An Active Mind

How to help your kids “turn on their brain.”

An Active Mind


All children are by nature active learners. From a very young age, children are exploring and trying to make sense of the world around them. They are inquisitive and curious and inherently brilliant. But often, when it comes to school, that brilliance seems to fade.

There are a multitude of reasons why children lose their natural curiosity and encounter academic trouble. In school, they are expected to follow a certain path and conform to the curriculum. They have to study subjects that may not be in keeping with their personal interests. And that’s when their passion tends to diminish.

As parents, we don’t want to see our children have difficulties in, our out of, the classroom, and we want to encourage them to use all the resources that they have available to them. Luckily, there’s much we can do on a daily basis to help kids develop their active learning skills.

Engaging the mind

Active learning is not just another academic buzzword. It’s a real and valuable talent that all kids can acquire. So what exactly does it look like?

Rather than sitting in a classroom passively writing down notes, a student with an active mind is asking questions about the new material, seeking understanding, and relating what is being taught to pre-existing knowledge. He/she:

  • is always engaged
  • notices detail
  • infers meaning
  • develops understanding
  • integrates past experiences with the 
present action, and
  • judges the appropriateness and value of anything and everything

With a little coaching and modeling from 
parents, kids can start to scrutinize their work and their world more and more.

Practise daily

Active learning is not restricted to the classroom. Children (and adults too) should always be thinking about the world around them. In fact, the more that children practise outside of the classroom, the more they are able to apply it in class.

You can help your child get that practice on a daily basis, just by asking questions that will help “turn on” his or her brain. Do this during any adventure or activity, whether it is walking in the woods or reading a book together. Ask questions:

? before the activity, to signal to the child that he/she needs to be thinking critically about something. “What do we already know about what we are about to do?” or “What do we think that we might learn?”
? during the activity, to draw connections or highlight details. “What else is this like?” or “What does this remind you of?”
? after your adventure, to reflect on the experience. “What did you see that was new?”

And when you are having conversations with your child about day-to-day experiences, remember to always ask “Why?” or “Why do you think?” Avoid general questions. Rather than, “How was school?” try, “What did you learn in history class?” Remind kids that there are no wrong answers, and that trying to answer questions is an important part of the active thinking process.

The more that a child is mentally alert outside the classroom, the easier school becomes. Once a child flips on the switch and becomes an active learner, that switch never turns off.

Author: Tom Hawks

Tom Hawks is the Director of Oxford Learning in Ajax and Pickering:,

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