Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style

by Emily Graham

If your child constantly squirms and fidgets when he or she is doing math homework or insists on listening to music while studying vocabulary words, take heart. Although it may seem as though your child is trying to drive you crazy, he or she is probably just using the strategies that help him or her learn.

Children’s Learning Styles

Educators have long been aware that learning is not a one-size-fits-all process. In a typical classroom, some kids process information best by hearing the teacher explain it, some learn by seeing what’s on the chalkboard, and others learn through hands-on exercises. Colleges have increasingly begun teaching new students about learning styles so they can develop effective study habits. Many primary and secondary schools conduct surveys to give teachers insight into the learning styles of their students.

Three basic learning styles are auditory, kinesthetic and visual.

Auditory learners prefer listening to explanations over reading them and may like to study by reciting information aloud. This type of learner may want to have background music while studying, or may be distracted by noises and need a quiet space to study.

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing and touching. They may have trouble sitting still while studying, and they are better able to understand information by writing it down or doing hands-on activities.

Children’s Learning Styles

Visual learners process new information by reading, looking at graphics or watching a demonstration. Children with this learning style can grasp information presented in a chart or graph, but they may grow impatient listening to an explanation.

Most people use a combination of styles but have a clear preference for one. Understanding your child’s learning style can reduce homework frustrations and make it easier for your family to communicate. If you have a child who has difficulty listening in class, look for exercises to strengthen listening skills.

Once you know your child’s primary learning style, it’s a good idea to let his or her teacher know what kind of approaches help him or her learn best. Educators are much more willing to work with you if you’re giving them ideas that work for your child. Keep in mind the things that benefit your child are really going to benefit all the kids, so don’t be afraid to discuss this with your child’s teachers.

Although it may be tempting to stick with what works, keep in mind that a child’s preferred learning style may change as he or she grows, and that people who can learn in a variety of ways can more readily absorb information. Help your child practice using different kinds of skills.

Well-balanced students will be able to be comfortable learning in all ways. Knowing that and working to develop a balance in learning styles when they’re young gives them a competitive edge.

Parents can use a variety of approaches to help kids learn math facts, for example. When a kid gets bored with flash cards, a visual and auditory strategy, let him or her play a family board game that uses two dice and ask him or her to count how many spaces each player should advance. This is a more kinesthetic approach, but may also appeal to visual and auditory learners.

Being able to tap in to different styles allows you a lot of novelty and adds fun and variety to homework, chores and interactions at home. For example, if a child resists studying his or her spelling words, you can ask him or her to spell the words on a table using Scrabble tiles.

Being aware of your child’s learning style can reduce homework battles and strengthen parent-child relationships. It’s very important for families to understand each other and how they learn and think to work out problems. This kind of involvement is a great way to bond with your kids and to impart knowledge, and it’s fun.

Homework Tips for Each Learning Style

Auditory learners are typically good at absorbing information from spoken words. Strategies that work well for auditory learners include:

  • Talking to themselves or with others about what they’re learning
  • Reciting important information aloud, perhaps recording it and playing it back
  • Reading a book and listening to the audio book at the same time
  • Using word associations
  • Setting information to a tune and singing it to help remember it
  • Limiting distracting noises

Kinesthetic learners prefer to be active while studying and may not be able to focus while sitting still. Strategies for kinesthetic learners include:


  • Reading aloud and tracking words on a page with a finger
  • Writing things down multiple times to commit them to memory
  • Highlighting and underlining
  • Playing with a stress ball or toy while studying
  • Moving around or taking frequent breaks
  • Doing hands-on activities, such as building models or playing games

Visual learners benefit from seeing information on a chalkboard or in an illustration and may grow impatient listening for long periods of time.

Strategies for visual learners include:

  • Using flash cards
  • Studying charts, tables and maps
  • Drawing illustrations
  • Writing things down and reviewing notes
  • Highlighting and underlining
  • Color-coding information