Children are born with a love for learning. They begin to explore their worlds, in fact, with birth – they hear, they taste, they feel, and within 4-6 weeks, they are seeing very clearly. This continues as they grow and their world expands with mobility. They are curious, they investigate, they form conclusions, and they begin to develop an understanding of interpersonal relationships as they interact with their parents, their siblings, and other children their own age. They are excited about each new day and the chance to learn more.
Threats to Loving to Learn
Sometimes, a love of learning can get squashed as kids go through school. They may not be able to learn according to how they do it best. There are structures in place that discourage independent thought and action; there are skills and content that may be difficult; and there may be some failures that sour our kids on learning and make them feel less capable. Even adults, when sampled, have stated that they were more worried about passing tests without extra paper help and following instructions in school rather than just being able to focus on the joys of learning.
What Parents Can Do to Keep Joy of Learning Alive
Parents are in a unique position to provide learning experiences for their kids outside of the classroom. In fact, they can provide experiences that allow kids to learn when they don’t even realize that this is going on. And making sure that their kids have these experiences will turn them into lifelong learners, no matter what their schooling experience may entail.
What’s Available in Southeast Michigan?
There are 3 categories of enrichment and learning opportunities for kids in Southeast Michigan – in the sciences, the arts, and general programs.
There are 3 amazing science museums that provide classes and programs for kids year-round.
- Grand Rapids Public Museum. With new exhibits, activities, classes, and programs all the time, as well as the traditional standard fare, there will always be something new for kids to “chew” on. This museum is extremely hands-on. The newest addition is the “Robot Zoo.”
- Michigan Science Center. Terrific hands-on activities, demonstrations, live shows – new exhibits and programs coming on board all of the time. Special kids’ town for ages 2 – 5.
- Cranbrook Institute of Science and Planetarium. Scheduled planetarium shows and a natural history museum featuring a T-rex skeleton cast. Check the website and the Facebook page for special programs and kids’ camps.
- Nutty Science - For children really into science, there are summer camps available on at least 7 specific aspects of science study. All hands on – all fun.
Other Science Opportunities
- Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve: free – Saturday Programs featuring stories, games, hikes, and nature art projects.
- MSU Beal Botanical Gardens, East Lansing, MSU campus Includes a children’s garden
- Art – for a comprehensive listing of the exceptional classes, camps and programs for budding artists.
Featured organizations are:
- Cranbrook summer art studio
- MOCAD – 3rd Sunday of the month – family art projects
- 555 Gallery – Kids’ classes 1st Saturday of the month
- Robot Garage – Lego art classes
- Creative Arts Studio – art camps year-round
- Music/Theatre/Dance –
- Young People’s Theatre – Ann Arbor, MI
Year-round classes in all theatre arts – music, acting, dance
- Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
- Motor city Youth Theatre, Livonia
Diversity is a key factor in this program – focuses on all performing arts. Open to young people ages 5-18
- Boys and Girls Clubs of southeastern Michigan
For a $50 annual fee, kids up to age 18 have a membership and the opportunity to participate in a large variety of educational programs and activities, including a substantial program in the arts. Contact the Administrative office for more details – 248-473-1400 for locations all around Southeastern Michigan.
Meeting the Challenge
Parents must look upon themselves as teachers and make the efforts to create a home and activity environment in which children can experience learning as a joyful experience. There are a number of ways this can be done, both through all of the programs and classes listed above, but also through activities in the home in which children are allowed to explore learning with their parents. When this happens, through a television program or a book that is read, or a game that is played, parents can open up discussions with their children – encouraging them to organize their thoughts, engage in critical thinking, solve problems, and be more creative.
- Instead of using television as a “babysitter,” parents should plan time to watch a program together in the evening, so that discussions can occur;
- When books are read, expand on the themes of those stories with rea-world examples, asking children to express opinions and provide possible solutions.
- Use other real-world experiences as “teaching moments” – have children determine the amount of tip based upon the bill; have them determine the cost of an item that is on a percentage off sale.
- Provide an allowance and develop a simple budget with the child.
- Use cooking time and following recipes as an opportunity to reinforce fractions.
- Big box home improvement retailers often have kids’ programs on Saturdays, during which parent and child construct something together.
- Create or purchase educational games that can be played together as a family
- Get a telescope and explore the universe together after attending a program at the planetarium
- Plant gardens and discuss the benefits of the vegetables that are being nurtured
Learning is forever. Parents know this, for they are still learning too. The goal is to make it as enjoyable as possible and to develop in our children both the joy and an understanding of the benefits of learning. And along the way, they will begin to develop the skills of becoming independent learners who do not need to rely on others to find the information and learn the skills they need. Then, they are really prepared for an adult world that will change faster than any of us can imagine now.