Letting your kids learn through experience

There are two different ways we come to know things: through reading or hearing about things and through experiencing them for ourselves.

Do you remember playing Duck Duck Goose in elementary school? Dodgeball? Singing songs every day in music class? Naptime in kindergarten?

My kids are yet to start school, but I hear it’s very different these days. Early elementary school aged children do homework every night. Games, art and playing are mostly absent from classes, where the focus is on writing the alphabet perfectly, phonics, math and reading.

Some child development experts are asserting that kids these days are short on experiential learning. Much of this is attributed to computers and the Internet, plus a focus on book learning at school.

It used to be every kid had the chance to do some basic things around the back yard, too: turn on the hose and water the grass (or water anything!), climb trees, play in the woods or around a pond, work on a car or motor parts, mow the lawn, dig up worms, splash in a brook, and so on. I never had to siphon gas or cut wood, but I saw my dad doing those things, and I’m sure a boy in the family would have been doing it right alongside him.

My first son is only three, and he can read fluently already. But he may never see anyone doing those things – much less do any of them himself.

I find myself grieving a little bit as I think of this…

What if my sons never see those jelly-like clumps of frog eggs in a pond that turn into pollywogs and tadpoles and eventually turn into frogs – only read about them in books? Never explore their way through a forest (because there’s no forest, just another house behind our house)? Never figure out how to hook the sled up to the dog for an easy lift back up the hill?

How can we, in our generation of suburban living and focus on computer learning, still give our kids basic experiential knowledge?

Maybe we all need to buy a summer home on a lake. Or live closer to Grampie and Nanna. They’d make sure the kids get to “know” all these things for themselves.

To be sure, I’m only talking about experiencing one aspect of life here – the side closer to nature and rural life.

But there are tons of other things to be experienced: different cultures and languages, social classes, history, creative projects, arts, music, life skills (like going to the post office and sending a letter) and so on. We may not do too badly with a few of these, I suppose.

What are your thoughts?

More reading:

Inspire your child through experiential learning

Longer classes to provide for experiential learning

How parks help with experiential learning

Virtual grandparenting
Get motivated to drink more water – plus a product that may help you!

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