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How to Adjust Playtime to Your Child’s Learning Style

childrens learning styles

Our senses allow us to take in our surroundings and experience the world. They help us learn about everything around us, and through our senses we’re able to process information. When we assess how someone processes information and learns, people typically prefer one style over another. In 1992, Fleming and Mills identified that students fall into one of four main  children's learning styles.

Children's Learning Styles​

These are visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. Some say there are more, but these are the four primary styles we will review. These learning styles are related to our senses of touch, sights, and hearing and are the main vehicles which help us process information.

You’ll often hear someone say “I’m a visual learner” and they’re probably spot on. But one thing to notes is that while most people have a primary learning style, everyone tends to absorb information in more ways than one.

For example, if you know flashcards are one of your tried and true studying practices you may think you are a visual learner only. They are a visual learning approach however if you are studying in a group and reading the flashcards aloud is also isual and auditory. If you prepared that cards yourself, that’s read/write.

​Identifying Learning Styles

As adults it’s easy to understand which of the learning styles you tend to lean on. There are numerous quizzes you can take online to self-identify. It isn’t as easy with children to identify how they process information best. Especially those who are young and less aware of their own preferences. So parents and teachers find that with children it can be more difficult to identify their preferred style.

If you are unfamiliar with the four learning styles our guide will explain each one. Additionally, we’ll give you some tips to uncover your own child’s preferred learning styles. Also, we’ll give you ideas of toys and activities that cater to their preferred learning method.

THE VISUAL LEARNING STYLE

visual learning style

Visual learners learn through images and pictures. The visual learning style is sometimes called the spacial learning style. These learners process information and prefer to communicate using pictures, diagrams, maps, and other visual representations. This is my preferred learning style and I often find myself grabbing pen and paper when trying to explain myself.

Identifying an Visual Learner

You can identify a visual learner as someone who likes to see what you’re trying to demonstrate. You may often hear “let me see” as you start talking about something new. They may be doodling all day or have a great love of arts and crafts. A visual learner may have great memories of things they’ve seen - people's faces, words they’ve read, or pictures.

How to Teach to a Visual Learner

If you want these learners to retain the information, use some of these tips.

  • Use a lot of visual imagery in your lesson.
  • Try handouts with specific information on them.
  • Adapt the lesson to incorporate some multimedia - whether video, crafts, or other interactive games.

Best Toys for Visual Learners

If you’re looking for gifts for a visual learner, here are some great ideas.

  • Arts and crafts toys. Try a DIY play dough mat or you can buy a play dough set. Water color paints or crayons are always safe bets.
  • Puzzles are great for visual learners. They like to process information and solve visual problems.
  • Building blocks or magnetic tiles are great options. Visual learners will love creating visual representations of the things around them.
  • Video games or interactive games are also great options for helping these learners absorb information in a fun and engaging way.
  • Matching games are a great for young children starting to process visual images and the difference between them.

THE AUDITORY LEARNING STYLE

auditory learning style

If you find yourself listening to a lecture and then acing a test about that information, you’re most likely an auditory learner. This type of learning style excels when listening to the information presented as well as speaking it back. By saying the words allowed themselves it solidifies the information.

Identifying an Auditory Learner

An auditory learner is someone who loves sound...and maybe even noise. They are great listeners and take direction well. It’s possible your child has a large vocabulary as a result of listening - and absorbing - everything you say.

How to Teach to the Auditory Learner

Help auditory learners process information by adjusting your lessons in some of these ways.

  • Use music or rhymes to teach a lesson
  • Explain every step of your instruction
  • Use puppets to portray dialogue
  • Make sure these learners are seated somewhere they can hear properly

Best Toys for Auditory Learners

Some parents may not love noisy toys, but toys with sound are best for auditory learners.

  • Microphones and karaoke machines
  • Walkie talkies to communicate with friends
  • Musical instruments like small pianos or maracas
  • See n Say toys that point to items and says what they are

THE READ/WRITE LEARNING STYLE

read/write learning style

These learners are often rely on the written word to process information. In school you’d know these people as the diligent note takers with extremely prepared notes. They would read the textbook and write down everything they learned. Processing the text through reading and in-turn writing helps them understand and remember the information.

Identifying a Read/Write Learner

You’ll find that Read/Write learners often LOVE books. They devour anything with text. They can be great writers who can convey complex information in written form. They rely on researching written sources - like dictionaries, Wikipedia, or Google - to find answers.

How to Teach to a Read/Write Learner

Most teachers actually default to a read/write learner.  Here are a few ways to teach to the read/write learner.

  • PowerPoints
  • Notes on the board
  • Handouts with text  
  • To help these kids learn best, give them proper time to take notes and alone reading time.

Best Toys for Read/Write Learners

Lean toward toys that involve writing or the written word.

  • Fisher Price Doodle Pro
  • Educational toys like the Leapfrog Scribble and Write
  • Letter magnets for your fridge
  • Pens and paper for them to write to their hearts content
  • MadLibs because it plays with words 

THE KINESTHETIC LEARNING STYLE

kinesthetic learning style

We named our site in honor of those kinesthetic kids - kids who learn by doing. By jumping. By moving. By experiencing the world around them with their bodies.

It’s common that kinesthetic learners were early with all of their physical milestones. I know my kinesthetic kid was an early walker and a very physically engaged child. She wants to throw her body too and fro whenever she gets the chance.

Ways to Identify a Kinesthetic Learner

Kinesthetic learners want to try it themselves. You’ll find them at the front of the line waiting for their turn. They often moving and could be great athletes with superior hand-eye coordination.

How to Teach to a Kinesthetic Learner

When you work with a kinesthetic learner, you’ll want to make sure you change your approach up to cater to their need for physical movement. Here are some ideas to get started.

  • Break up long periods or sitting with an activity that requires them to get up
  • Have them act out a scenario or story
  • Have them be the note taker or write on the whiteboard
  • Get them MOVING!

Best Toys for Kinesthetic Learners

Toys that keep your kid ACTIVE are the best for kinesthetic learners

  • TeeterPopper and other balance toys to challenge their senses
  • Scooters to help them keep active
  • Swings...all kids love to swing
  • Sports equipment from soccer balls to gymnastics bars. Anything to keep them active.

What kind of learner are you? Take the VARK test to find out. What about your kids? ​ How do they learn and how do you adapt to them? We'd love to know in the comments. 

​images from flickr - Ian T McFarland and makelessnoise

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