Four Main Learning Styles by Winthrop University Professor Adrienne Edwards

In the same household, parents can and often have a child who can’t stop building with Legos, another who dances during homework, and another whose face is always in a book. How we learn is as important as what we learn, and parents and teachers can team up to help children absorb new information in the way that works best for them.

Adrienne Edwards, assistant professor and director of the human development and family studies program at Winthrop University, said there are four main learning styles and children are likely to settle into theirs between the birth and the age of 5 years.

The basics

According to Edwards, the first learning style is auditory, where a child learns by listening. This is great news for a learner in the classroom. Other children are visual learners who need to see cues to help them learn and remember. (Adults who looked at the instructions for putting something together, threw them away, and opted for a YouTube video instead, might appreciate this approach.)

Some children learn best through movement with activities like dancing and other physical methods. Rounding out the list is the tactile learner, which does best at building and creating to learn.

“Children may learn best using any of the domains depending on context and content,” Edwards said.

Apply learning styles

It’s helpful for teachers to know how a child learns best, and it’s one of the reasons why parents often receive questions about what activities their children enjoy at home. Edwards said teachers and parents need to be adaptable in order to help children do their best in the classroom. It is important that adults really see the child and use the classroom tools that will be most beneficial.

However, learning styles are never confined to the classroom. Being able to use your learning style in social situations is something everyone needs to learn and adapt to. The ability to learn and see someone else’s perspective is something of a rite of passage for children, especially once they start school.

Some researchers say a learning style is innate, while others believe it develops during those preschool years. Either way, children should be given the opportunity to find what works best for them through repetition and routine.

“Give children the opportunity to use all four learning styles,” Edwards said.

A young boy is working on a robotics project.

What can parents do?

Edwards said the best clue is to get out there and offer different ways to explore the environment. Walk around, touch and trace leaves and listen to the sounds around you as these are all ways to learn. This will help a young child practice their learning styles and find what they like best. Continue to offer exploration in all different styles in social situations so children can adapt and grow.

No child learns by a single style, but rather a delicate mixture. Although people usually come to the fore early in life, it’s important to give children the chance to explore them all and see what they gravitate toward.

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