Development: How Young Children Learn

Children learn through repetition. It takes practice for a child to crawl, drink from a cup, learn new words, or cross the street safely. Your child doesn't get bored when she repeats things. She needs to practice the same thing over and over again. By repeating things until she learns them, your child builds confidence to try new things. Be patient, and be prepared to repeat things several times before your child learns the lesson.

When you are teaching your child, give reasons when you ask your child to do something. Say, for example, "Please move your truck from the stairs so no one falls over it", rather than "Move it because I said so."

When your child does something wrong, criticize the behavior but not the child. Instead of saying "You are a bad boy!" say, "I love you, but it's not OK for you to draw pictures on the walls. I get angry when you do that". This helps your child learn that it is not OK to do certain things, without being scared that you do not love him anymore. Being around adults who care for them helps stimulate children’s brains and makes learning easier.

Catch your child doing something right. Praise your child for a job well done. Smiles and encouragement usually work much better than punishment.

Let your child do many things by herself. Young children need to be watched closely. However, they learn to make choices and build confidence by dressing themselves and putting their toys away.

Communicate through talk, gestures, singing and reading. Read aloud to your child every day. Even babies as young as 6 weeks love to be read to. Reading together gives your child a chance to learn about language and enjoy the sound of your voice.

Play is another way that children learn. Play helps children learn to solve problems, such as how to get toys upright if they fall over. When they stack up blocks, children learn about colors, numbers, geometry, shapes, and balance. Playing with others helps children learn how to share and not always get their own way. Give your child lots of chances to play with other children. Always be sure and supervise young children playing together. Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a television or computer screen.

Take your child to do and see new things. Go for walks in your neighborhood or go places on the bus. Visit museums, libraries, zoos and other places of interest. If you live in the city, spend a day in the country. If you live in the country, spend a day in the city. Let your child play music, dance, and paint.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-12-15
Last reviewed: 2010-07-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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