Feb 162019
How children learn

By Hannelore Schwedes

German Website


What do we mean by „learning“?
Construct meaning instead of absorbing information
Understanding – development of consensual areas
Knowledge arises during action and is context-specific
The cycle of expectation, action, perception
Subjective areas of experience
Motivation to learn
Learning process
How can children be helped to learn?

What do we mean by „learning“?

You’ve learned something when you can do something you couldn’t do before, didn’t know.

So that you can learn something, you need a situation in which you can do something new. A stimulus that causes the learner to behave in a new way.

So learning has always taken place when a person’s behaviour has changed.

Has a person who watches the execution of a new process, for example, but does nothing at all afterwards, learned nothing? His behavior hasn’t changed. What has changed are his behavioural possibilities, because he can now, if he wants to, do something he could not do before. In doing so, however, he did not merely change his behavioural possibilities, but expanded them.

However, whether someone has learned something can only be seen when the new ability is shown.

When it comes to learning, you also have to distinguish between knowledge and ability. Because if you know how something works, it doesn’t mean that you can do it, if you know something, it doesn’t mean that you can apply that knowledge. Effective knowledge also includes the ability to react appropriately in situations or to solve problems.

This combination of knowledge and ability is what we call competence.

Construct meaning instead of absorbing information

Here we have to say goodbye to some widespread ideas that lead to misconceptions about learning.

Wrong idea

The central misconception is the sender-receiver model for linguistic communication processes. This means that the speaker sends information in the form of speech and the listener receives this information, stores it in his memory and reacts to it, then responds by sending back a linguistic information or responds with a suitable action.

This funnel model is fundamentally wrong. Knowledge doesn’t come from outside. Knowledge is not transported from the outside into our heads through lectures, books or television.

Right idea

We cannot absorb information from outside, but we construct meaning ourselves. We construct the information ourselves from the sensory stimuli that the words of the speaker cause in our ear.

This is the constructivist view of learning that has been impressively confirmed by modern brain research.

We have to be careful and process the offered knowledge correctly. This knowledge is the same for all.

Learning is the processing and storage of incoming knowledge, so that this knowledge can be reused later. New knowledge in particular comes from outside into the heads.

Knowledge arises in our heads. Knowledge is developed individually by each person.

We must try out for ourselves whether our knowledge proves itself in the context. To do this, we must actively engage with others and with the world around us.

Learning is the development or modification of cognitive structures to generate knowledge. In particular, new knowledge is generated in the mind by the further development of cognitive structures that have arisen so far.

This means that knowledge or information cannot be transferred like a commodity from the knowledgeable, e.g. a teacher, to the ignorant, e.g. the pupil.

Every sentence we hear, every text we read, every picture and every sketch we see contains no information, no meaning, they merely represent sensory stimuli from which our brain (re)constructs meanings. Objects and objects have no meaning in themselves, we construct meanings depending on the context and attribute them to the objects.

How we construct meaning can be illustrated by examples of visual stimuli:

Visual perception (illusion of senses, additions are made, constructed by us).

The Kanisza Triangle demonstrates the perception of illusory contours. The figure shows a white triangle, which is not included in the figure (the stimulus model). When the black circles are covered, the triangle disappears.

Also in the two following illustrations we see fictitious contours. Due to the drawn shadows we supplement the letters, we construct additional white contours among other things because we know the letters. On the paper or the projection there are only bizarre black structures. But we construct the word „shadow“ from it.

We do the same in the lower picture (above), there are only straight lines, but we see a wavy line in between.

We arrange the elements we see into a meaningful whole, selecting what we perceive, that is, what we can assign a meaning to. We make a distinction between foreground and background. In the foreground is that from which we can construct meaning.

Understanding – development of consensual areas

How is communication possible?

So if in a conversation no information is transmitted from the speaker to the listener, how can we explain our everyday experience that we do have the impression that we can communicate with words?

Our ability to communicate through human language is based on the creation of consensual areas, which are created through joint action within the framework of social relationships.

Consensual areas are established through the principle of structural coupling within the framework of social relations.

The toddler, who experiences his mother’s radiant smile when she first says „Mommy“ by chance, will repeat this word to experience this very pleasant feeling of affection. A little later it will be the experience that you can quote the mother with „Mama“ call.

