Helping Kids Find Their Learning Styles: Learn By Seeing

Remember the feeling of exhilaration you had the day your baby was born? You gazed at his tiny face, amazed by that absolute perfection and innocence. Did you suspect that he was already hard at work, examining his world, collecting information and beginning to construct the foundations of his future self? As babies, children begin to experience their world by moving, touching and tasting. They listen, they observe and begin to make sense of their environment. Multi-sensory learning provides maximum opportunities for infants to expand their knowledge of the world around them.

Learning styles are typically described under three basic categories: kinesthetic, visual and auditory. All new information comes into the brain through the five senses and each one of us has preferred modes of processing that information.

Some of us learn best by touching, some by listening. Visual learners rely largely on their sight to take in information. Some people may be strong in more than one area, however most people learn best in one or two preferred modes. Lauren Bradway, Ph.D., a Speech Language Pathologist and author of the book How to Maximize Your Child’s Learning Ability, refers to the three styles of learners as Lookers, Listeners, and Movers.

“Knowing about all three styles,” says educator and counselor Dr. Linda Budd, author of Living with the Active Alert Child: Groundbreaking Strategies for Parents, “will enable you to help your child strengthen skills in the areas she does not naturally favor, so that she gains other pathways to information.”

Infants begin honing their visual skills from an early age. Long before they can organize their physical movements they are taking in information about their world. Your daughter may not be able to control her arm or hand movements but this tiny baby is exploring a great deal with her eyes. Newborn babies will stare at faces that are 8 to 12 inches away and can track objects that are moved slowly across their visual field. Researchers have found that they prefer simple shapes and patterns, particularly those that contrast against a background color. Studies have also found that infants can even imitate facial expressions when they are just three days old! They eventually learn to recognize familiar and unfamiliar people, they distinguish shapes, sizes and configurations of objects around them.

If you talk to your six-month-old baby about circles and triangles, you’ll no doubt receive a blank stare. But if you show her pictures of one shape and then the other, the blank stare will be replaced with intense concentration. These rudimentary observations of similarities and differences provide the basis from which children learn to recognize numbers, letters, and eventually words.

Howard Gardner, founding father of the Multiple Intelligences Theory, has suggested that all people possess at least eight different intelligences. These intelligences operate in varying degrees depending on the individual. Visual learners rely primarily on their sense of sight to take in information. Because they think in terms of images, they have keen powers of observation and are acutely aware of everything in their environment. Has your child ever reminded you of something you did even when you thought he wasn’t paying attention? Has she remembered the route to a friend’s house after going there only once? Visual learners seem to take in everything. They may notice particular clothing that people wear, may be intrigued by certain colors or shapes and can describe in detail the cement mixer that you passed earlier that day. As we go about our busy day, these children are quietly and consistently collecting data. They enjoy visual order and may even have very particular preferences about organizing their toys and belongings. Some visual learners may be distracted by background noise, movement, and touch and may prefer a quiet environment when working on puzzles or artwork.

Some of the traits that will tip you off that your child is primarily a visual learner:

  • loves watching you and other people in his environment
  • tuned into body language and expressions
  • has an active imagination
  • enjoys writing and forming letters
  • aware of signs and labels
  • good at comparing shapes and letters
  • enjoys drawing and painting
  • observant, points out things of interest
  • enjoys looking at books for long periods of time
  • enjoys sorting objects, stacking blocks, LEGOs

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