Do your kids tap their toes, wiggle in their seat, or just seem to have the itch to move, especially when they are supposed to be sitting still and learning at their desks? Are they and their teachers frustrated with their inability to grasp concepts and behave at school? Kinesthetic learning tendencies can be responsible for these actions. Of the four general learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory, tactile, and visual, kinesthetic can be the most challenging one for teachers and students. In fact, medical facilities report that children who are diagnosed with ADHD are often actually kinesthetic learners who aren’t given the tools to thrive in a traditional classroom setting.
How can I tell if my child is a kinesthetic learner?
Kinesthetic learners are most successful when there are activities involving movement during the learning process. These types of learners often excel at sports and hands-on projects. Their struggles occur when they are confined to their desks for their education. They might seek excuses to move about the classroom, sharpening pencils, throwing garbage away, or using the restroom often. Their brains need the physical stimuli in order to operate well, but are sadly often denied those activities and even diagnosed with ADHD or treated with medications to slow them down.
How can I help my kinesthetic learner?
Traditional classroom settings and teachers are just not equipped to help kinesthetic learners flourish. New research is helping to identify ways that educational systems can adapt to the true needs of students. Some schools that are paying attention are moving to incorporate opportunities for children with all learning styles to express themselves and learn to their full potentials, such as using extra classroom space for tunnels, mini-trampolines, tactile boards, music, and visual displays.
If you are concerned about learning struggles and suggestions of ADHD, meet with your child’s teacher and discuss the classroom environment. Ask questions such as:
- How much desk time is there each day?
- Which subjects are taught as sitting subjects where my child needs to be seated?
- What opportunities are there for kinesthetic learners?
- How do you handle my child when he needs to move about?
- What can we both do to help my child become successful in the classroom?
As a homeschooling parent I feel so fortunate that I can answer these questions for myself with my own kinesthetic learners. When my oldest son was still preschool age I soon found out that if I wanted to tap into all that I knew was rolling around in his brain I would need to be in his world (I am a visual learner). As long as he was moving, he could verbalize his learning – sing his alphabet, count by twos, spell him name – these all came easily when he did them to the rhythm of play, such as one letter each time he bounced the ball. He is now 12 and I have learned to incorporate movement into each day, and have seen similar successful results with his younger brother as well. Both of them thrive on movement, are inclined towards sports, and are happiest when their bodies aren’t sitting still.
My husband learned just how intrinsic movement is to our children’s learning one day when he took over the educating duties for me. He was giving spelling words to our 9 year old who was marching around the table when he asked our son to sit down – leading to a barrage of complaints from all of the other children who knew how their brother operated. The kids taught their Dad a lesson that day – their brother is an amazing speller if he gets to step with each letter. I am certain that if attending a traditional public school, at least one of my kids would have a learning disability or behavior label, when in actuality they are excelling at their academics because they can use their own talents and learning styles effectively.
While not every teacher can realistically accommodate these specific needs of kinesthetic learners, it is time that the educational and medical communities come together and identify true differences between medical conditions like ADHD and learning styles that make some children labeled as different. Our children deserve opportunities to thrive and grow as their brains are created to do.