When we do something together, we develop consensual areas, when the mother sweeps and asks the child, „Here hold the broom!“, because she wants to sweep the swept pile of dirt with the hand brush on the shovel, so the child learns the naming of the objects and the words for the activities, in this case e.g. sweeping or sweeping. If the mother says: „Bring me the broom“ and the child brings the scrubber instead, the child will probably learn on this occasion to differentiate between scrubber and broom.

The understanding is pushed so far that joint action becomes possible, it is irrelevant whether the content and scope of the terms really fully coincide for the persons acting together.

Children also invent language, they invent their secret language and thus develop their own consensual areas to which adults should have no access. On the other hand, they invent new expressions within the framework of daily colloquial language and often deal creatively with the discovered language rules during the language acquisition phase: I buttoned up the lamp, mom’s just finishing the kitchen, or yesterday I went to my grandma’s. It is essential that communication works, it is about understanding what the child wants to say, this usually works quite well, because the situation in which things are said contributes a lot to understanding, and the child learns to express itself correctly and situation-appropriately through the correct use of language by parents, later by educators and peers. Words and expressions are retained if they prove to be viable, i.e. if you can communicate with them and achieve what you want, e.g. also recognition, i.e. if the parents correct the sentences you speak, you will try to get their recognition and try to talk like them.

What does all this mean for our idea of learning?

We must abandon our fundamental conviction that all knowledge can be imparted. Clear presentation, good structuring and clear explanation on the part of a teacher, as well as attention and listening on the part of the learners can be helpful boundary conditions for learning processes of the pupils, but do not hit the core of learning.

The central thesis is:

  • All knowledge that we think we possess is constructed by ourselves. Children and pupils can only learn by themselves, we cannot transport anything into their heads.

Knowledge cannot be stored in books, nor is our head or our memory an archive, a library or a lexicon in which knowledge is stored according to certain rules of order and which we only have to retrieve from its storage space when it is needed for a concrete task.

Knowledge arises during action and is context-specific

Knowledge arises from action, namely action in specific spatial, physical and social contexts.

Knowledge is therefore always context-specific, competence to act is therefore always bound to specific contexts, to a class of situations.

Knowledge and action are inseparable. According to Ryle, a certain amount of ability comprises on the one hand action competence, on the other hand knowledge about the world; it includes both the competence to identify things and events as well as „expectation dispositions“, which show themselves in the fact that in familiar situations we are not surprised by countless (small) events.

An example: Esther „How I learned to make eagle owl sounds (from Friedrich Jahresheft 1997, p. 37). I once went to Italy on a summer vacation with the nature lovers. Lukas, a boy who was with me, could make great eagle owl noises. I wanted to be able to do that, too, and when I got back, I sat down in my room for a whole afternoon and practiced. First the air came through my hands without any noise until I had understood how to hold the thumbs and hands and how best to blow the air. At some point I made a few notes, and at some point I could play melodies.“

This self-description of learning typically starts with a situation description, it explains the starting point and goal of the whole learning effort. In it, an ability is demonstrated that seems desirable to master yourself, at the same time the situation contains the confidence „You can learn this too. Esther has also gained some clues through observation as to how to do it declarative knowledge, but that didn’t help much yet because there were no eagle owl noises. An entire afternoon Esther practiced until her procedural knowledge was so developed that a certain resemblance to the desired goal was discernible, her explanations reflect her own learning difficulties, the exploded knowledge is incomplete, would probably be supported by gestures and contains declarative (the flowing air makes the sound) and procedural parts (you have to blow the air in a special way).

  • Knowledge is therefore always activated only during action and new knowledge is always created only during action.

5. The cycle of expectation, action, perception

One can clarify the facts described so far in somewhat extended form with the following scheme:

awareness > expectation > action >

If the perception following the action corresponds to the expectation of the actor, the circular process is completed, if perception and expectation do not correspond, a new cycle of action is set in motion, either with a changed action or with a changed expectation, in any case, even if the changed action was successful, the expectation of the actor has changed in this situation.

Within the framework of these circular processes (emergent) meanings are constructed, actions of the situation are optimized more appropriately and thus the situation-related expectation horizon is changed.

Piaget has also made comparable assumptions about the priority of action for the (ontogenetic) cognitive development of children. Piaget always attempted to relate man’s highest cognitive achievements to his beginnings and, accordingly, sought the root of thought in sensory-motor development. Thus Piaget also speaks of the „sensumotoric act of intelligence“ which, during the first two years of life (and also later), gradually merges into thought processes that are conceptualised as internalised actions. Äbli, a pupil of Piaget, has taken up these thoughts again in his book „Denken, das Ordnen des Tuns“ („Thinking, the order of doing“).

