What we can learn from how our children learn

Learning to learn: it’s child’s play

What we can learn from how our children learn

It has long been evident that children pick things up far more quickly than adults. Whether it is learning a new language, how to play an instrument, the movements required for a certain sport or even the acquisition of the multitude of deceivingly complex skills essential for everyday life, we adults are doomed to look on in awe, unable to compete with the incredibly fast and seemingly effortless way that young children learn.

It is common knowledge that the immense potential for learning and adapting our skills to the requirements of the world around us- something that every single one of us was capable doing as children-does not last. The well-known proverb, that you can’t make ‘an old dog learn new tricks’ or ‘a leopard change its spots’ reflects society’s belief that we leave behind our capacity for learning as we grow older. After a certain age, many of us are told that there is no point beginning to learn ballet, piano or skiing. Language learning becomes increasingly difficult, and once we pass what has been termed the ‘critical learning period’ – namely, childhood- we are warned that we will never become completely fluent. If we do, we expect that it will require far more time and work than it ever did when we learnt to talk as children.

However, recent research has increasingly shown that we are wrong in these beliefs. Scientists have discovered that the brain’s neuroplasticity (its ability to change and adapt), is not restricted to childhood but continues throughout adolescence, adult life and old age. As we make use of certain skills, think in certain ways and learn new things, connections between the neurons in our brains are constantly being reweighted in favour of what we are learning and the skills we are making use of. In short, the way our brain is wired continues to change and adapt throughout our lifetime. It is never too late to learn to think in a different way, gain knowledge and ‘learn new tricks’!

It is therefore not the way our brain develops that marks the difference between the way adults and children pick up new skills and knowledge. What really makes the difference is the way in which we go about trying to learn. Now, this should come as excellent news to all of us! Because the research has not only revealed that it is never too late to learn, but it has also demonstrated that by training ourselves to think in certain ways, and thus essentially ‘rewiring’ the connections in our brains, it is  never too late to learn how to learn either. Therefore, instead of looking on in awe at the way young children pick things up, it is possible for us to look on, learn how they do it and emulate their methods!

This is exactly what I decided that I would do, and, since taking time to observe children and think about what it is that make them such sponges for knowledge and skill acquisition, I  have come up with five fundamental pieces of advice which I consider to be the essential steps in learning to learn as well as we did when we were little! They are as follows:

1.Be curious. Human beings are naturally curious. It is one of the remarkable things that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. It makes us question ourselves and the world around us, it is what led us to seek and discover knowledge and it is the foundation behind all learning, discovery and invention. Children are notoriously curious. They will ask about anything and everything. The world around them is a source of endless mystery and fascination. As a reward for this curiosity, they are constantly learning new things.  Little by little, we seem to lose this curiosity for the world. As we become more and more wrapped up in ourselves and our lives, the world becomes less interesting and we become less interested. We are told to stop asking questions, that ‘that’s just the way it is’ and that ‘curiosity killed the cat’. However, I would argue that curiosity is not detrimental. On the contrary it creates the ‘desire to learn’ which is essential to learning and success in any subject.

2. Be open to learning. Accept your ignorance and be receptive to taking on other people’s knowledge. When children learn, they fully accept that they know less than whoever is teaching them. This is something that many of us adults have trouble with. Our own knowledge, opinions and preconceptions get in the way of taking new things on board. We are often cynical of other people’s knowledge and weary of believing what they tell us. Many of us don’t like admitting that we know less than other people. As a consequence, we create our own barriers to learning. Teachers, friends and family have to work a lot harder now to convince us of the truth of what they are saying now than they did when we were little. Whilst a little scepticism and weariness is essential, it doesn’t hurt to let down your guard from time to time, accept that we are all remarkably ignorant in the face of the complexity of our world and even of ourselves and that we all have a lot to learn. If we approach each day as an opportunity for learning from other people and discovering a little more about ourselves and the world, than we may be amazed how much more we take on board.

3.  Be focussed. In these modern times, many of us adults find that our minds are overflowing with ‘shoulds’, ‘to dos’, ‘should have dones’ and ‘will dos’. Our thoughts race backwards and forwards, transporting us away from the current moment into the future, the past and the possibility of a different present. This makes sitting down and concentrating on learning very difficult. Our thoughts will wander, we will read things without ‘taking them in’, say things ‘without thinking’, and learn things, well… without really learning them. Children on the other hand do not have this problem. They live in the moment, taking everything as it comes, and are able to focus intensely on what it is they wish to learn. Anyone who has seen a toddler take it’s first steps will agree that the child is focussed entirely on just that: taking its first steps. In the same way, when a child learns to tie his or her shoelaces they will focus on doing just that. Therefore instead of absentmindedly ‘learning’, next time we learn, maybe we should do that. And only that. Turn off the radio. Turn off the television. Turn off mobile phones. And most importantly, turn off all those pestering thoughts. Turn your attention to what you want to learn. And learn it. Test yourself on it. Learn it again.

