There is a debate currently going on among educators about whether or not we should strive to make learning fun for kids. Many believe it will help engage students, while others think it is important to teach our kids to persevere through hard things. Not everything in life is fun, but many things are still worth putting in the work and doing. I actually agree with both sides of this argument. Life, work, changing diapers with a squirming toddler, these things are not always fun. But they are worthwhile. However, if it is possible to make learning a fun and engaging experience, I think we should do so! (It doesn’t mean we have to bend over backwards. Sometimes you just have to do the practice math sheets, fun or not!)
But when possible, I think most of us would agree it is important for kids to have fun while learning. I think this is especially true for young kids who naturally learn through play, imitation, and exploration.
Making Learning Fun Engages Kids
A major reason to make learning fun is to engage kids. Granted boredom is not evil. In fact, allowing our kids to be bored nurtures creativity. But if we can make a school lesson engaging and interesting, that can spark creativity and further exploration as well.
When I think of my teachers who made learning a fun process to engage in, I think of teachers who inspired me to do further reading and exploration into topics on my own time. A project I had to do over John Neihardt’s Cycle of the West my senior year swept me up in a new passion–literature of the American West. I went on to check out Neihardt’s autobiography from my teacher and buy every copy of his books that I could find in rural, used bookstores. In high school and college, I even trekked up to Bancroft, NE to the Neihardt Center for special conferences. I joke that I would love to become a Neihardt scholar and someday run the center.
I truly commend teachers who design engaging and creative lessons and projects for their students. But there is such a thing as wrong homework. Just ask this teacher who encouraged students for drama class character development (middle school kids) to research how to make meth. Hmmm . . . maybe more college material there if you consider maturity levels.
Fun Ideas for Learning During the Weekend
If you’re concerned that your kids’ spare time isn’t being used as productively as it could be, get imaginative about how to incorporate learning into free time. For instance, a trip to the local park or going for a walk could become more educational if you point out some different kinds of birds, trees, or flowers.
Similarly, if you worry your kids are watching too much TV, try compromising. Suggest a more educational film for a change. If your children are interested in animals there are loads of documentaries and films out there which will be suitable. My husband and I really enjoy watching well-made documentaries. And they often spark us to make life changes (i.e. eat healthier) or to do further research into an issue. Similarly, if your kids are interested in dinosaurs or history, a museum trip is a great way to combine fun and education. We did this with Rebekah. When she started showing a lot of interest in animals and animal sounds we took her to Grant’s Farm and the St. Louis Zoo.
Cooking is another great way to keep the learning going during the weekend. Keep the recipes simple and remember that children will love making sweet or savory treats. Get your children involved and let them decide what to make. Once they are a bit older and have mastered the basics of baking you can move on to some more complex dishes. Cooking is a skill for life and can be a lot of fun, so encourage your kids!
What do you think? Do we strive too much to make learning fun? Is it a worthwhile goal?