How do children learn? This article explains the different factors affecting how children learn, and how this helps you to best work with your child.

By Sue Clarke, teacher and trainer, British Council


Your child is an individual and different from all others. The way your child learns best depends on many factors: age, learning style and personality. Read the notes below, and think about your child. This will help you to choose activities and methods that will suit your child best.

Children pass through different stages of learning

  • A baby or infant learns about the world through the senses.
  • From about two until seven years old the child starts to develop the ability to reason and think, but is still self-centred.
  • After the age of about seven a child usually becomes less self-centred and can look outside themselves. By the age of 12 most children can reason and test out their ideas about the world.
  • This means that with younger children we need to personalise and give examples which relate to themselves, whereas older children need help to make sense of the world around them. This also means that children must be at the right stage of learning. For example younger children are ready to learn about numbers, colours and shapes but are not ready for abstract grammatical rules.

What kind of learner is your child?

  • It is important to understand how your child likes to learn best. Which are the child's dominant senses? Do they like pictures and reading? If so you can encourage your child to use drawings, pictures, maps or diagrams as part of their learning.
  • Some children like listening to explanations and reading aloud. You could use stories to encourage this kind of child. And most children enjoy learning through songs, chants and rhymes.
  • Does your child like to touch things and physically move about? Some children have lots of energy! You could play games to get them moving or running around, acting out rhymes or stories or even dancing!
  • Quieter children may have a good vocabulary and be good readers. Word games, crosswords, wordsearches, anagrams and tongue twisters would be good to encourage these children.
  • Other children require logical, clear explanations of rules and patterns, or like to work out the rules for themselves. They may be good at maths too. For these children, activities such as puzzles, problem-solving, ordering or categorising provide ideal opportunities for learning.

What kind of interaction does your child prefer?

  • Some children are outgoing and sociable and can learn a language quickly because they want to communicate. They are not worried about making mistakes.
  • Other children are quieter and more reflective. They learn by listening and observing what is happening. They don't like to make mistakes and will wait until they are sure.
  • If your child is outgoing they may prefer learning in groups with other children, whereas a quieter child may need more private, quiet time to feel more secure about learning a language. A bedtime story in English could be an opportunity to provide this quiet time.

Motivating your child

  • For a child to be motivated, learning needs to be fun and stress-free. Encourage them to follow their own interests and personal likes. For example if your child likes football he or she will probably like to read a story about football even if the level is a little difficult. Interest and motivation often allow children to cope with more difficult language.
  • Try to provide as many fun activities as you can for learning English. Songs and music, videos and DVDs, and all sorts of games are motivating for children.

For how long can your child concentrate?

Children can usually only concentrate for short periods of time. Make sure that you stop or change activity when your child is bored or restless. This might be after only a few minutes.

Correcting your child's mistakes

Children respond well to praise and encouragement – let your child know when they have done something well. Don't criticise them too much when they make a mistake. It's natural to make mistakes when learning a language. Don't correct every grammatical mistake – encourage your child to use English to communicate.

Repetition and routines

  • Children need to repeat language items many times to remember them so don't be afraid to repeat games or do several different activities with the same language topic or set of words.
  • Children often love to repeat the same song or story as it gives them a sense of confidence and familiarity.
  • Establishing a regular routine for homework is also important. Set a regular time for homework and help your child as necessary.
Do you or your child need more help with your English?


Hi, thanks for your question.
Although you normally speak Bengali at home, perhaps you could have certain times in the day when you regularly speak English to your child. I would definitely suggest a daily English storytime when you read picture books together. Try to use books with colourful illustrations. Point to and name pictures on the page in English. You could use everyday situations to practise vocabulary for everyday objects, for instance when you are eating or cooking. 
Do any other parents have suggestions about speaking English as another language in the home?

Jo Blackmore
LearnEnglish Kids team

Hi, I have a 2 years old daughter. I teach her leaning english by flashcard and song. ABC ..
She is very happy when reading picture. and remember many new words. helpful

i had a 5 years old son. how to teach him to learn english at this age .thanks

Hi Myint Ko Ko,
Why don't you try using the picture books to teach your child simple words in English. It's also a good start for him/ her to get familiar with a new language besides the mother tongue.

I have two boys, one is 8 years old, and one is nearly 5 years old. The younger boy stars to learn English now, but he never listen to me he only listen to teacher and at home sometime he pronounced wrong then I corrected but he did not follow. I have to ask his teacher reteach him on the next day....How to teach him in right way...

Hey This is Mamta .my son is 5 yrs old, and going to a Montessori school in Mumbai, India . We' ll be moving to Riyadh next year and intend putting him in British school. Now I wanted to know what is the entrance exam like in British schools. Mamta

hi , i had 3 and 4 years old daughter, i need found in the side how to write alphabit and printing this alphabit Drip try upload that and more topics of painting

Dear Myint Ko Ko and Azizah Ahmad
Why don't you ask your questions in the forum? I'm sure someone there will have some great ideas for you.
Just so you know in a few weeks we will have lots of new songs and stories for younger children to help them discover different English sounds.
LearnEnglish Kids team

now i had 2.6 years old to teach her to learn english at this age and for future.

Very simple...
You speak with your family member in English at home. That's all.