Learning is a necessary activity for children, for adults too in the complicated modern world in which people today live. As a grown-up, this author has found that she can focus and learn when she really needs to know something in a specific and immediate circumstance. She will also learn when she perceives that doing so will be a distinct and significant advantage to her.
For example, she mastered use of the cell phone when she was away from home and needed a way to converse with family that didn't cost an arm and a leg. She first placed a book order online when the weather was too cold and miserable to go to a book store or the library.
Children are motivated in similar ways. Given incentives to learn, and sufficient motivation, their flexible little minds will amaze you at how quickly and thoroughly they can absorb and apply new skills.
(a) Read interesting books to children from the earliest ages. Let them see you enjoying reading. Give them lots of reading material - comic books are fine. They can move on to better literature later. Make the library a second home.
(b) Obtain and drill Phonovisual Charts where every letter makes a certain sound, although there are exceptions. The writer has taught children, for whom English was a second language, to read within a few months using this method.
(c). Give them pressing reasons to read: ask them to find a favorite show in the TV Guide, play word games like Junior Scrabble, or let them choose an easy recipe to prepare and serve at a family meal.
(a) Help them write "thank you" notes, Halloween cards, fan letters to favorite music stars, enter writing contests in a local newspaper for Mother's or Father's Day, or write letters to the editor of a children's magazine. Let the child's interests guide you. Be alert for opportunities to encourage the child to write.
(b) Enlist their help in writing down menus and games for their birthday party and other special occasions. List people to whom to send Christmas cards. Note family's and friend's birthdays and other special occasions on a large calendar to be hung in a central location in the home.
(c) Purchase a colorful, lined Journal or Diary for the child to write in daily. Sometimes he may only choose to write one sentence, but once the habit is formed, he will want to record more on days when special things happen.
(a) Start counting experiences early. How many spoons will we need for dinner? How many guests for your party? How many treats for your class? How many miles to Grandma's house? The answer to each request must be meaningful to the child at the time.
(b) There are many board games which will hone mathematical skills: Monopoly, Cribbage, or Snakes and Ladders, etc. Look for age-appropriate ones and increase the level of difficulty as the child grows older. There are also free websites that drill Math skills using attractive game-like formats.
(c) Many skills, like the multiplication tables, must be memorized. I have developed songs which make this task easier.
Of course, there are some tasks, like homework and memorization work which are boring, difficult and/or uninviting. In those cases, a creative parent can and should provide external motivation. It doesn't take much to make a child happy- an extra half hour of TV, a trip to a movie or the ice cream shop, or maybe a new book or game.
Every little effort you make now will be amply repaid in years to come, when your cherished little one becomes an intelligent, self-motivated, and successful adult in his own right, thanks to your dedication and patience.