How to help maximise your child’s learning potential

Every child grows and develops at a different rate. When it comes to maximising their learning potential, children will all differ in how they learn, what they prefer to learn, and how quickly they learn.

For some children, there may be no physical or medical reason why their learning process is slower than for others. Most children who are slower to learn do not fall into the category of special education, and the fact that a child may not be keeping pace in some areas of their education, does not make them a slow learner. Very few children excel in every aspect of learning.

Slow learners differ from reluctant learners. A slow learner may have difficulty with the process of learning, whereas a reluctant learner may not be motivated to learn. Fear of failure, a desire for attention, thinking that schoolwork lacks relevance or challenge, or peer pressure not to appear ‘smart’ may be just some of the factors that lead to a child being reluctant to learn. Emotional distress, or problems on the home front can also play a part in an unwillingness to learn.

Regardless of your child’s learning style and how quickly they learn, there is much that parents can do to bring out the best in their child and make the learning process more relevant and challenging.

Checklist for maximising learning

Nutrition  

  • Choose foods from the Healthy Living Pyramid www.nutritionaustralia.org
  • Make breakfast a priority.
  • Supervise the contents of the lunch box.
  • Keep junk food to a minimum or as an occasional treat.
  • Drink lots of water.

Exercise

  • Walk, run, skip, hop www.healthinsite.gov.au
  • If weather permits encourage outdoor play.
  • Exercise as a family.
  • Enrol for swimming, athletics, cricket or netball.
  • Kick a ball in the park.

Sleep

  • Keep to bedtime routines.
  • Make allowances for tiredness and irritability.
  • Use television as an education or down time tool.
  • Calm before bedtime with music or reading a book.

Expectations

  • Allow extra time for a slow learner to complete tasks.
  • Talk with the teacher regarding progress.
  • Keep homework times short and to the point.
  • Add extra learning to homework tasks — draw a picture, colour code, invent characters.
  • Factor in success at any level.
  • Provide a quiet place for homework, free of distractions.
  • Check often that your child is on task.

Incentives

  • Don’t reward unfinished tasks.
  • Be patient, consistent, and persistent with a slow learner.
  • Challenge to reach achievable milestones.
  • Talk through homework but don’t do it for them.
  • Help your child to set realistic, short term goals.
  • Acknowledge improved effort or performance.

Attitude

  • Check with teachers to make sure you child isn’t being bullied or teased.
  • Ensure your child attends school regularly and arrives on time.
  • Consult the school as to what help may be available if your child is struggling academically.
  • Encourage friendships and participation in sport and other activities.
  • Talk through issues such as fear of failure or peer pressure.
  • Seek professional counselling (if needed) for school-based or family-based problems.

Encouragement

  • Heap appropriate praise on your child for effort and accomplishment.
  • Read together, walk together, and watch TV together.
  • Take time out for teachable moments and talking.
  • Look for books, magazines, projects and outings that stimulate learning.
  • Teach strategies for goal setting, perseverance and resilience.
  • Encourage commitment.
  • Make learning fun and appropriate to your child’s ability.
  • Challenge with repetition, meaningful activities and specific directions.
  • Make long term plans so that you can achieve them together.

Motivated children:

  • engage in activities and learning with more energy and enthusiasm
  • learn to motivate themselves
  • are more likely to self-initiate tasks
  • pay attention
  • be creative
  • persist, despite any failures
  • enjoy the activity
  • evaluate their own progress and achieve to the best of their ability.
Source: The Australian Scholarships Group