Different Learning Styles in Children

You picked all your curriculum out for the year and are very excited to start. Shortly into the new school year, you realize something isn’t working right. Maybe your child is bored or complaining about the work. Perhaps he is struggling with all the writing it requires. Maybe sitting in the chair for long periods of time makes him antsy. Even though you’ve had him write his spelling words ten times each twice this week, he just can’t seem to remember them. He wants to touch everything you put in front of him and do anything except his work.

These situations could be that your child just doesn’t want to do his work. But what if that wasn’t it? What if the curriculum you chose isn’t right for him? The different learning styles in children can play a large role in how they respond to the curriculum you choose.

 

*Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking through, The Unexpected Homeschooler may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Read full disclosure policy here.

 

 

What are the different learning styles?

 

There are four primary learning styles that children can have.

1. Visual

2. Auditory

3. Tactile

4. Kinesthetic

Look at the way your child reacts to the environment around him. Sometimes you can start to see the characteristics of these styles at a very early age. However, all children go through different stages that may display any of these four styles so it can take a while to actually know for sure which one is the most dominant. Children are naturally curious and active so they all are tactile and kinesthetic learners in infancy and as toddlers. Eventually though, especially once they reach school age, one will surface as their distinct way of learning.

 

The Auditory Learner

The Auditory LearnerThe auditory learner is going to acquire information through hearing. You may notice that he repeats things he’s heard. He remembers the words to songs or stories very easily. If you give him a set of directions, he can easily follow them. This child does well in a learning situation where someone is lecturing to him. Sitting down to read long passages by himself is going to be a chore.

The best curriculum choices for an auditory learner will involve listening to read alouds, audiobooks, and discussions. Look for products that incorporate narration as well. This can be the magical solution to getting questions answered. Putting things to music such as math facts makes learning like second nature to him.

 

Some suggestions to help with the curriculum you already have is for an older sibling read to him. If there isn’t an older sibling, you can dictate and record passages into an iPod or smartphone for the child to listen to and follow along in the book if he likes. Some homeschool history companies out there sell an audio CD version of their books and those are wonderful to use. Sometimes just having the child read out loud to himself is helpful.

 

Something else to take into consideration when you are dealing with an auditory learner is that he can be very distracted by the noises going on around him. I have found that using a pair of noise-canceling headphones while doing school work helps tremendously.

 

The Visual Learner

The Visual LearnerThe visual learner grasps new information through writing. This type of child likes to take notes and copy things from the board. He likes to look at pictures and remembers them easily. He can easily distinguish the difference between shapes, numbers, letters, and colors. He has a hard time following oral directions.

 

The best curriculum choices for a visual learner will involve writing, copy work, photos, and illustrations. Educational videos are a great way for this child to take in information. Charts and graphs are very memorable and matching games make learning a breeze. They often tend to like workbooks as well.

 

As with the auditory learner who is distracted by noises, the visual learner can be distracted by any movement going on in the room. An easy fix for this is to buy a tri-fold display board like the ones used for science fairs and put it on the table in front of him to block out any motion.

 

It’s not unusual for him to enjoy having a visual checklist nearby where he can see his work being completed as he checks it off throughout the day.

 

The Tactile Learner

The Tactile LearnerThe tactile learner is the hands-on child. He learns by doing. The more he can touch and feel as he learns the better. This is the child that has to reach for everything in the store. It’s not that he is being bad, he literally needs to touch things to get a better understanding. He needs to feel how cold the ice is or perhaps he may even try to touch a hot stove after being told it could burn him. He is attracted to objects with different textures and shapes. He likes to play with blocks or Legos and build things. He can have difficulty following directions.

 

The best curriculum choices for a tactile learner will need to include hands-on activities. He will remember information best by playing games, building models, writing in the sand or shaving cream. He will usually like to do crafts and art projects. Building and creating things is where he will excel.

 

I have found in the homeschool world there is a lot of curricula out there that offers these types of activities. What I have also found is that most parents don’t enjoy having to do them. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to find a curriculum that includes all the materials needed or where most of the work has already been done for you if you can afford it.