4. Know that you will succeed. When young children learn to walk, they never stop to doubt whether or not they will eventually manage. They are patient, they are confident, and they just know that eventually they will walk. Similarly, when children learn the alphabet, when they learn to speak, when they learn to use a knife and fork or tie their shoelaces, they do not fear failure, they are not plagued by doubts of not being able to memorise things, of saying things wrong or of tying themselves in knots. This fear of failure is the most common and most detrimental problem which faces adult learners. We worry that we won’t be able to do it, that we are not clever enough or that we will ‘never be able to’. This of course is silly. With language for instance, as we learnt one once before, of course we can do it again! So instead, maybe we should banish such negative thoughts from our brains, and, like our children, be calm, patient and confident in the knowledge that we will be able to do it, that we are clever enough and that, of course, we will be able to do it eventually.

5. Have fun! Children learn constantly. To them, learning to use a fork, learning to spell their name, say the alphabet, memorise the days of the week, run, jump or play basketball are not work. Instead, they are an enjoyable process that makes life easier, not harder. This mindset is key in understanding how children are such experts in learning! We all want to do things that give us pleasure and satisfaction, therefore, why not make learning itself a source of pleasure and satisfaction? This may sound easier than it is, however, if you implement the first four points, then it is difficult not to enjoy the process of satisfying your curiosity and being receptive to knowledge, whilst knowing all the while that you will succeed! After all, there is no reason why learning should not transform life into the gloriously mysterious game that it is: a game that should be played as it was when we were children- where the ultimate goal is having fun whilst getting to the end rather than being the first to get there.

Additional resources:

Learning to Learn
Mind Mapping: Have Fun as You Learn
Building Learning Power

We Are Here To Help

We have hundreds of tutors available right now to help you improve and succeed. From a one hour session online to a full academic
year of face to face lessons, all it takes is five minutes for us to take down your information. We can then find you the most suitable tutors.

