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Are you wondering how you will support your child’s learning?


Learn like 3 year olds, and do it together!

The most important message for parents to hear and understand right now is that you are not expected to replace teachers, who have specialized training and extensive experience to do what they do.  You can, however, play a critical role in your child’s continued education by supporting them as learners.  What does this look like?  It is actually quite simple- Learn like 3 year olds, and do it together!

Think about how your children learned when they were very young.  They were curious, carefree, persistent, and self-motivated in their learning.  Young children learn to walk so that they can keep up with those around them and quickly get to the things that they need and want.  They are persistent in their quest and they keep trying even when they fall. They start with crawling, then pulling up on furniture and toys, and then finally venturing off on their own as they wobble, fall, get up, wobble, fall, get up.  Do you remember what you did?  You likely cheered them on, encouraged them to get up when they fell, and cheered even louder when they did get up.

Young children are CONSTANTLY learning.  They ask lots of questions, they explore the world around them, they try things and fail but then they try again.  Children make mistakes and fail in their attempts to build or create, but they learn and make changes.  Children are expert learners!  And parents- what was your role?  You likely encouraged them, praised them, learned with them, answered their questions, and continually provide opportunities for them to explore and wonder.  You see, you are also expert supporters of learning!

This is what I mean by Learn like 3 year olds, and do it together!  You can do this, and you will do it well.  We are here to support you and provide you with a helping hand here and there.

Your role in supporting learning

When children know how to think deeply, creatively, and critically and when they can engage in dialogue that encourages them to question their own thinking and to use the ideas of those around them as they create new thinking and new ideas, they WILL learn.  Children and adults who possess these qualities are positioned to learn about any content in any context and are more likely to be motivated to learn.  Here are three keys for you to focus on as you support your child in learning:

Focus less on content and more on connections and challenge- You cannot possibly be an expert on all of the content your child is supposed to be learning in school, and your child is not likely passionate about all of the content they are expected to learn.  Focus instead on connecting with your child through dialogue and shared activities.  Challenge your child to think more and critically question by asking them lots of questions and encouraging them to do the same.  We have created a Home Resources page to help you with ways of doing this.

Don’t be concerned with products- get in the pit instead- Learning is not measured by tangible outputs- worksheets, physical projects, reports, etc…  Don’t worry about having a final product to show that learning has occurred.  The best learning often occurs when humans struggle to make sense of they world as they figure out how their ideas and perceptions fit in with other’s perceptions.  Learning is enhanced when we  have to reconcile the inconsistencies that exist in the world.  This is what James Nottingham calls the Learning Pit®.  The Learning Pit® is described below.

Worry less and wonder more- These times will cause many people to develop fears and anxieties.  When you or your child begins to feel this way, take time to wonder.  Wonder about what you will do in a few months when life is more normal, wonder about places you have always wanted to explore, wonder about what your child wants to do when they grow up.  Explore these ideas and places by researching, connecting with others through social media, or simply by asking lots of questions and deciding which ones you can find answers to.

The Learning Pit®


In 2007, James Nottingham created the Learning Pit® as an avenue for children to think about their learning.   It is a way to encourage children and adults to feel comfortable with uncertainty and conflict because they can see the ultimate benefit of that struggle.

The Learning Pit® is a visual representation of the movement from our comfort zone at the edge of the pit, where we practice skills that we already posses and engage with concepts that we already understand, into our learning zone at the bottom of the pit, where we have ideas and knowledge, but we are not certain about how they fit together.  It ends with a Eureka moment on the other side of the pit where new ideas have been formed and some clarity has been achieved.  This Eureka moment is a time to celebrate and honor the learning that has occurred.

The pit is a phenomenal way to talk about struggle and to encourage engagement with struggle.  You can talk to your child about times when you are in the pit, or you can ask them if they are in the pit.  You can discuss ways to get out of the pit and how exciting it is to feel that sense of accomplishment.  You can talk about how unfortunate it would be to never get into the pit and miss that celebration at the end.  You can find more pit images, including one that is appropriate for younger children here.

Click here to see an animated video explaining the Learning Pit®

Additional Reading


Encouraging Learning

Challenging Early Learning

Encouraging Learning is the perfect guide to support your children’s learning at home. It shows you how to help children of all ages grow in confidence, thoughtfulness, and independence.

Its author, James Nottingham has spent the last 20+ years advising teachers, leaders and parents as to the best ways to encourage, challenge, engage and significantly improve learning. He is also the founder of our company, Challenging Learning, with its team of 30 teacher-trainers, designers, and researchers.

Encouraging Learning explores the attitudes, skills and knowledge needed to excel in all areas of learning, and gives guidance on:

  • Helping children develop curiosity and a love of learning
  • Developing questioning techniques that will encourage wonder
  • Using games to develop problem-solving skills and children’s imagination

Challenging Early Learning is written primarily for Early Years professionals running childcare facilities, EY centres, pre-schools and nursery provision. Parents with a grounding in education, child psychology, or social care will also appreciate the insights and guidance. The book shares some of the best ways to enhance young children’s learning (particularly for children aged 3-7-years-old).

The authors, Jill and James Nottingham started an educational company in 1999 to support local nurseries and schools with the development of Philosophy for Children. This evolved into a multi-million pound, social regeneration project to raise the aspirations and abilities of young people in North East England (and more recently into Challenging Learning, the company hosting this website). With the success of this project, early childhood centres across Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand wanted to get involved in the Nottingham’s award-winning approaches to challenge, dialogue, feedback, questioning and progress.

This book shares the best of those strategies, including:

  • Building children’s confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy
  • Using feedback more effectively to encourage children’s love of learning
  • The best ways to listen, question, and encourage young children
  • Early learning activities that engage, challenge, and entertain young children

Check out our Home Resource Page