 

The Kinesthetic Learner

The Kinesthetic LearnerKinesthetic learners have to move! They use their whole body to take in information. This is the child that doesn’t just walk. He runs, jumps, skips or glides across a room. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about. He finds it extremely difficult to sit still for long periods of time. He almost can’t think without moving and there is research out there to prove his brain works better when he is. This is the child who is sadly labeled the troublemaker in school. He is not wired to handle a traditional classroom setting and therefore will suffer and continue to fall behind as time goes by. It is assumed he is not as smart as his peers when that is just not the case.

 

The best curriculum choices for a kinesthetic learner will definitely involve some movement. Sometimes it can be hard to find products that present information in this manner but thankfully it’s the easiest one to adapt to any curriculum.

 

For example, if you are teaching spelling words, have the child jump up and down for every letter as he spells it out. Or perhaps clap out each letter. Even hanging a small basketball hoop on the back of a door in your house where a shot can be made when questions are answered correctly can be quite motivating. Trust me I’ve used this! Put problems on index cards on the floor and let the child hop on the correct answers. Make a fishing pole with a dial rod, string, and a magnet on the end. Attach paper clips to index cards on the floor (they can even be cut into fish shapes) and let him fish for the right answers to the questions you ask. A favorite in my house is a fly swatter. Put cards with answers on the table and let the child smack the correct answer.

 

Are you seeing a pattern here? Hopping, jumping, smacking- they are all effective. While teachers in the regular classroom fear this type of learner, it’s actually quite easy to accommodate him in a homeschool setting. Once you understand how he learns, the ideas are limitless.

 

Curriculum Suggestions for Different Learning Styles

Auditory Learner

All About Reading

All About Spelling

Life of Fred

Apologia

Story of the World

Mystery of History

Handwriting Without Tears

Shurley English

 

Visual Learner

All About Reading

All About Spelling

Alpha Phonics

Bob Books

Handwriting Without Tears

Hands-On English with Linking Blocks

Teaching Textbooks

Times Tales

Math-U See

Dover Coloring Books

Apologia

Homeschool in the Woods

History Revealed

 

Tactile and Kinesthetic Learner

All About Reading

All About Spelling

Hands-On English with Linking Blocks

Winston Grammar

Handwriting Without Tears 

RightStart Math

Math-U See

Apologia

History Revealed

 

What You Can Do

What You Can DoBecause some learning styles don’t work with traditional methods, a child can appear to have learning difficulties because he doesn’t seem to learn like the rest of the children around him. Yes, there can be learning disabilities. I am not trying to say this solves every problem, but often it can just be that he needs information presented to him in the correct modality. If your child doesn’t seem to be grasping concepts as well as he should, it’s definitely worth it to observe him and identify his learning style. Then take a good hard look at the materials you are using to see if they best fit the way he learns.

 

I know it’s frustrating to spend hard-earned money on products, especially when they are costly, only to realize they aren’t working. Sometimes we have to decide to change directions in the middle of the year. I can assure you though if you take the time to learn about the different learning styles in children and discover your child’s specific style, you will be able to choose an appropriate curriculum.  This is a step in the right direction and you and your child will be much happier for it!

Have you discovered your child’s learning style? Do you know your own? Let me know in the comments below.

18 Comments

  1. Hi Heidi,

    A very good read!

    This is very good specialised information, I completely agree that getting to know the different learning styles and capabilities of the children that receive learning support and development is essential to being able to fully getting through to them and helping them achieve their full potential.

    Some very good work and good detail!

    Well done

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! I appreciate your feedback and am glad you enjoyed reading it.

      Reply
  2. These concepts remind me of when I started teaching. I was so excited to present material to my learning disabled students in different formats. However, in the public school system, it isn’t always easy to accomplish. I like the homeschooling model so much more than the public school when it comes to tailoring the learning to their learning styles.

    Reply
    • You are so right! The public school system makes it much more difficult to accomplish this. I feel that many learning disabled students would do better at home.

