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How children really learn

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How children really learn

Published on Dec 03, 2020 by Sarah Campbell

How children really learn

Why learning through play is so effective

Children and young people are naturally creative, curious and love learning through exploring. However, with the pressures of day-to-day life and the current educational system, these natural tendencies towards learning through play often get lost as we grow up.

As humans, we evolved through exploring our environment, testing, problem-solving and through trial and error. Our brains our built to naturally learn and develop in this way, through engaging with our environment.

We also learn best when an experience is accompanied by emotions. Things we remember best are things that are accompanied by strong emotions. Games and play create positive emotions and are highly rewarding, helping us to learn and then remember what we learn better, because the knowledge and understanding is accompanied by a positive emotional experience: meaning we are more likely to remember it.

Humans are highly motivated by rewards, with a whole brain network dedicated to responding to reward, and this system serves an evolutionary purpose and kept us alive as a species and enabled us to progress and evolve. That means anything activating this system us highly appealing and engaging for humans. It is also a part of the brain that develops earlier compared to logical, frontal areas of the brain, meaning reward-based activities are particularly engaging for kids.

People learn best by doing, by experiencing something, and using multiple senses, compared to reading or listening alone. This is particularly true for SEN children. This means activity-based learning is more effective. Game-based learning, combining a learning-by-doing approach with the positive emotional experience and reward of a game, leads to a highly effective, engaging and enjoyable learning experience. This type of learning leads to information being processed at a deeper level, with more meaning, understanding and critical thinking, leading to a greater likelihood of remembering and being able to apply that knowledge in other areas.

Think about when you have taken your child somewhere, and through an activity they say something or do something that shows an understanding far beyond their age or what they demonstrate being capable of at school. This is the potential of game-based learning: to enable kids to far surpass their perceived capability in a shorter amount of time…all whilst having fun! And life is a lot easier as a parent when lived through fun and games, rather than battling with your kids to get them to learn!