I regularly hear parents in our Parent/Child Program complain that their child isn’t participating. They are either gone from the group completely, playing everywhere else but “where they are supposed to”, or they are sitting their watching everyone else physically participate. In either case, I would argue that your child IS participating. In the butterfly child that is gone from the group, they tend to absorb from afar. I often have kids repeat back to me things I said when they weren’t within 20 feet of me when I said them. Those same kids will dart into the warm up, perform their favorite skill once in a fleeting fashion and then take off again for some new exciting piece of equipment. How did they know what to do at that moment if they were across the room not listening? Kids can handle more stimulation than adults can. They can process multiple things at a time. So yes, the wanderers are still listening.
The “watchers” are processing. Sometimes I swear I can see wheels turning inside those cute little heads as they try to figure out what, how & when to jump in. This can be super painful for parents to watch. Adults assume that if they are watching they are not “participating”. This may sound familiar: they do all the stuff at home (my child wouldn’t touch the floor during warm-up and would go home and do the whole thing in the living room from start to finish on his own! Aghh!), they won’t do a skill for a long time but when they do it, it’s exactly right, skills come in waves- they won’t seem to do anything for weeks and then one day they walk into the gym and do 3 new skills they’ve never tried before. Does any of this sound familiar?
Understanding the way you or your child prefers to take in information can help you maximize learning opportunities in the Gym and everywhere else. There are three basic styles of learning: Visual, Aural or Auditory, and Kinesthetic. Most of us start out as Visual learners and then lean into one of the three styles as we grow up. Many people are prefer a combination of these styles. That can be helpful since most information comes to us in a variety of ways and in order to learn, processing in more that one style helps reinforce the information in our brains.
What we don’t always understand as adults, is that kids before the age of 6 years old are predominately visual learners. If you think about this as a parent, we know this is true. Kids use adults and older kids as role models. We often wish they would “do as I say, not as I do” only to be dismayed at the little carbon copy of yourself you are raising. Kids have to be visual learners in order to survive. They mimic everything from facial expressions to speech, from good and bad habits to mannerisms. Have you noticed new babies with the same facial expression as a particular family member? This is a wonderful thing to know about our kids, and you can use this power wisely. We use it at Aurora Kids to teach everything we de. We demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate! We as teachers demonstrate. We encourage parents to demonstrate & play. We use kids as demonstrators in class to show skills while we spot. We use visuals as a constant training method. You may notice all the skill pictures around the gyms. We also use other little visual cues; such as duct tape marks for hand and foot placement, theme related pictures, or even small props like bean bags, hula hoops, and stretch ropes. As kids get older, we also incorporate videos, both of skills and routines we want them to learn as well as video of themselves in the gym. It’s our introduction to movement analysis. They get to see what they actually look like doing skills as well as how they behave. Good stuff to talk about. Which brings us to our next learning style.
Auditory or Aural learners prefer to hear information. Adults are constantly giving verbal instructions so why don’t kids listen? Probably because we are always giving verbal instruction. This is funny when we consider what we already know. 1. Kids tend to be more visual in the early years. 2. They have limited attention spans. And 3. young children are not good at sequencing multiple instructions yet, nor are they aware of cause and effect. They don’t understand the ramifications of their actions. Yet as adults, we talk at them a lot. Here is the catch. Kids need to learn how to listen and follow directions. It’s a part of life. Their future school lives will largely be made up of this very skill. So it becomes important for us as adults to use their strength as visual learners to increase their strengths as auditory learners. We can use the last learning style, Kinesthetic, to help here too.
Kinesthetic learning is a preference related to experience and practice. It is a physical type of learning. This style means literally feeling your way through it. When we teach skills in gymnastics, we demonstrate (visual learning), explain (auditory learning) and then spot the child through the skill (kinesthetic). Aurora Kids obstacle courses then allow the kids time to explore and try to remember the sequences of instructions. The equipment provides continuous visual cueing and Teachers are constantly giving verbal feedback. We know it can be frustrating for parents to watch class from the lobby and see their child “skip” skills. It’s hard to watch but part of the learning process. Some kids are naturally very detail oriented and compulsively do every little thing, every time. Others seem to get distracted easily, float from thing to thing randomly, and look up regularly to wave at you in the window. Our little butterfly chasers are still learning, they are just doing it with a different learning style. You probably know someone in the family that looks and acts just like that, so be gentle with your judgement.
It’s empowering as a parent to learn your child’s style early on. It’s one of the beautiful things about gymnastics for young kids. Their strengths and weaknesses surface naturally during play. Observing them in this environment, as part of a group will tell you a lot about your child. These are habits and styles you will need to help them utilize for their upcoming school careers. It’s good to know how to mold study habits, pick physical activities, and deal with teachers or coaches. We all have to make adjustments to be successful in a variety of environments. We hope that Aurora Kids is a great learning opportunity and sets a foundation for all future endeavors.