Multiple intelligences? Learning styles? What does it all mean when it comes to understanding and parenting your preschooler? It's generally accepted that there are three basic types of learners: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. These learning styles refer to the primary way our bodies take in information. Almost all children are tactile or "kinesthetic" learners to some degree throughout their preschool years.
From the moment they're born, infants rely on their senses to learn about their world. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget referred to this early stage as sensorimotor development—a logical name given the manner in which infants process information. Babies depend on their sense of touch to explore the world and are in a constant state of motion. Sitting, crawling, rolling, standing, mouthing toys, banging, shaking . . . there's no end to their motor activity!
Many children retain this learning preference, whereas others may begin to adopt other dominant styles. While we use all of our senses to varying degrees, most people favor one over another and they may not even be consciously aware of which mode they prefer. Visual and auditory learners take in information through seeing and hearing, respectively, whereas kinesthetic types learn best by moving. These are the individuals who aren't content to sit back and listen to instructions. "Here, let me try!" is often their refrain.
Movement and action may be distracting to visual learners, but those who respond to kinesthetic stimuli prefer a more hands-on approach. The more active and involved they can be, the better. No sitting and watching for this group! Because kinesthetic learners process knowledge by using their physical senses they often demonstrate a good sense of rhythm and balance and are generally well coordinated. Some children are particularly adept at stringing beads, creating elaborate art projects, or building complex LEGO structures.
Some of the following traits will tip you off that your child is primarily a kinesthetic learner:
- active and full of energy
- likes to touch and feel things
- enjoys building and constructing (e.g. LEGOs, forts)
- likes role playing and creative movement
- likes to draw pictures, paint, and color
- enjoys cutting paper, stringing beads, and puzzle play
- likes to manipulate materials such as play dough
- has good spatial awareness and coordination