Subjective areas of experience

Action always takes place in situations and is therefore situation-specific, i.e. the associated knowledge is always bound to a specific context. In the course of its development, however, each individual must now act in very different contexts, and if it does not want to let itself be underwhelmed and survive, it must also act successfully. Perceptions, expectations and actions are generated in very different ways and competences are developed in a situation-specific way.

1st example

A child should solve the arithmetic problem 5:2 = ? He sits in front of his notebook and is blocked, forced to formulate an answer, advises it and says three instead of two rest one about. But the same child has no problem at all to divide € 5,00 between himself and his brother, i.e. to divide by two. It is as clear as day to him that everyone gets € 2.50 and when asked how much is 50 cents it also answers promptly that this is half a euro.

This drawer-like order of our knowledge or the compartmentalization of knowledge and the inability to transfer knowledge from one field of action to another without further ado is a characteristic of our cognitive system. We have to imagine this as a patchwork of subsystems, which are partially networked and overlapping, but each of them represents its own area of competence. We call such subsystems Subjective areas of experience in order to express that the cognitive subsystem in question reflects the learning and development history of the individual, with all its associated experiences, emotions, evaluations, reflections, i.e. simply experiences, with the knowledge that can be activated through this.

On the other hand, the existence of subjective areas of experience which are separated from each other and which are activated differently according to the present situation have a good meaning; they secure our ability to act. For many adults, but certainly for all children, the world around them is highly contradictory. However, we must be able to „get rid“ of many contradictions in our concrete actions, because within the framework of the circular processes described only low-contradiction constructions in concrete situations make purposeful action possible. This is facilitated by the fact that similar situational contexts can also activate different, subjective areas of experience. In this way it can be achieved that contradictions hindering the organisation of action between constructions from different sub-areas can be avoided. Problems are then solved in the subjective area of experience in which the situation can be constructed sufficiently without contradictions.

We often move around in familiar environments, encounter problems we have solved several times, meet people we have known for a long time. It helps us a lot that we have many different subjective areas of experience available to us, so we can construct the world around us in very different ways without contradiction. We can therefore behave differently at home than at school, at breakfast than at dinner, on holiday than in normal everyday life, even if the situational contexts for an outside observer hardly differ, as for the teacher the task 5 : 2 or 5 € : 2.

2nd example

Children growing up bilingually, for example, can easily reorient themselves with regard to the language used, and speak Turkish with the grandmother and German with the father if the linguistic contexts are clearly separated, if the grandmother communicates with the growing toddler exclusively in one language and the father exclusively in the other. This also applies to all rules of living together, children know very well what is allowed in one environment and what is not and what is allowed in the other environment.

But what happens to us when we find ourselves in a completely new situation for the first time ? We will try to interpret the new situation on the basis of past experience.

3rd example

Suse, five years ago, at the sight of the setting sun, she says, „Now she’s disappearing into the hole.“ Suse is not impressed by the father’s argument that the sun would appear at a completely different place the next morning. Yeah, that’s where she rolls off to, like billiards.

When our first attempts at interpretation prove to be too contradictory, our cognitive system will begin to develop a new subjective realm of experience. This development starts with very simple characteristics of the new situation, with the search for new correlations of these characteristics. Circular processes of expectation, action, perception are started, discrepancies between perception and expectation that arise are overcome by new cycles of action and constructions of meaning generated in the process. In addition to many unsuccessful attempts at coping, some circular processes will bring about the individual’s sense of successful action. These are preserved as useful or viable structures for future constructions within the framework of the developing new subjective field of experience, while the many unsuccessful attempts at interpretation disappear without leaving traces.

4th example

Karin has heard that the earth is round, and he takes this view as well. When asked how she imagines this, she sketches a picture at the top of the picture: „Yes, we are in the earth inside.“ After a few hours of lessons at school, Karin gets to know the globe and learns that people live on the surface of the round sphere and that this sphere floats in space. She then sketches the two pictures in the middle illustration. When asked: „And where do you live?“ Karin completes the picture as in the picture at the bottom.

As a rule, we only deal with contradictions if we are not under acute pressure to act, e.g. when playing. This is one of the reasons why the learning gain in game situations is so particularly high, a highly familiar affair for children. But of course also to take to heart in school, in that the teacher creates an experimental climate in the classroom.

