Supporting Children’s Informal Learning

Messages from Chinuch Research Center

As parents, we all want to give our children the best possible education. Did you know that learning doesn’t just happen in school or yeshivah? In fact, children start learning from a very young age, and parents have a unique opportunity to support their children’s informal learning outside of the classroom. In this chinuch resource article, we’ll provide tips on how you can enhance your child’s learning while making it fun and engaging. From developing fine and gross motor skills to language development, we’ll explore ways you can help your child learn and have fun at the same time. So let’s dive in and discover how you can support your child’s education beyond the classroom!

Supporting Children's Informal Learning

The traditional view of learning is that most of it happens in school and yeshivah . But this is not entirely true. Children learn from a very early age, long before they start school. In fact, parents have a key role in helping their children learn, starting at the youngest age. 

This chinuch resource article provides some advice about what you, as a parent, can do to support your children’s learning outside of school. 

Exploring The Environment

Babies and young children are learning constantly about their environment.

Everything they do provides them with new information as they explore the world. The most helpful thing that you can do to support the learning is to encourage exploring, and ensure that the children are safe. 

In practice, this means providing children with what they need, within reason, and in an age-appropriate manner.

  • For babies, these provisions include a variety of toys with interesting textures, appearances, and sounds. Of course, they must all be safe to put into the mouth. You will also need to allow the children to explore different environments, including your house, and also other houses, gardens, and parks.
  • For toddlers, the scope is more extensive, and may also include using mud, sand, soil, water, paint, playdough, and cooking ingredients as ‘toys’, and providing more places to visit and play. The important thing is to enable hands-on play without worrying about the mess. 


This means that everything may get a bit messy. You can clean up later; children and clothes are all washable.

As your child grows and develops, his understanding and interactions will certainly change as well. He will likely have different reactions to the same places and the same toys, so everything doesn’t always have to be new. For example, a baby may be fascinated by the ducks in the pond in the park. A toddler will probably enjoy throwing birdseed or small bits of bread to feed them.

A Range of Experiences…

If possible, try to give your child a range of experiences and opportunities that will enable him to develop both fine and gross motor skills.

  • Gross motor skills involve whole body movement, such as walking, running, balancing, climbing, riding a bicycle, and generally movement. 
  • Fine motor skills are about being in control of small parts of your body, such as being able to hold a pen, or creating something out of playdough.

As you help your child explore the world, you may want to think about using a coaching approach. That means that you don’t directly answer their questions, but you guide them in figuring out their own answers by allowing them to experiment.

Language Development

Language development starts almost from birth. It is an ongoing process throughout childhood, and into adulthood as well.

From the age of just a few months, babies start to make noises in imitation of speech.

Gradually, their sounds become more coherent, and eventually distinguishable as real words. Simple words and two-word phrases become sentences.

To support this process of speech development, the most effective thing you can do is talk to your baby.

What you say does not have to be profound, just be persistent in talking. Talk about what you are doing, what you and they can see, what is going on outside, and so on. Effectively, provide a running commentary on your day.

Try to refer to everyone, including yourself, by name, not by pronoun. Pronouns are difficult because they change, depending on who is talking. It is better to say:

“Mummy is going make Tatty’s dinner now”

rather than

“I’m just going to make your dinner now”

Only You will ever be ‘Mummy’ (same for ‘Tatty’ or ‘Zeidy’), whereas any number of people could be ‘I’. This will therefore make it easier for your child to decode your speech and also remember people’s names.

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes have developed for a reason: they help children learn. This is because they are sung repetitively, and so they become like familiar friends.

Research shows that babies respond best to a familiar and loving voice singing nursery rhymes or simple songs.

In other words, regardless of how well or poorly your sing, your baby will get the most out of you singing to them, and not by them listening to a CD. If you prefer, you can always sing along with a CD.

Music and Sports Coaching

Many children take part in activities outside of school, such as extra learning, studying music, etc.

The question for most parents is:

  • How much time should they give these outside activities?

Then there is a second question:

  • And how much should I make them practice if they really don’t want to?

We all understand that skills generally only improve with considerable amounts of practice, whether that is for learning, music, and so on. 

But it is important to know that you (or your child) can still enjoy taking part in something without being especially good at it.

You may, therefore, like to think about a few other questions regarding extra activities, including:

  • Does my child do this because they love it, or because I want them to do it?
  • Are they happy with their level of learning?
  • I already have to force them to do homework. Do I really want to spend my life nagging my children to do something that they do not want to do, especially if it is voluntary?

All these questions get to the heart of whether this extra activity is actually for you or for your children, and whether you think they should be doing these extras to improve and eventually to shine.

You are the only person who can answer these questions for you and your family, and know that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. 

In conclusion…

It seems likely that the best way you can help children learn is to give them a wide range of experiences and opportunities, and help them follow and pursue their own interests.

We all know that we learn best when we want to learn.

This applies to children too.