do you think it suits your parenting style? If it does, go ahead and use the 7 practical examples of experiential learning we have given you to shape your child into an amazing person. 

However, above all things, always keep the safety of your children in mind. While exposing them to exciting environments and experiences is essential in this form of learning, it should not compromise their well-being. 

Your child’s experiential learning should always happen in a safe environment where they are surrounded by trustworthy people.

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