What is Your Child's Learning Style?

A child’s learning style impacts the ease with which each experience is received.  As adults, we have spent years in learning situations, both inside and outside classrooms, and can usually identify how we learn best.  At the most basic level, there are three learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic.  We subconsciously tailor our activities to our learning style throughout our lives.  During summer vacation, for example, each type of learner will visit a museum differently.  A visual learner is apt to enjoy going to each display and reading the provided information.  An auditory learner will want to rent the audio tour of the museum rather than read the placards.  A kinesthetic learner is more naturally inclined to participate in physical activities and will gravitate quickly toward the hands-on experiences.  If there are no hands-on experiences available, kinesthetic learners tend to move quickly and are the first ones ready to leave the museum.  Though we tend to be some combination of all styles, each person has a learning style that is dominant.  Understanding each style and watching your child for the clues that identify each style can help you guide your child’s educational and recreational activities all year long.

Visual learners benefit from seeing information and grow impatient with listening.  Visual learners will study charts, tables and maps.  They experience success when they write and review information that is presented orally.  They use flash cards to study.  They usually have a highlighter in hand when reading and color code information to visually organize it.  It is not unusual for a visual learner to develop his/her own set of symbols to draw next to each type of information.  Early visual learners love looking at books and learn to name things easily when looking at pictures.  They will more easily memorize the names of numbers and letters while seeing them in books, charts and posters. 

Auditory learners absorb information from the spoken word.  They find integrating information easy when they hear it so they tend to recite information aloud.  They talk to themselves or others about what they have seen.  Auditory learners will tend to turn off unrelated music or television shows because they find them distracting when trying to hear their own quiet recitation of information.  They memorize best from word associations.  Auditory learners like to set information to a tune and sing it so they can hear it in a rhythm and beat.  Young children who tend toward auditory learning will memorize the alphabet song quickly and not be as interested in seeing the information.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to be active and cannot focus for long while sitting still.  When asked to read information, they tend to use a finger to track their reading on the page.  Committing things to memory tends to be easier when they write information down multiple times.  Kinesthetic learners might be seen playing with a stress ball or other toy during oral presentations.  The hand movements help them to focus.  They need to move around and will take breaks during long presentations.  They tend to enjoy building models, doing puzzles and playing games.  In the early learning years, these children will excel at building complex structures, stringing beads, manipulating all sorts of materials and creating elaborate crafts.  For ease of early learning, use sensory materials such as play dough and shaving cream to create letters and numbers.
When participating in activities with your children this summer, note which activities engage them best.  Note if the activity was primarily auditory, visual or kinesthetic and for how long your child was or was not engrossed.  Being aware of your child’s learning style can help guide your activities as a family and help you to work with your children to effectively develop customized and successful study habits.

Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
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  1. Hi Cindy,
    I think the examples you provide are very helpful in defining the differences between learning styles. However, I wonder if the same holds true for young children. It seems that it is a bit trickier to identify learning styles in young children because part of their behavior or actions are due to simply being very young. I do agree that it is important to recognize that differences in learning styles exist but instead of looking for a specific style at an early age, I wonder if it might be best to just make sure to provide a variety of learning experiences so that each type of learning style is addressed along the way. I worry that someone might come to the conclusion that their child is a visual learner and therefore should use flash cards as the primary teaching tool, for example. In my own mind, all preschoolers are kinesthetic learners - my students pretty much want to touch everything :)

    1. I do agree that it is difficult to apply this to the younger preschool age children. Children are considered early learners thru 3rd grade. As each year goes by, there are more clues as to each child's learning preference. As stated in the article, even as adults we tend to be a combination of the styles with one being dominant.
      I also think that in every classroom regardless of age, there should be a variety of teaching techniques to reach every learner.


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