Eyup Ozcan
Eyup Ozcan
14:43 24 Feb 20
In the beginning of university terms I was struggling with a few assignments (statistics and research methods specifically). I had contacted many tutoring companies but non of them were able to meet my requirements i.e. some of them were just looking to get their money, some had conditions of how many session you could book and some didn't have the necessary qualifications that were suited for my needs.I had then found Tavistock tutors, they put me through with one of their best statistical tutors they had. I got an email straight away from her and we started working on the assignment and in a few sessions, the assignment was all up to date and I was ready to submit it with great confidence.Tavistock tutors is an amazing company that is worth the investment, they provide you with top class tutors, continuous support outside your lessons as well as being able to match you up with the correct tutor. whenever I need a tutor, all I do is message them on WhatsApp with my requirements and in a day or two, they've found me a perfect tutor.So far I've had great success with tutors in the fields of statistics and research methods as well as medicine related. Really happy with the services I've been given, don't be put of by the membership price, its worth it ;).read more
Muna Ali
Muna Ali
11:48 29 Jan 20
Great service, friendly staff and prompt customer service. Highly qualified selection of tutors and decent price for security and piece of mind.
natalie kanfer
natalie kanfer
15:32 21 Jan 20
By far the best tutoring agency I have ever worked with!
Elena Serena Piccardi
Elena Serena Piccardi
11:26 19 Oct 19
I have been working with Tavistock Tutors for 3 years.I tutor undergraduate and postgraduate students disciplines such as research methods/advanced research methods, SPSS, data analysis, psychology and I also offer support to clients interested in pursuing an academic career (cv and interview preparation).My experience with Tavistock Tutors has been exceptionally good since the very beginning. Each member of the team is striving to provide the best and most personalised service to both students and tutors. This approach helps students achieve their goals and be inspired by tutors, whilst supporting tutors' growth and development of teaching/tutoring skills.Each member of the Tavistock Tutors team is exceptionally passionate about the incredible work they do to help students succeed. Their organisation is fantastic across all the stages of the process: from informing tutors about potential tutoring requests, to communicating any additional personalised requests students might have, to dealing with requests from tutors themselves. Further, their communication is always so friendly and positive: I love interacting with each of them! 😊Overall, I believe this is the finest tutoring agency in London (and probably beyond London!). The tutors are exceptionally talented and a true inspiration for students! As one of the tutors, I cannot be happier I made the decision to join the team a few years ago! They truly made me a better person and supported my personal growth as an individual and as an educator.read more
Melodie Argi
Melodie Argi
08:14 18 Oct 19
Tavistock tutors is by far the best tutor agency is London. The tutor selection is of the highest quality. Handpicked from the British intellectual elite in all sorts of disciplines. The staff is wonderfully helpful as well as being extremely attentive to feedback.read more
Henry Smith
Henry Smith
22:27 17 Oct 19
I have been employed as a tutor with Tavistock Tutors for over 5 years. I tutor mathematics and also help people with job preparation for different career routes (cv, cover letter, interview preparation and online test prep). They are simply a wonderful team of individuals who work collectively and strive to deliver the best possible service to both clients and their tutors. They work doggedly to achieve results. They are particularly honest and their feedback to tutors on how to improve is tailored, concise and always highly constructive. Even after 5 yrs, they only put me forward as a tutor if they think I am the absolute best they can find otherwise they are honest with me and explain why I was not put forward. I think this transparency is a huge reason for their success and keeps the best tutors on their books for years. Their communication on what a client wants is also clinically precise and effective and the team go out of their way to provide potential interests/passions of the client to help the tutor prepare accordingly for the lessons and nurture that interaction. Simply the finest agency and I have tutored with some of the best. World-class tutors and utmost confidentiality with respect to their clientele. I cannot be happier to work for them, a dream job with a team whose capacity for kindness, empathy and boundless intellect never ceases to amaze me. Their work ethic inspires me to relentlessly push myself to be a better tutor with their encouragement and constructive feedback.read more
Albert Tam
Albert Tam
20:50 17 Oct 19
Best tutors in London! Great experience and amazing customer service. Highly recommend, my tutors were all fantastic and a huge help. Really recommend Tavistock Tutors as I never had to worry about not getting the highest quality tutors unlike other agencies and online tutors.read more
I ME
I ME
16:13 17 Oct 19
I’ve used Tavistock multiple times and they never disappoint!I used them for myself secondary school, whilst at university and even now whilst working. Their service is second to none as are their tutors.I highly recommend them to anyone looking to better themselves academically or personally.read more
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
13:22 06 Oct 19
Why most reviewers have one contribution, namely to the Tavistock Tutors?High standards ? Mate get a real job rather than living off other's qualifications.Reality Check(See photos attached - that is the owner “looking for me” 1.5 years after leaving London and while my name and photo was on first page of Tavistock Tutor website...)read more
Jonathan Aaron
Jonathan Aaron
16:39 01 Aug 19
Amazing experience, the tutor was reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced and the company was both professional and reliable. Definitely will be using them again!read more
David T
David T
16:34 01 Aug 19
I used Tavistock for some Corporate Finance and Financial Modelling training at my firm. They were extremely helpful and the trainer, Simon, was of top quality, experience and charged a fair price. Thank you!read more
Olivia Pluss
Olivia Pluss
11:05 13 Jun 19
I had a fantastic experience with my tutor Elena and Tavistock Tutors. They were very well organized and made the entire experience so seamless and easy for me. I passed my assignment with great marks and the experience was much less stressful than if I had tried to complete the assignment without Elena's help.read more
J Mathews
J Mathews
11:27 22 May 19
My child used Glenda for HL biology. Glenda was outstanding. I would not hesitate to recommend her. Extremely intelligent, always prepared, knows how to teach/very helpful, and also just a nice person. Also, I would use Tavistock again for sure because we had such success with Glenda.read more
Alan Radford
Alan Radford
09:34 09 May 19
Tavistock Tutors were a delight to deal with, and highly professional at all times. They provided my daughter with an excellent tutor at very short notice - after my having approached them on a Thursday urgently requesting a tutor for that weekend. Tavistock Tutors immediately gave the matter their attention; they appreciated the urgency and responded quickly and efficiently, and helped to set my daughter up with exactly the right sort of tutor. Fantastic!read more
Sophie Taieb
Sophie Taieb
12:55 29 Mar 19
Very happy with Tavistock tutors services. They provide a wide range of tutors, from all backgrounds and for all types of needs. My uni son needed some help in research and methodology. We found a perfectly suited tutor in less than 3 days. He is very knowledgeable, punctual, open minded and brings the support needed to my son. I would definitely recommend Tavistock tutorsread more
Next Reviews

How to analyse form in an English essay (13+/GCSE/A-level)

Stuck on analysing form in literature? Tavistock Tutors are here to help…
Whether one is helping a student analyse a play or article, a proper consideration of form is crucial. Yet 'form' is a...

6 Reasons To Hire A Tutor For Your Child

Most children will come across several challenges with learning during their school journey. The desire of most parents is to boost their kids enthusiasm for learning, build educational self-esteem an...

How To Utilize Your Summer Holidays?

Holidays are the best period for many students as they are free from their daily school activities. You’ll never get such blissfully long holidays when you’re working — so make the most of them....

Call Now Button