• Laetitia deVries

How do I get my child to learn instead of play?


This question is so common. It is a question that is also very important. It has the power to help your child begin to understand how to learn.


There are many reasons for children to not engage in learning whether at school or at home. Lack of sleep, hungry, worried or anxiety, bored, distracted with a goal they have already set for themselves, low self esteem or self confidence are just a few reasons for learning to become irrelevant or ignored.

A focus on learning requires an understanding that it;

  • requires hard work, attention and commitment

  • is a process to go through

  • doesn’t stop, it's a journey that we continually build upon

  • can’t be done for you

  • isn’t always easy and can make you tired, frustrated and angry but also makes you feel proud, successful, or like a superhero.

The power of a question is the tool I have used for many years to turn children who are procrastinators of learning into academics!

The trick is knowing what question to ask and when. Usually I would follow the rule if there is a problem - turn it into a question.

For this problem I would ask "What is learning?”

Have a family meeting and gather everyone's ideas about what they believe learning is. It is important to get a variety of ideas to build on and develop a shared understanding. You may be surprised what information you get. Accept all ideas. They may grow over time. Celebrate the addition of every idea by writing the persons name next to it as you record them on a large piece of paper. Attach it to the fridge or wall where it is visible.

You may like to add to it through the week as people come up with new ideas. Make it a real topic of conversation for the week.

Whenever anyone has done playing / learning activity ask this question and check it against your answers on the wall.

Check in with them by asking more questions;

“Are you learning or playing?”

“How do you know?

Use your poster as a check in reference point as often as you can.

It takes time to shift a mindset into learning so be patient. Don’t give up though. It will change the way they see learning.

This technique can be used for children of any age.

Over the next few months I will post more questions to help you grow active life long learners.

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