Motivation to learn

As a rule, you don’t have to motivate children to learn.

Children usually have goals they want to achieve, such as making eagle owl sounds, or building a bridge.

Children want to learn on their own, and they do so permanently.

Children, like all humans by the way, are curious by themselves and want to know and be able to do everything themselves. Unless they’ve been brutally driven out over time.

For this they often need help and guidance. This pays off, because tasks that have been successfully mastered convey a sense of achievement and thus new learning motivations.

Failures, i.e. tasks that have not been mastered, create frustration and can cause children to turn away from whole areas of responsibility.

On the other hand, if after several attempts, the task succeeds nevertheless, a child is usually particularly proud because of the difficulties overcome, the frustration tolerance increases, even in the future a child does not give up so quickly.

Learning process

The constructivist learning model can be described as follows:

  1. Learning is an active process
  2. Knowledge is constructed through social interactions or interactions with the physical environment.
    a) The learner chooses sensory stimuli.
    b) The sensory stimuli themselves have no inherent meaning for him.
    c) The learner makes connections between the sensory stimuli received and parts of his memory which he considers relevant.
    d) The learner constructs a meaning from the new stimuli received through the senses (information).
  3. The learner tests the constructed meaning for consistency and coherence with the previous experience, the cognitive structure, the situation from which the experience came, with his own value system regarding its viability.
  4. The knowledge and opinion structures that an individual already has influence the meaning that is constructed.
  5. The learner incorporates his construction into his memory, through
    affiliation or
    fit or
  6. The new constructions receive a certain status.
  7. Understanding is not the same as believing.
  8. Learning scientific concepts means changing concepts. This is done through reorganisation rather than affiliation.

Task Bridge construction

Various children are to build a bridge over a river with cuboid wooden blocks (approx. 5 x 10 x 2 cm) so that various animals, including an elephant, can later cross the bridge. So the bridge has to carry the weight of an elephant.

The central learning experience is the discovery of the principle of counterweight in order to store cantilevered components stably.

Three boys (Peter, Kurt and Armin) build a bridge according to a different (raw) design, and they also show different technical skills and experiences in dealing with the building blocks. One boy learns the intended principle of the counterweight, the second masters the most diverse possibilities of creating balance and thus also the principle of the counterweight, the third pupil remains despite multiple failures of his construction with his initial picture of the bridge arch, but does not find the principle of the counterweight.

Peter’s building an arch bridge. He lays the building blocks lengthwise parallel to the river and lays them stone on stone, each following one always shifted a little more towards the middle. He builds symmetrically, from both sides of the bank, so that the two sloping towers meet in the middle. Although its sloping bridge sides collapse several times, it does not change its construction. But Peter seems to have an unbreakable confidence that his construction has to work, the success for him seems to be above all a question of the careful layering of the stones on top of each other – similar to the house of cards, which also collapses if the cards are placed on top of each other clumsily: The task is finally simplified by the teacher by reducing the width of the river, so that Peter finally arrives at a successful conclusion to his plan. This was (presumably) an important educational measure that was intended to serve to maintain Peter’s confidence in his ability to build.

Armin is a very agile farmer. Its construction of the bridge resembles rather a gate or archway. This is further emphasized by the block which he places vertically in the middle of the bridge or gate at the top. Only when he is reminded that the animals should cross the bridge does he remove this block again. Armin also builds his bridge symmetrically, from both sides of the river bank. To cross the river, the stones are arranged perpendicular to the flow direction.

The principles of balance, equilibrium and counterweight are familiar to him. A building block is pushed forward only a short distance above the supporting point so that the weight of the block on the other side is still large enough to carry the next vertically mounted block. A tilting of the building block at the next step, just perceived with the eyes, is immediately answered by placing a building block as a counterweight.

Even when placing the top row of blocks, the bricks are first placed in the middle, and then later, when two more blocks are at hand for the counterweight function, they are moved forwards towards the middle of the river.

Kurt first builds a massive bridge bearing, then lays the bricks for bridging across the river, has laid another brick behind the bridging blocks (quasi as an abutment) and hopes to give his bridge sufficient stability by compressing the two bridging blocks with the help of the entire bridge bearing. However, its construction does not hold, the bridging blocks tilt downwards towards the middle of the river.

