Approaches to Learning in Early Childhood

Is my child ready for Kindergarten? What do they have to know to be successful? What can I do to help my child do well in school? Parents have a lot of questions and concerns about their child’s school readiness.

One area increasingly identified as critical for a child’s school and life success is their approaches to learning. These skills, which include how children learn in traditional academic areas as well as their engagement, motivation and participation in class, are also called executive functioning skills. When children are able to break tasks down into smaller pieces, organize a plan of work, follow through with the plan and reflect on their success, we know they are more prepared to tackle and succeed at school, as well as during life’s challenges.

While it might sound strange to think about “executive functioning” in relation to your young child, the reality is these core skills include those we use in everyday life. These skills can help us organize, plan, engage, persist at tasks, make decisions and learn from our mistakes. Children rely on these same executive functioning skills to complete a wide variety of their daily tasks, from getting ready in the morning, to completing their math homework, science project or book report.

There are many ways that we as adults can help support children’s development of these critical skills. Creating consistent routines children follow every day, such as morning and bedtime routines, help them learn to plan and follow through tasks to completion. Playing games that include direction following, such as “Simon Says,” and “Red Light, Green Light,” help children build their ability to follow directions and focus. As adults supporting children, it is critical to remember these skills take time to build. By offering specific encouragement to children based on work they have done, we can help them build their self-confidence and skill sets.

Michigan State University Extension offers the following face-to-face and online trainings to support children and their approaches to learning: What Children Need to Know to Start School, The Purpose of Play, Inquiring Minds Want to Know and Positive Discipline 101. Look at the events calendar to find out when these programs are being offered near you or contact an early childhood educator to book a presentation at your library, childcare center, school or other community program.

In addition, MSU Extension also offers a variety of downloadable resources for parents and caregivers interested in learning about the approaches to learning for young children.

MSU Extension also recommends the following additional resources:

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