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The Methods of Discovery: How Do Children Learn?

Updated: Jan 25

As children grow, they learn to communicate, acquire social skills, identify emotions. The way children learn is an open-ended topic as not only do each of them learn differently, but their interests are just as unique. But generally, how do children learn?


  1. By watching the people in their lives. This is called modeling.

  2. By watching teachers in their classroom. This is called scaffolding.

  3. By watching other children. This is called onlooker play.

  4. By listening to the conversations around them.

  5. By experiencing the consequences of their actions.

  6. By identifying the effects of their behavior.

  7. By (lots of) trial and error.

  8. By doing things themselves.




And now you know! But don’t worry - even just recognizing these methods of discovery will help you support your child’s social emotional development. You don’t have to implement a new parenting structure or schedule time for them to experiment with life. Spoiler alert: they’re doing that all the time. But what are some concepts to stay mindful of while they do?


  1. Child-led play is the best type of play. And not just because it means less work for you. This is when they learn on their own as they watch, listen, explore and discover out of their own curiosity and imagination.

  2. Children have to be shown the results of their actions. Sometimes as concerned parents, we protect them but we rob them of the lessons of the consequences of their actions.

  3. Being specific helps them label the feelings that their actions cause: “Your friend is crying because your hand hit their head and it hurt.”

  4. Experimentation is best facilitated through open ended projects and process-oriented activities, like building blocks that fall if they are unbalanced.


And hey! Have fun with them while you’re at it. It’s not a task, it’s an opportunity. You get a chance to be little again.



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