Hands-on learning has long been celebrated as a positive learning style for children. It’s the reason laboratories with microscopes and art studios with scissors and glue exist. However, for some children, hands-on learning is more than just a tool used to compliment other learning processes. For children who learn kinesthetically, hands-on learning is the key to success.

What is kinesthetic learning?

Kinesthetic, or tactile, learning is categorized as a desire to be actively involved in the learning process. These children do not learn best by simply following audio or visual directions, as auditory and visual learners (the two other traditional learning types), do. They need to be allowed to move around, touch objects and actively participate with the materials in front of them. While only a small portion of the population identifies with strong kinesthetic learning preferences, it has been suggested that this style actually increases learning outcomes for all students.

Does it matter?

The sooner you are able to understand how your child learns best, the more you will be able to help them. This doesn’t just apply to school; it also applies to the lessons and skills you teach at home. Even if your child does not strongly identify as a kinesthetic learner, implementing some hands-on practices will still benefit them academically as well as help develop their fine motor skills.

Celebrate it:

Kinesthetic learners sometimes fall into a category of children identified as troublemakers. It stems from their innate need to move around and touch objects. They may not retain information as well sitting at a desk, and that is okay. This isn’t to say children who learn kinesthetically should be allowed to disrupt a classroom, but there are steps you can take to quell the inner desire your child has to get up and do cartwheels in between word problems.

First, let your child be active. Taking notes is one way students can participate in their learning environments. It gives their hands something to do, as well as something to touch. As an added bonus: many studies reveal a strong correlation between writing and retaining information.

Giving your child something to touch during demonstrations is another way to get them invested. For example, if the teacher is giving a lesson on constellations on the projector, your child may be tempted to touch the slides, which could result in a harsh instruction for “hands off.” Instead, ask the teacher if your child can bring in a constellation map to follow along with at their desk.

At home you have more leeway. Let children hold books during story time and complete tasks themselves whenever possible. When going over math homework, break out the cheerios. Any opportunity you can take to encourage your child to embrace hands-on learning will benefit them later in life.

Keep it in mind:

Before your child is old enough to make all of their own decisions about activities, make sure you take in to consideration their learning style and interests. Kinesthetic learners classically like to take items apart and play with the pieces until they figure out how they work. Embrace this by signing your grade-schooler up for a science summer camp that is heavy on the hands-on experiments.

Kinesthetic learners also tend to gravitate toward sports or other activities that encourage movement. Art courses such as drawing, painting, or sculpting will also play to their strengths. And again, these activities are beneficial to all learners. Children need to be active and use all of their senses to explore the world around them.

Tackling your child’s learning style early is a prime example of helping them help themselves. Arm yourself with the tools to create work environments that cater to your child’s learning needs, and whenever you can, talk to your child’s teachers about reasonable accommodations.

 Educational toys to inspire hands-on learners:

Building blocks – From Legos to Lincoln Logs, construction toys inspire young minds to learn through building.

Science Kits – From Scary Science to Time for Kids Super Science Book, anthologies that offer uploads of experiments will help kids learn concepts while using their hands.

Interlocking gear sets – Similar to blocks, these construction toys encourage children to explore how things work.

Drawing and sketching tablets – For the young artist, these interactive tablets allow kids to draw again and again even on the go. There is plenty of variety with simple designs for younger kids to full-blown software tablets for the older sect.

Molding clay – Playdough, clay and other objects that can be manipulated by young hands help to build fine motor skills.

Hands-on science projects for your little learner:

How-to-Make-a-Model-Volcano-Erupt

How-to-Make-Playdough-Play-doh/

See More from Nora Tarte Heston:

STEM at Every Age

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