Your child's playtime may reveal much about her learning style.

How to Identify Preferred Learning Styles in Children

by Karen Hollowell

Identifying your child's learning style is an important part of helping him develop academically. If you know the best ways your child can learn, you can be an advocate for him in school from kindergarten until graduation. Many children struggle in school because teachers don't know how to modify their instructional methods to meet the needs of students who may not learn in traditional ways, like completing worksheets and taking notes. Recall your own school experiences. Did you remember things easily or did you have to write everything? Did you struggle on multiple-choice tests or prefer to answer essay questions? Your observations are crucial in this process. You may not realize it, but your child's imaginary friend or his predilection for writing on the bedroom wall with a magic marker could be an indicator of his unique learning style.

Learn the terminology. You may see many names of learning styles, but most fall in one of three categories -- visual, which is seeing, auditory, or hearing, and kinesthetic, which is doing. A learning styles inventory is a survey in checklist form that students complete. If your child is a preschooler, you answer the questions that relate to preferred hobbies, favorite activities and games.

Know what you should be watching for when identifying your child's learning style. For example, observe him at play when he's alone and with a group. How does he interact with others? Does he talk to himself when playing alone? This may indicate a preference for auditory learning. Even the seemingly insignificant details can reveal something about the way your child learns best.

Be observant and take notes. You don't have to write a book. Just jot down things like "gets frustrated when stacking blocks" or "likes to draw and color." Organize this information under the three main learning styles. Then determine which one is indicated most often for your child. You can also take an online quiz and get immediate feedback about your child's probable learning style.

Interact with your child to determine his preferred learning style. Let him choose the activity. Would he rather color together or play outside in the sandbox with toy trucks? This could tell you if he is a visual or a kinesthetic learner. While spending time together, does he do all the talking and ask questions or play silently? Although you cannot name a learning style based on one or two characteristics, these details will help you make an informed determination.

About the Author

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.

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