Make learning experience a fun time

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Do you remember remember a time when that complicated school maths problem suddenly made sense?

It was as if the clouds parted and the understanding “dawned on you”, changing the way you viewed maths from then on.

Or, was there another moment when a sudden realisation left you looking at the world in a completely new way?

Our children are in the unique position where this kind of learning – the kind that facilitates seeing the world from a new perspective – happens all the time.

But what makes this kind of experience “stick” into long-term memory?

A recent study done by the Weizmann Institute of Science discovered that we tend to remember “aha” moments that are emotionally-laden better than ones that have no emotional context.

Using MRI scans, the researchers found that when participants were given certain “aha” moments, the part of the brain called the amygdala was activated. This is the area of the brain associated with emotion.

In the study, participants were shown degraded and hardly identifiable images and then were shown the actual (clear) image – in an effort to create a moment of “oh... that's what it is!”

However, not all images elicited an emotional response or “lit up” the amygdala.

In the end the researchers were able to actually predict that those images which elicited an emotional response from the amygdala guaranteed that the participant would be able to remember what the degraded image represented a long time after.

This corresponds with what we believe when it comes to helping your child to remember and learn new things – that when learning occurs in an emotional context, it “sticks”.

There are three simple ways to give your child an emotionally-laden learning experience:

1. Create an opportunity for your child to make their own discovery. When you allow your child to make their own discovery, for example that a big ball does not fit into a small opening, but that a small ball does, you allow them to experience an 'aha' moment of their own.

2. Make sure there is a fun atmosphere. Making the learning experience fun, with lots of emotion from your part, helps to make the moment '“tick'“into your child's memory. For example, when reading a book, make funny voices for each of the characters, exaggerate your facial expressions when pointing at the pictures and make the whole experience really fun for your child.

3. Praise your child. Catch your child doing things right. When he learns something new, completes a task well, or makes a wise choice, praise goes a long way towards giving the moment an emotional context.

It’s important to wait for a real opportunity to praise your child.

Then be specific and give information about what impressed you, for example “This picture is my favourite. I like how you took your time and used many different colours.” Knowing that you took the time to think about what you’re saying means a great deal to your child.

Empty statements like, “Oh, you’re so clever” doesn’t add as much emotion to the mix.

So, by leading your child to make his own discoveries, making sure that everyone is having fun and adding a pinch of praise when appropriate, you can add enough emotion to his learning experiences to help switch on his brain and make it easier for him to remember more. - The Post

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