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How do children learn? | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12) | ConnectedCoaches

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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How do children learn?

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How do children learn? It’s child’s play

It is a well-known fact that when we are enjoying something, we learn better.

Children who enjoy themselves are more likely to stick to an activity, be receptive to the task at hand and apply themselves with such dedication that learning and improvement almost invariably follow.

Fun and enjoyment are a key part of successful children’s coaching, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

Other things to take into account include the following:

  • Children learn by doing, through watching others and also listening to instructions. The balance between these three ways of learning is critical for coaching success. This balance changes from child to child and through the different stages of development.
  • Children need to experience a certain level of achievement to stick to an activity and, in turn, give themselves a chance to develop a skill further.
  • Children learn best in an environment where they feel it is OK to try...and safe to fail.
  • Children live in the present. As they mature, they will be able to understand more about the future and about ‘delayed gratification’ and ‘cause and effect’.
  • Even the most exciting toy, ‘all bells and whistles’, gets sidelined very quickly when the new toy in town arrives. Children crave variety. They get bored really quickly, and finding different ways to do the same thing is crucial. Unnoticeable repetition is the key to skill development with children.
  • Emotional and cognitive (thoughts and feelings), social (enjoyment and fun) and physical (‘I can do it’) development go hand in hand. Drop one and you drop the others. Children need to be challenged on all fronts for maximum effect.
  • Everything children do is aimed at preparing them to become independent adults. Overdependence on the coach is not a good sign.
  • Learning takes place along a bell-shaped curve: matching the level of demand with the current capabilities of the child is the key to learning.

What does all this mean for your coaching?

Think of examples of ways in which you currently apply these learning principles to your coaching and new ways you could try next time you coach.

For instance, you could:

  • make sure you allow enough time for children to practise the activities and that you reduce the amount of talking you do
  • challenge yourself to ensure all the drills you run are fun and enjoyable
  • cut to a minimum the time children have to wait between each period of activity (no long lines, and quick transitions)
  • find ways to modify your activities so every child feels some degree of success
  • look for or create new drills and activities to give your sessions a fresh look.

Next Steps 

If you coach children aged between 5 and 12 years of age why not develop your coaching by attending sports coach UK’s practical Coaching Children (5-12) workshop?

Find out more about Coaching Children (5-12).

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