5 Reasons to Incorporate Hands-on Learning in Childhood

When it comes to learning something new, would you rather watch a movie, read a book, or hear someone give a lecture about it? The answer you choose says a lot about your learning style. We all learn in different ways, but one of the most important ways for kids to learn and practice skills is hands-on learning. This concept is also known as “experiential learning” because kids need to experience things as they learn. In other words, they learn by doing.

5 Reasons Hands-on Learning Matters

Scientists and psychologists have been studying child development for hundreds of years, and they’ve been studying learning styles since the 1960s. One of their findings says that students who aren’t able to participate in their education or have any control over it have low motivation to learn. That’s what makes hands-on learning so great—children are participating in their education in a tangible way!

1. Hands-on Learning Aids Retention

Experiential learning engages both sides of the brain. Because of this, the brain is able to make better connections and store more information. Plus, the experience of hands-on learning is often memorable on its own. Consider how much more a child can retain if they’re dissecting a frog versus reading about it in a textbook.

2. Hands-on Learning Keeps Kids’ Attention

Hands-on learning is fun! It involves several styles of learning all at once: visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and more. Kids are encouraged to make decisions, control the project, and see what inspires them. With hands-on learning, kids are in the driver’s seat!

3. Kids Can Experiment Through Hands-on Learning

Because hands-on learning leaves the decisions up to the children, they’re allowed to experiment and think deeply. They take risks and learn through trial and error. This develops a kind of critical thinking that’s a necessary skill for whichever profession they choose later in life. Instead of assuming there’s one right way and one wrong way to do things, they’ll see that there’s a multitude of options and outcomes in every challenge.

4. Hands-on Learning Promotes Problem Solving

So, what if children experiment during a project and things go terribly wrong? With experiential learning, that’s all part of the process! Because it’s child-led, the children decide what comes next. How can they solve the problem? How will they have to adjust their expectations? How will they overcome setbacks? Child development experts say problem solving is one of the most important skills a child can learn!

5. Hands-on Learning Produces Interesting Work

Everybody likes to have something to show after a hard day’s work. Children are no different than adults! Hands-on learning projects allow children to have something to show for all of the work they put in. It’s more than just a series of pages in a notebook or a multiple-choice test. They have tangible results to look at, to show their family and friends. This is just one more way hands-on learning encourages kids to take ownership of their learning and be proud of what they accomplish!

How to Incorporate Hands-on Learning at Home

No matter the age of your children, they can benefit from hands-on learning opportunities at home. Here are just a few ideas for children of all ages!

All Ages: Subscribe to Kids Art Box

When you subscribe to Kids Art Box, you’ll get hands-on art projects delivered to your door every month. Every art box includes easy-to-follow tutorials and all of the supplies you’ll need to complete the projects.

The Create Together Art Box, designed for kids ages 3-7, provides a meaningful way for you to engage in experiential learning alongside your child. Every project is child-led, but you’re right there to encourage and guide your child. There are three art activities, one science project, and one visual recipe or origami tutorial in each box. Your children will love the hands-on art supplies—glitter, sand, gems, ribbon, and beads are just a few of the creative materials!

For older children, ages 6-12, order the My Artist Box. They’ll get instructions and supplies for four art projects inspired by the artist of the month. Plus, there’s several pages of educational material in each box. It’s the perfect opportunity for kids to express their creative side, learn new techniques, and practice their artistic skills.


  • Pour shaving cream on a baking sheet and have children draw letters in it.
  • Draw large letters and encourage children to mimic the shape by placing play dough or Wikki Stix on top.
  • Sensory bins are great for this age! Here’s one idea: bury pictures of objects that rhyme in the sensory material. Kids can fish out of the items and match up the rhyming pairs.
  • Choose ten letters and write each one on a sheet of paper. Write the letters on sticky notes, one letter per sticky note. Hide the sticky notes around your home. Encourage your kids to find the sticky notes and match them to the paper with the correct letter.
  • Play with your snacks! Print or draw cards with a number of circles. Write the total number at the top. Encourage your children to put one piece of snack in each circle to build up to the final number. Cheerios, fruit snacks, and chocolate chips work great for this activity!

Elementary Children

  • Buy a pack of alphabet beads and encourage kids to spell by stringing them onto pipe cleaners.
  • Practice math facts by rolling two dice and adding or subtracting the numbers. You can also do this with Uno cards.
  • Here’s another idea that works with addition or multiplication. Roll out a piece of play dough and provide the children with a few Duplo blocks or Legos. Also give them a stack of numbers written on sticky notes. They should use the blocks or Legos to stamp the quantity in the play dough.
  • To practice multiplication, use a muffin tin. Write out multiplication equations without the answers. Have kids sort objects (small blocks, marshmallows, or marbles, for example) into the muffin spots in order to get the answer.
  • Older elementary kids can turn any topic into a lap book. Browse on Pinterest to see all of the creative ways kids can turn a boring manila folder into an imaginative display of what they’ve learned!

Middle School Children

  • Teach and reinforce math skills by taking your children grocery shopping. Allow some extra time and encourage your child to chart the expenses and follow a budget.
  • Science experiments are great for this age. You don’t need strange chemicals or expensive supplies. There are tons of experiments to do with the things you already have at home! Check out a book at the library or do a Google search for ideas.
  • Cook with your pre-teen! This is a hands-on idea that can be incorporated at any age, but pre-teens are capable of being independent in the kitchen. Give them some guidance, but let them take the lead!
  • Practice critical thinking and writing skills at the same time by creating a scavenger hunt. Encourage your child to write creative clues and include a few surprises!

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