      Reply
  3. This is great for me! I saved your website and bookmarked it. I started homeschooling my daughter this summer to prep her for kindergarten. I am so new to all this. So when I get home tonight, I would like to read on one of your blogs and take notes! So appreciate your website! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thanks for bookmarking my site! I am excited to have you as a follower. That’s awesome that you are in the beginning stages of homeschooling. I hope that this site can be a help to you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

      Reply
  4. Wonderful Information Heidi. I wish my teachers knew that… I am an auditory learner and homeschooling would have worked wonders for me instead of getting punished at school for not making eye contact with the teachers while they were talking.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • I think a lot of what are considered behavior problems are probably more learning style issues than anything. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Fantastic read Heidi, really enjoyed it and glad to see you’re so passionate about helping and teaching children. Learned a few things I didn’t know before, and to add that I love the layout and theme of your website – beautiful!

    Reply
  6. Thanks so much! Glad I could teach you something new too!

    Reply
  7. Very well-written article, Heidi. Thank you for the concise explanation and especially the examples.

    I’m certain my son is a kinesthetic learner; I sure do need to let him move while he learns and studies!

    One of my daughters is very visual and makes lists, organizes, and writes creatively and independently.

    I’m not sure about my other three. Anyway, our homeschool has continually morphed as I’ve learned good info from experts like you.

    Looking forward to seeing what else you’ve posted here.

    Laura

    Reply
    • One of mine loves lists and organizing as well! She thrives on it. Homeschooling definitely morphs over time and some years are easier than others.

      I’m so glad you found this information helpful.

      Reply
  8. Heidi, You have so much good information here. We had my son in a private school, but with the change in the economy, I couldn’t afford to do that any longer. I looked at the public schools where we were living at the time, Ft Lauderdale, FL. To me, the teachers were so set on getting the students to pass the state tests and baby sitting the over-crowded class rooms, that I knew there was no way I am putting my son into that mess.

    I started looking into homeschooling and found a homeschooling group at a local church to help me. Too bad I didn’t have all this information back then.

    Great information for anyone starting out or looking for new Ideas.
    Jim

    Reply
    • Thank you for your feedback! I hope it will be helpful to many. You are very right about schools teaching to the test. They are under such pressure to perform.
      Thank goodness for all those little homeschooling groups out there. I had a group of homeschoolers at my church that were extremely helpful as well.

      Reply
  9. Also I think it is good to incorporate as many of these styles for all students, too – give them a variety of learning styles to do.

    What about a reluctant learner? I have one who consisentently failed at both homeschool and public school (he is addicted to computer gaming even though we limited his time, etc.). Now that he’s finally living on his own (age 19), he’s basically unschooling himself – learning Chinese and becoming an expert on WWI. He also is an advanced game programmer. I wish I had taken an unschooling approach with him from the beginning.

    Reply
    • I agree with incorporating many styles. Children usually have a dominant one but definitely benefit from having information presented in different ways.

      I think there are definitely children who seem to learn better when they are led by their interests and unschooling can be a great option for that. Information seems to be very difficult for them to pick up unless it’s something they really want to learn. In those cases, it’s more difficult for the parent because they almost have to write their own curriculum around those topics. Unit studies are a great resource as well because a lot of times they cover many different subjects centered around a theme. If they are unschooling, it’s a matter of finding materials to expose the child to. These kinds of kids do well on field trips also!

      Reply
  10. This is information the teachers at school need. I am sure they are ignorant of this. It seems in some schools teaching methods are a one box fits all, and as you have demonstrated that is just not the case.
    I have a girl-friend who homeschooled her two girls and I have to say they outperformed most kids that went to the public schools. That one on one attention is critical.
    I loved, loved, loved this article and I will be sending a few friends to read this.

    Reply
    • It really is!. There are just too many children in a classroom to do this and teachers are overwhelmed. Those that learn through nontraditional methods usually fall behind or get labelled. Thank you for passing this information along!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *