When a child thinks and acts independently, a learning process takes place that can be more beneficial than any other type of learning. Thinking and acting independently are two of the most important skills any individual can have and by nurturing this skill from a young age, we can create young adults that will continue to be independent thinkers for the rest of their lives, way beyond the classroom.
Cultures are individualistic, and independence is an important part of our views on the world. Teachers and parents have an extremely important role to play in the development of children but cannot remain next to their side every step they take. They are simply facilitators because one of the pre-requisites of independent learning activities for kids is being able to work on your own, solving problems with minimal guidance and enough confidence. This includes activities both in the classroom and outdoor learning areas.
It is a question that arises often; how much help should I give my child or pupil if I also want to encourage independent learning activities? Another question that is asked is; how can I be sure that my child or pupil is developing skills independently if I am not working closely with them? There is a fine line between the two and faith in the child must be present.
What is Independent Learning?
Independent learning is a method of gaining skills and knowledge through pretend play, exploration of different ideas and creation of new and unique ideas. Experiencing these will lead to the development of an intelligent, confident, self-reliant and motivated individual that is capable of critical thinking and decision making.
Children that have more control over their learning and are therefore independent learners and thinkers tend to have more self-confidence. On the other hand, children that are provided with excessive help and support do not have the opportunity to think for themselves and prevents them from solving problems and working their way through difficulties.
The concept of learning independently has grown in popularity over recent years, and now it is common to see schools incorporate activities that promote this type of learning. It is a method of learning which is found throughout primary and secondary schools, and much of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) development is based on the independent development concept.
Encouraging Independent Learning Skills
There are many ways that a child’s independent learning opportunities can be created. As mentioned earlier, it can be quite difficult to know how much assistance to provide and how much assistance not to provide and finding a balance is all about trial and error.
- Present the child with an open environment – Children are very used to the same classroom environment where they sit and listen to teachers. Real independent activities will take place in an open environment that provides opportunities to talk and write about what they learn.
- Reward initiative – Positive feedback should be presented when a child shows initiative.
- Encourage exploration/research projects – Children should be able to choose what they learn about, and discover what they enjoy.
- Play pretend – Encourage art and drama when discussing topics, for example, a play may help the students think more independently about the concepts being taught.
- Encourage brainstorming – Allow children to formulate and ask their own questions whilst presenting their own ideas.
- Focus on the positive – Don’t worry too much about things that aren’t working, just focus on which parts are going well.
Benefits of Learning Independently
Independent thinking and thinking skills are a solid base for the development of great leadership skills and by nurturing these skills from a young age, children can make sense of the world from personal experience and observations, whilst making suitable, well-informed decisions.
Independent learning helps children think creatively, encourage curiosity and leads to much more meaningful discoveries, than just being told the answer to something. As children make mistakes through their own learning and within a safe environment they will gain confidence which will help them build successful futures. This also helps to contribute to their health and activity levels which you can read more about in this post.
The benefits of self-learning are well documented. Through working independently, a child learns HOW to learn, rather than being spoon-fed information, but they also understand the whole process rather than just the goal or end outcome. The process of learning is just as important as reaching the final goal, and often classrooms can restrict that process by placing it within four walls. The self-confidence that is developed through independent learning activities for kids is accompanied by a sense of internal satisfaction and they are more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
Finally, passion and curiosity are two extremely important emotions and behaviour that can often be lost when things become methodical or routine. Through learning independently, children can still use passion and curiosity to help achieve their goals. Another imaginative set of play equipment is an outdoor storytelling area, these are great for encouraging children to listen and use their imaginations.
Pupil-Led Outdoor Play Activities
Outdoors is seen as one of the best learning environments. The large open spaces and the array of natural resources encourage children to explore using their imagination and incorporate their problem-solving skills. By giving children the tools necessary to explore at their own will and in their own time allows them to make their own discoveries. See our recent post on school playground markings to find out more about different floor designs.
Pupil-led outdoor play activities such as growing plants, wildlife spotting, bug hunting and pond dipping are all simple yet exciting activities that can be led by the children rather than the teacher. These activities allow children to use their imaginations and involve elements of play pretend into the process, all of which will help improve their creative thinking, grow their independence and confidence and develop their problem-solving. You can also help improve children’s mental health with play through a variety of activities.
Playground Equipment and Games
Installing certain playground equipment will help children to learn whilst they play through activities like climbing, building dens and basic structures. Using these types of playground equipment will also help encourage teamwork and allow children to provide each other with constructive feedback as they work alongside each other.
Outdoor play activities that are pupil led not only provide great opportunities for developing skills independently, but they also have amazing benefits towards positive mental health; there have been numerous studies that have discovered the relationship between green spaces and good mental health. Visit this post to learn more about how outdoor play can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress in children.
Spending time outside is hugely beneficial for young people and the positive effects on mental health can work in favour for students, schools and benefits can work their way onwards and throughout communities.