Learning naturally processes through a series of stages as children’s brains mature. Although the boundaries of these stages are by no means rigid, distinctions do exist based on how children develop. So, what should you expect in each of these stages? How should the developmental process affect how we teach?

Starting Out Stage

PreK – 1st Grade

We’ve all heard it said that young minds are like sponges, and the saying is indeed true. Little ones take in an abundant amount of information, beginning even before birth. By the time they reach first or second grade, this absorption learning begins to morph into a great enthusiasm and excitement about academics. But, in order to reach that excitement, we must remember to fill the early learning years with tools that our children need to prepare for learning. This is the time to let our children explore, gather, accumulate, and absorb as much as possible in fun, exciting ways.

When we let our early learners absorb without weighing them down with heavily structured learning, it may feel as if we are neglecting academic development that will get them ahead in future years. But the opposite is actually true. We are actually equipping them, laying a foundation that will allow them to truly enjoy the more formal learning that is to come.

  • Provide information in a variety of ways. Look for bugs and plant life while playing in the backyard. Explore books, books, and more books. Play games. In the process, use “real” words. Call spiders arachnids. Keep information age-appropriate, but do not back down from challenging information.
  • Read and read some more. Reading aloud together is a great relational activity that also instills a love of books. If your child learns now that books are beautiful, then there will be no limit to the fountain of understanding later in life.
  • Observe. Because your precious young learner is learning naturally, this is the perfect time to watch for learning styles to reveal themselves. Does your child pour over picture books or does he prefer to hear a story read aloud? Does she constantly move while learning something new? Does music help him focus better? By observing these patterns now, you will be able to tailor future academics to fit your child’s learning styles.

As you process through this stage, consider it to be an opportunity to store up building blocks for later usage.