Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them "learn how to learn," they will be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. While some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment.
Tips for building learning skills:
Five-year-olds are creative and enthusiastic problem solvers. They offer progressively more imaginative ideas for how to do a task, make something, or solve longer-term or more abstract challenges. As they participate in a variety of new experiences, five-year-olds ask more analytical questions and weigh their choices. They are also more social as they learn new things and prefer activities that involve other children.
Deliberates and weighs choices (e.g., may spend a long time thinking about whether to go to the store with mom or to stay home and help dad).
Can maintain focus on a project for a sustained period of time (e.g., spends a rainy day building a complicated fort out of chairs and blankets, complete with props and signs). Is able to return to an activity after being interrupted.
Persists in longer-term or complex projects, with supervision. Can return to projects begun the previous day. Uses self-talk and other strategies to help finish difficult tasks and assignments from adults (e.g., a school project to make an alphabet book).
Chooses and follows through on self-selected learning tasks. Shows interest and skill in more complex self-help skills (e.g., decides to learn to skate, zips jacket, prepares a snack).
Tries an even wider range of new experiences, both independently and with peers and adults (e.g., goes on a camping trip with grandparents, tries to learn to play piano like older brother). May deliberately take risks when learning new skills.
Asks higher-level questions (e.g., asks, "What would happen if we had no food?" or "Why was Raymond mad at me"?).
Expands verbal and nonverbal enthusiasm for learning new things, including academic (e.g., reading, writing) and physical skills (e.g., riding a bike).
Is increasingly able to think of possible solutions to problems. Can use varied and flexible approaches to solve longer-term or more abstract challenges (e.g., when planning to have friends over on a rainy day, thinks about how to deal with a limited space to play).
Analyzes complex problems more accurately to identify the type of help needed (e.g., says, "I think I know how to play this game, but I think you'll have to help me get started. Then I can do the rest.").
Continues to benefit from hands-on experiences to support more abstract thinking skills (e.g., makes a book about last summer's vacation trip, complete with sections for each place visited, drawings to illustrate, and labels written with adult help).
Collaborates with other children in extended and complex pretend play, taking on more varied roles and situations (e.g., acts out roles of lions, hunters, rescuers, and other animals in a dramatic and sustained scenario).
Offers increasingly creative, unusual ideas about how to do a task, how to make something, or how to get from one place to another (e.g., asks, "Let's use these old boxes to make a spaceship! Where's some paint?").