At first blush it would seem counter-intuitive- teaching your child something, instead of letting her figure it out on her own, means she’ll learn less.
“The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery” was published in the September issue of Cognition. Unfortunately the article is behind a pay wall, so we’ll have to get info from second hand sources like Strollerderby and The Economist.
The crux of experiment presented in the paper is that children who were shown a toy and how it worked accepted what they were told, played with the toy for a short time, and found out little more about it. Children who were told nothing about the toy explored it on their own- they played with it for longer and discovered more features, they learned more about it.
Perhaps my perspective is different from the bulk of Strollerderby and The Economist readers- I’m a scientist, I spend my days trying to figure out how things work with no teacher to instruct me. I’m used to working on problems with no known answer- trying to find those answers by experimenting on my own. That’s how science works. That’s how scientists discover new things, understand how things work.
It’s not that remarkable that children should operate the same way. I’ve said it before, everyone is a scientist, using the scientific method whether they’re trying to fix a leaky toilet, cure cancer, or work a new toy.
I know kids are always asking why- and it’s a challenge to answer all of those questions. But how often do kids ask how? Not as often- because adults always jump in to show them. Perhaps we should take a step back and let them figure things out on their own? It would seem that they’d do a better job on their own.
Do you let your little ones play solo or do you try to engage them? Do you show them how their toys work or let them figure it out on their own?