Kurt begins anew, now supports the bridging blocks with his hand from the middle of the river, deliberately, senses, and completes his bridge construction on a trial basis and, weighing a block he is holding in his hand, places it on one bridging block as a counterweight and then immediately lays a second brick on the opposite bridging block as a counterweight. Now two more blocks are inserted parallel to the first to widen the bridge and finally more blocks are placed as a counterweight to increase the stability of the bridge.

Three children, three task solutions – but also three learning processes?

For the time being, let us use the definition of learning common in educational science as experiential behavioral change!

In the first attempt we will probably only say with Kurt that he has learned something, because as pedagogues we usually pursue (more or less) concrete teaching goals by setting a task, here the development of the concept of counterweight.

In this context Armin – although he mastered the task excellently – did not learn anything, nothing new, he already knew everything, he was too „smart“. Peter didn’t learn anything either, he didn’t master the task, he didn’t develop the idea of the counterweight, he remained „stupid“. Only due to a „teacher“ invention, which created simplified initial conditions, was he able to complete the task satisfactorily for himself. This definition of learning as an intended change in behaviour is problematic insofar as it relates primarily to teaching goals (of the teacher), not to the learner’s goals (or only to the extent that the learner succeeded in making externally set goals his own). Teaching objectives easily obscure the observer’s view of the perception of behavioural changes that were not intended, but nevertheless took place and provide important keys for understanding learning processes.

If the students were asked if they had learned anything, they would probably answer the question yes, we have learned to build a bridge, and rather do a classification in the direction much – little learned according to their assessment of the difficulty of the task. Their (subjective) idea of learning could be formulated as follows: „If I have learned something, I can/know something that I could not do/know before“.

However, the observation is learnt – not always learned with a view to proving a concrete goal of action achieved or to be achieved.

This determination of learning by learners, which is primarily oriented towards the achievement of action goals, is consistent with the description of learning as experiential behaviour change in that it also refers to two points in time (before – after), namely a situation in which a certain ability was not (yet) available, a (expected) successful behaviour was not (yet) shown and a second situation in which a new behaviour is used, which then usually leads to coping with the situation. In the meantime, experiences were made (observations, exercises, trial treatments, experiments, thinking) that stimulated the new behaviour.

The educational definition of learning as a change of behaviour reflects the situation that learning cannot be observed directly, either by the learner himself or by an outsider. Learning can only be accessed indirectly. We observe certain changes in behaviour under certain conditions (exercises, tasks, etc.) and conclude that learning has taken place as a result of external influences and the learner’s reactions to them, i.e. interactions with the environment.

When pupils say that they have learned to build a bridge, this can of course mean very different things in detail, e.g.: to design a plan for a bridge, to implement a plan, to realise a plan with given materials, to know the properties of the blocks (weight, friction, adhesion, centre of gravity), to be able to use blocks in different functions as a foundation, as a support, as a connection, as a counterweight), to have experience with gravity and equilibrium, to be able to assess the load-bearing capacity of a structure, or simply to say that I have successfully mastered difficulties or problems in the task of building a bridge. I hadn’t built a bridge (or any such bridge) before, I didn’t know if it would succeed, now the bridge is there.

If we, as observers, once again follow the development process of the bridges, we will regard such learning outcomes as plausible, but they cannot be observed directly. Let’s spend another moment with Peter. Untiringly he layers the building blocks carefully again and again, shifted diagonally on top of each other. He takes great care, aligns the stones several times parallel to each other again when they have slipped somewhat – trying not to bring down the whole work by manual clumsiness, as in the construction of a house of cards. Peter’s tolerance for frustration seems enormous, showing neither anger nor impatience when his construction collapses again and again. What did he learn? Did he improve his skill in piling up building blocks, did he learn that one must not build bridge arches too wide so that it is possible? Has he discovered limits for diagonal layering of the stones, does he know where the slope can be supported most effectively, or has his self-image – I am (k)a (particularly) successful bridge builder – changed? With the exception of the increase of the skill in building, we can assume all this, but not say with certainty, because we lack the observation situation with the proving for the new learned behaviors.

When we talk about learning, we also associate it with a permanent change in the brain, which leads to the expression of the new behavior due to the behavioral control by the brain. Varela describes learning as such a modification of the brain structure which, due to the interaction of the organism with its environment, leads to a change in the way in which the organism is coupled to its environment. (The bridge arch will be narrower next time.)

