What are you child’s dominant learning styles? In observing your child, does he prefer to paint, dance to music, construct with LEGOs, learn about animals, or play outside? What activities grab her attention and keep her interest? Choose activities aligning with your child’s favorite ways to play and learn. As a preschool aged child, Cole spent much of his time in the sandbox with his tractors. Drawing letters in the sand with a stick for a pencil and arranging rocks in the shape of letters captured his interest. Focus on topics your child is drawn to. We all love learning about topics we are fascinated about. Three year old Addy, is nuts about tigers. Alphabet activities for letter “Tt” focused on tigers. We read about tigers and went to the Zoo to see tigers. Her excitement about tigers sped her learning about the letter “Tt.”
Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor, introduced a theory about learning styles. Gardner suggests eight learning styles. Each of us uses a mixture of the learning styles. Learning the dominant styles of our children can help us tailor our approach and make learning more effective. To help determine our child’s areas of strength, simply observe him playing.
The eight styles or multiple intelligences are:
1. Bodily (or kinesthetic): These children like to role play and often use their hands when talking. These children may be fidgety in a situation where they are expected to sit. Kinesthetic learners often enjoy sports, dance, hiking, or acting. Kinesthetic activities for learning the ABCs would include making letters with your body. For example, put your arms out straight to the side to make a “T.” Hand movements coordinating with the letter sounds add a strong kinesthetic component to learning. Active ABC songs like Hap Palmer’s “Alphabet in Motion” get kids moving while teaching the ABCs.
2. Spatial: Can your child build amazing things with LEGOs? Artists, architects, and builders have strong spatial knowledge. These children love drawing and using play dough. Make ABC letters out of play dough or be bending pipe cleaners into letter shapes for spatial learning.
3. Interpersonal: These children relate well to others. They prefer learning in a group setting. These children are often helpful to siblings and others. An interpersonal approach to teaching the ABCs could include playing ABC Bingo with a small group of friends or family members.
4. Musical: Does your child tap to the rhythm in a song or make up music? All children benefit from listening to music and enjoying simple instruments. Even if you don’t sing well, sing with your child. There are many fun ABC songs. Sing them while playing make homemade musical instruments. Fill a water bottle with rice to use as a shaker, recycle an oatmeal can into a drum, or tap rhythm sticks.
5. Linguistic: Does your child love books? This is an important area for school success and like any of the areas of intelligence and can be practiced and improved. Linguistic intelligence involves language, writing, and reading. Read alphabet books for ABC practice. There are many entertaining ABC books including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Alphabet City, Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC, 26 Letters and 99 Cents, I Spy A to Z, and Animalia.
6. Naturalist: This is the most newly recognized area of intelligence added since the original list was released. Does your child enjoy observing and learning about birds, plants, stars, or dinosaurs? Work in your child’s favorite topics as you practice the ABCs. For example, for letter F, learn about fossils. For letter B, go bird watching. For letter D, check-out books and movies from the library about dinosaurs. Another powerful technique for your child who loves the outdoors is to draw the letters in wet dirt with a stick or in a pie tin in a mud pie. Letters can also be fashioned out of arranged rocks or sticks.
7. Intrapersonal: Does your child prefer to work alone? Intrapersonal intelligence involves understanding oneself and reflecting. Some adults as well as children prefer to work alone. Pull a page out of the newspaper or a grocery store ad and have your child high light or circle the letter you are working on. We all need alone time once in a while.
8. Logical (or mathematical): Does your child love to count? Logical/ mathematical children are the scientists, computer programmers, and mathematicians of the future. Have your child count the number of a specific letter you find while in the grocery store. In the check- out line you can complement her, “Wow, you found the letter D twenty-four times!”
For all children, a multisensory approach is best, combining multiple senses and styles. After observing your child, find her two or three strongest learning styles. Focus on activities that fit your child’s learning strengths. Building your child’s confidence with learning success will benefit her throughout her school years. You are the expert on your child. Your insight into your child’s passions is profound and can spark a lifelong love of learning and exploration.