How Do Children Learn?
It seems that the most difficult questions to answer are those that are the most fundamental (such as why gravity exists, is there a Theory of Everything and how our brains actually work). It’s also the case with learning (how we take in information and how do we make sense of it).
How do children learn
As parents, many times we’ve wondered how our children learn and what goes on in their minds. Then, we try to think about how we are as children and how we think at that time. We realise then that it’s impossible because we can’t completely figure out we think in the first place.
Well, researchers and psychologists have developed sophisticated methodologies to try to know how children learn. Optical neuroimaging is one such method where researchers can take a peek (and get some hints about how learning happens). Other methods employ “watching” neural activities while the subjects are performing a certain task. With these methodologies, the researchers can piece together findings and clues about how learning happens.
Still, it’s an incomplete picture. One reason is the complex events and interactions in the brain as well as the 100 billion neurons and the 10 to 50-fold more glial cells (these provide support and protection to the neurons). Also, children already have predispositions for faster learning (such as when it comes to causality and mathematics). It’s like somehow they’re already equipped to navigate our complex society. But, where do those predispositions come from and is it the result of evolution and natural selection? We might need to answer that first before we can completely understand what goes on inside our brains.
Or, perhaps we just have to accept that basic fact and principle (just like we have to accept that gravity, atoms and subatomic particles just exist). When it comes to how children learn, we might just get hints about how they make sense of things and how they develop through the years (inevitably they just get better at language, arts and mathematics). We might never be able to fully understand how the brain actually works and how it connects several different concepts and experiences to form mental models.
Even without that total understanding, we as parents can still help and guide our children when it comes to learning. We can create a supportive and nurturing environment to encourage our children to learn and play. We can also expose them to different learning materials and experiences so they can gain an abundance of sensory input and information. Even if we can’t come up with a complete explanation about how our children learn, still we can help them gain some small advantages so that they can be better equipped for the future.