The Benefits of Hands-On Learning in Children

The benefits of hands-on learning extend throughout a child’s life. This tactile learning allows children to explore and learn through action and experience. Whether in a classical school or a Montessori school, hands-on learning helps children bring concepts into their world.

For instance, if a child counts blocks or sorts objects, manipulating the physical objects helps them understand the mathematical concepts. Alternatively, exposure to the theory or idea through pencil and paper exercises might leave the idea disconnected for them.  

What Is Hands-On Learning?

Hands-on learning is a style of education where children learn by doing. Instead of listening to their teacher as they stand at the front of a classroom, the student engages with the idea. Whether they solve a problem or build something, the student directly manipulates the subject matter. This brings the concept closer to reality. 

While certain subjects spring to mind, such as a shop class, the benefits of hands-on learning work in most subjects. Here are a few examples to consider. 

  • Problem-solving with objects in math class
  • Writing a poem, story, or essay for English class
  • A tech class in which children build circuits or small machines 
  • Lab experiments in a science class 
  • Drafting a historical document for history class

In particular, hands-on learning benefits young children. Exploration is simply how they learn about the world. Generally speaking, children learn through observation, mimicry, and experimentation. 

This is true from the day they are born, well into grade school, and beyond. When it comes to learning new skills, play has a very important role in all of our lives. 

The Benefits of Hands-On Learning

This style of education(s) is not “new” by any means. However, many schools find it difficult to include these principles and projects in the work students do. In particular, public schools find this challenging. Oftentimes, this stems from tight budgets and restrictive curriculum. 

Truly, that’s a shame because there are so many benefits to tactile learning. 

Engagement That’s Fun

Typically, children develop skills more quickly when they have fun. For instance, consider how we learn the alphabet. With traditional repetition, flashcards, or pencil on paper, it becomes boring quickly. 

However, when we introduce the letters through song, children memorize them more readily. Additionally, to teach the shapes of letters, children might use foam or sand to trace out the forms with their fingers. Alternatively, clay allows them to construct the shapes in a fun activity. 

By comparison, these methods tend to be more fun and less intimidating. Moreover, children are more likely to retain the information compared to traditional literacy exercises. 

Interaction with the World

Hands-on learning extends beyond the classroom. For example, children might explore gardening or farming to learn more about nature, food, and animals. In fact, interaction with nature is important for people of all ages. That’s because it helps people develop stronger physical and mental health. 

As children explore the outdoors, it offers them more chances to run, play, and burn off steam. Any teacher or child care provider will tell you that this reduces behavioral issues and keeps them happy. Moreover, it helps them stay active and healthy. 

Learning Through Experience

In some cases, the activities adults find boring and mundane are fun learning experiences for young students. For example, toddlers love to imitate their parents and other adults. Whether you fold clothes, sweep, or cook, you may notice them copying your movements. 

While these early attempts aren’t always helpful… children learn important behavioral and physical skills for life. 

When we use a real experience to share ideas or skills, it tends to be more effective than a lecture. Consider this old proverb: 

Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand. 

Doubt this principle? Remember how you learned how to drive. How much of that was from reading a book or sitting in a classroom? Now, how much was through experience. 

When we consider everyday examples, the benefits of hands-on learning become quite clear. 

Exploration Through the Senses

Anyone who has experience with young children understands that messes are inevitable. However, messy play is more than an inconvenience. Truly, it’s an excellent way for children to learn more about their world. 

Both messy play and sensory play allow kids to discover traits of materials. Moreover, they perform their own small experiments as they learn about the world. 

Messy play allows them to explore the world through multiple senses. It involves touch, sight, sound, smell, and even taste in some instances. When we engage multiple senses, it helps children learn and remember. 

Additionally, this exploration has the potential to offer social activity and language development. It allows children to learn new words to describe different traits of the materials. 

Motor Skill Development

The benefits of hands-on learning extend to anything that involves the hands. From cutting and sorting to molding and manipulating, children develop more precise movements. As they hone their motor skills, they learn the necessary skills for real-world tasks. 

From writing to tying shoelaces, these activities help children build muscle, improve their accuracy, and learn functional skills. 

Engage Multiple Parts of the Brain

In early childhood, the brain develops very quickly. Typically, the first six years are (essential)formative for development. Our brains consist of two hemispheres. Each side is responsible for different skills. 

The right side of the brain is far more active than the left in early childhood. That’s because visual and spatial activities engage it. Additionally, creativity and imagination help to stimulate development. 

The left side of the brain deals more with logic and analytical skills. Generally speaking, this begins to develop more around age 10 or 11. 

When we combine multiple activities, it images more areas of the brain than one single activity. In doing so, we aid both learning and recollection. This is similar to the sensory play we mentioned earlier. As we consider the benefits of hands-on learning, it’s important to remember the way children develop and learn. 

The Benefits of Hands-On Learning: How Parents Can Help Their Children

While children are young and still at home, parents have the most control over how their children explore and learn. In the early stages of development, it’s a great idea for parents to explore the benefits of hands-on learning. 

However, as the child’s education extends beyond the home, it’s important to find places that emphasize hands-on education. From nursery programs and preschool to kindergarten and grade school, there are options available. As you evaluate a school’s curriculum, it’s essential to learn more about the school’s philosophy as well. This helps parents ensure the school matches their personal priorities for their children.