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Why the Best Learning is Active Learning

Active learning takes advantage of children’s natural desire to move and touch. Young children love to manipulate items and explore new ideas. They enjoy the opportunities to see how things work and to test their own theories.

Active learning takes advantage of children’s natural motivation, abilities, and interests. Kids need lots of opportunities to investigate what interests them – to solve problems, discover relationships, and make comparisons.

Children use all their sense to make discoveries: how heavy is it? Does it smell? Can I find another one that feels the same? What does it sound like when I drop it? How is it different from the other items? Using their hands, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to explore an item; children gather more information and remember what they learn.

As they interact directly with the environment, children not only gather sensory information, they also refine their senses and motor skills. For example, it takes very refined movement of the hands and fingers to produce the penmanship required for writing. Squeezing clay, picking up puzzle pieces, and lacing threads through beads are ways for young children to practice using hands and fingers.

When the environment is organized to promote active learning, and children are encouraged to think and talk about their discoveries and creations; we build on their natural tendency to direct their own learning. The next time you want your child to learn about something, provide the materials, space and time. Then step back and watch. You will be surprised at how much more the child will discover through active involvement.

Used with permission by the National Associate for the Education of Young Children, 2007