Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

Discover the skills that every child needs.

Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

Discover the skills that every child needs.

What is Self-Directed, Engaged Learning?

Setting goals and strategies for learning fosters children’s innate curiosity to learn and helps them be better prepared to change as the world changes. It’s through learning that we can realize our potential.

The Life Skill of Self-Directed, Engaged Learning calls upon the executive function skills, including not going on automatic but instead reflecting upon the experience or situation and setting goals and working toward them (inhibitory control); and being flexible in thinking about how to learn something in a new way (cognitive flexibility).

Promoting Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

Here are some research-based factors that matter in improving the Life Skill of Self-Directed, Engaged Learning:

  • Help children establish trusting relationships that promote learning. Relationships are the fuel of learning.
  • Help children set and work toward their own goals or wishes, beginning with an exploration of what interests them.
  • Involve children in learning in ways that draw on their social, emotional and cognitive capacities. Children learn best when they’re fully engaged.
  • Help elaborate and extend children’s learning by stretching their thinking and offering new experiences and information that builds on their interests.
  • Help children practice, synthesize, generalize and share what they have learning to bring together different ideas and use what they have learned.
  • Help children become increasingly accountable for their own learning by creating safe spaces where they can learn in ways that build on their strengths, instead of focusing on weaknesses.
  • Create a community of learners and model your learning by sharing something new or how you’ve learned from a mistake.

In the child’s world, the caretaker is a powerful, almost magical being. Let’s use our magic to engender love and spark life-long learning in the hearts and minds of our children.

Andrew N. Meltzoff

University of Washington

Get More Tools & Resources to Build This Skill

Skill-Building Book Tips

These free, downloadable resources offer tips for building the Seven Essential Life Skills based on classic and diverse children’s books that promote the skills. Designed for three age groups, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age, Book Tips are available in English and Spanish.

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Skill-Building Opportunities

Picky Eating, Bedtime Fears, Meltdowns, Constant Crying, Sibling Rivalry! We’ve researched the questions families and teachers most frequently ask and created short free guides, available in English and Spanish, for professionals and families to help turn common behavioral issues into opportunities to promote critical life skills in children.

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Vroom Tips

Vroom, another program of the Bezos Family Foundation, translates the science of early brain development into 1,000+ free tips for adults with children ages 0-5, turning any moment into a brain-building moment.