Learning serves to expand the behavioural repertoire for viable adaptation to the environment so that the human being (organism) can respond adequately (in terms of well-being/preservation) to environmental events (the need to build a bridge to satisfy the teacher or actually cross a river).

In this example we can follow the birth of the idea of the counterweight in quite detail, the construction of a mental concept, the emergence of meaning. We are referred to the study of the use of body analogies as perhaps a very effective tool for learning and developing meaning.

Let’s recapitulate Kurt’s trial once more.

After the failure of the first construction design, Kurt prevents the bridge from collapsing again by hand support. He keeps the planned arrangement of the blocks, the optical idea of the bridge and searches for a new construction idea, after he had to discard the old construction, to achieve the necessary stability by compressing the blocks, because of unsuitability. Kurt completes his bridge construction plan on a trial basis, while continuing to hand replace the bridge’s missing support. He feels the weight of the protruding blocks, their tipping inwards and sees their slight lifting on the bridge bearing. For a long time Kurt stays like this, slightly moving his supporting hand up and down – as if thinking and thinking. The initiation of the idea of counterweight could arise precisely in the previously described coordination of mental activity with the activated neuronal trace of the body experience of counter-pressing, for the purpose of balance, of (counter-)holding.

The thesis that body experiences organize mental processes is supported by diverse observations and experiences from other areas. Aebli describes thinking as the ordering of doing, Vygotski describes the transition from outer to inner speech as an important part of learning processes. Gestalt therapy activates past (emotional) events by adopting certain postures and tensions, by strengthening certain gestures and movements. Wilhelm Reich came up with the idea of body or muscle armour, which could be softened or dissolved to bring frozen psychic, inhibitory constellations into flow and thus change them. Varela uses the term „embodiment of mental events“ based on research by Mark Johnson, who finally shows how our language is permeated by images and metaphors based on bodily experiences and how our description of reality is shaped by the perception of our body, i.e. our bodily experience.

The far-reaching function of body schemata for the structuring of our experience and (thus) for the construction of meaning shown by Mark Johnson seems to indicate that we are dealing here with a basic mechanism of learning.

How can children be helped to learn ?

And what use is all this to us if we want to support our children in learning?

In my opinion, in order to understand the following suggestions, it was necessary to have an idea of how children learn.

How can children be helped to learn ?

Children need a safe environment in which they can test themselves.

Anxious children don’t learn well.

What belongs to the safe environment ?

  1. Security regarding their physical integrity, one can hurt oneself, but not seriously hurt.
    You should keep this in mind when children do gymnastics, climbing, skating, cycling, experimenting,
  2. But it is just as important, perhaps even more important, not to hurt the self-esteem of their children, and if possible to make sure that others do not do the same, e.g. siblings, relatives, friends, etc. (no laughing, no violation of the boundaries of shame, e.g. telling others that the child is bed-wetter, or beating the naked bottom, for example, objective criticism yes, but no criticism of the person.

Objective criticism should be as constructive as possible.

On the contrary, they do everything to strengthen the self-esteem of their children.

Always tell your child that you are convinced that he or she can do something, that he or she can meet the demands placed on him or her. But of course they don’t overtax it, some things have to be learned long and hard, but they appreciate the efforts and efforts of their child.

Children need company, attention and address.

If they are interested in what their children do all day long, if they take part in what their children have experienced, what joys, what anger, what misfortunes, what successes, with whom and what they play, who they like, what is or was scary to them, tell them about their own similar experiences, now or in their own childhood.

Find out what their children learned today, this week, what was talked about in school, let them tell you what their children did not understand, what their views were on what happened in school, when children got into a fight, why, how they found it, if they were afraid and what, if they resisted, if they held their view. Reflect with your children the events of the day. It’s a good ritual for getting into bed. Try to empathize emotionally with your child’s experiences.

Trust your children.

Make them feel like they can tell you anything. Make it clear to the children that they will probably not like everything their children do or think, that they also have a point of view, an opinion and that they will make it clear to them what they think of their children’s actions and words. Argue with your children – constructively – but always make it clear: We have different opinions, we have to settle or solve this somehow, but in the fact that I love you, I trust you, I find you unique, you are terribly important to me, nothing changes, even if I have to punish you every now and then and you will also be punished.

Give your children the insight that actions have consequences.

Most of the consequences can be foreseen, so one will refrain from those actions that have negative consequences. If you take such actions anyway, you have to bear the consequences. If you haven’t hooked up your bike and it’s been stolen, if you don’t pay attention when drying it off, and the crockery falls off, if you don’t play football where it can’t fly against a window pane and possibly destroy it, if you nag at the food, don’t eat enough, and are hungry afterwards.

