• Coz Little Things Matter Most

Motivating young explorers

Young children learn from everything they do. They are naturally curious; they want to explore and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. During these early years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative, adventurous learners throughout their lives.


Children do many things simply because they want to do them. Selecting a toy or a shirt to wear is the result of “intrinsic motivation.” The child makes her own choice and achieves satisfaction from both the act of choosing and from the opportunity to play with the toy or wear the shirt. Since the activity is generating the motivation, it is mostly self-sustaining for as long as the child wants to continue the activity.


Since intrinsically motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, children learn more from this sort of activity, and they retain that learning better. A child is more likely to learn and retain information when he is intrinsically motivated – when he believes he is pleasing himself. Parents can build on this sense of confidence by guiding their child’s play and activities while still giving the child a range of options. This unstructured play is an essential element of the child’s motivation, learning, and development.


Children also engage in some activities because adults tell them to, or in an effort to please another party. These activities are “extrinsically motivated.” When a child is extrinsically motivated, the reward comes from outside the child-it has to be provided by someone else, and has to be continually given for the child to remain motivated enough to continue the activity. It is more difficult for a child to sustain extrinsically motivated activity because of this reliance upon some outside force.


Preschoolers (age 3-5 years) are beginning to be more involved with verbal problem solving skills. They direct their own learning through speech and use vocal communication to direct their own behaviour to solve problems. Young children are often heard talking themselves through a series of actions that lead to the solution of a problem. As children get older, this “talking out loud” will become an internal monologue. This newly developing ability to problem solve is the basis for motivation at this stage. Having the self confidence to know that one can solve a problem motivates the learner to accept other new and challenging situations, which in turn lead to greater learning.


Ensure that you do not limit your child. Provide lots of reading opportunities, be it books, posters, newspapers or printed table mats. Let your child make choices; be it what he would like to eat as a side dish at dinner, the toys he likes to be engaged with. Unstructured play opportunities are as important as structured play time. Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing.


Supplies that encourage open-ended play, such as blocks, will develop your child’s creative expression and problem-solving skills as he builds. Celebrate your child’s success however small it may seem to you. Display enthusiasm in your child’s activities. Positive reinforcement will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself. Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents.Communicate and indulge in conversing with your child.


The world through a child’s eyes is an awesome place.


Allow children to explore and discover their world. Around every corner is an experience just waiting to surprise and excite young growing minds; all they need is a small amount of direction and a large amount of freedom. It is not necessary to praise and reward children for their own actions as they attempt to control their environment.


The feelings of accomplishment they gain from results of those actions will be reward enough. Providing excessive praise and rewards is unnecessary and can actually be harmful to children’s motivation and desire to learn. Remember, the habits and attitudes toward learning that are formed in these early years set the mood for all future learning.