Children need a learning stimulating environment.

Things that arouse their interest, that inspire them to ask questions that can be investigated.

And things with which they can deal constructively, with which one can build something or do handicrafts, design something, make something (baking, cooking, knitting, crocheting, sewing, macramé, braiding, kneading rubber, fretwork, making something out of paper or cardboard, folding, gluing, model building. Building blocks, Lego, fishing equipment, sturdy construction kits.

Involve your children in your activities. Cooking, cleaning vegetables, baking, there is a lot for the children to learn, gardening, distinguishing weeds from useful plants, observing the growth of plants, harvesting, going fishing, involving children in manual work, screwing, hammering, gluing, spatula, filing, sawing, enriching. Explain to the children what they are doing and how they are doing it, why and what matters. Let the kids do where it’s possible.

This also includes books, children’s encyclopaedias, non-fiction.

But of course also stories, fairy tales, novels, worlds into which children can put themselves, which stimulate their imagination, texts which interest the children, which they find exciting, which meet with their interest.


Children open up the world through play

role plays

Father, mother child games, merchant shop, play with puppets, Punch and Judy show, play school, drive railway,

Constructive games, like baking cakes in a sandbox, building castles, making a marble run, building with wooden blocks, with Lego, fishing technique, model making, handicrafts with cardboard, paper and other accessories,

Learning games in the broadest sense, dice games in which one moves through foreign regions or countries, games in which knowledge is required,

Skill games like Mikado, egg running, flipp-flopp,

classic strategy games like mill, checkers, chess, go, card games (skat, double head, quartet, but also detective games, monopoly, the settlers of Catan, etc.) which require strategic considerations.

In all games social skills are developed, rules must be learned, observed and observed, people must cooperate or compete with each other, they must be able to lose, allow others to win, practise fairness, pay attention to mistakes of others, draw attention to them or use them for their own victory.


Create a quiet, secure workplace.

Trust in the abilities of the children.

Observe the rules, schoolwork must be done.

Show interest in what the children have learned in school, examine the work, especially the homework the children have done.

Let children find their own mistakes, encourage children to evaluate the quality of their homework themselves.

Leave the responsibility for homework with the children, if possible, and in any case try to make it clear to them.

Explore reasons when children don’t want to do homework.

No way doing the homework for the kids.

Again, help me do it myself. Don’t help till the kids ask for it.

Trying to find out where or why exactly the children cannot cope with the task at hand.

With the children consider sanctions if homework was not done.

Give them credit for something, too.

Challenge your children, even with homework.


Making mistakes is normal. But dealing with mistakes is what matters.

When a child writes the word „Fohgel“, we are at first surprised and do not immediately know what the child means by this word. Only when we read the word aloud, or read it aloud in our minds, do we come to the conclusion that the child probably wanted to write bird. The child has written the word bird quite loudly, it has even observed the rule with the stretching H. So the child has thought logically, it has achieved a remarkable cognitive performance, a remarkable mental performance.

Hans Brügelmann also quotes: „We should pay our children every respect for the high intellectual performance that it means to reinvent such a complex system as writing. Children do not copy the spelling, they do not stack individual words in their heads, but they construct rules from the examples they experience, which they gradually refine“.

However, language and spelling is something that has grown over many decades, even centuries, and the spelling Vogel has become established.

If you now write something that another person should read, you must also use the usual spelling, since the reader will not be clear what the writer meant. Of course, this can often be inferred from the context and by reading aloud, but with the right spelling it is clear what is meant, and therefore you have to learn standardized spelling.

This distinction between regular spelling and traditional spelling and exceptions is important because most words are indeed written the way they are spoken.

This means, in this case, to appreciate the thinking, but unfortunately the agreement in Germany is that one writes Vogel.

If the child writes the word Rate, but means Ratte, then you can remind the child of the corresponding spelling rule, have the word read to you first, if it says Ratte, have it read to you or have a suitable word read to you, e.g. Father, what is the difference? So with a short vowel the following consonants are doubled.

If you want to do the rest, you can search with the child for further examples, e.g. Toto or Lotto.


Learning must be fun, at least pleasant.

Learning can be exhausting, as with sport, which is fun although or just because you have to exert yourself.

Translation: DeepL