Your baby needs motivation in order to learn. Motivation to learn can be an intrinsic and natural desire, or it can be an extrinsic drive, such as the desire to be number one in the class, to make a parent proud, or to get a degree. Your baby is intrinsically motivated to learn; she does not need prompting, direction, or bribery to explore and experience her surroundings.
She naturally perseveres and enjoys making discoveries for the pure delight and pleasure of explanation and understanding. In addition to solving problems, she may seek novel challenges.
Motivation can come from inspiration, the drive to know, and the eventual satisfaction of expressing ideas or finding solutions. It can also arise from a need or deficiency.
According to Maslow’s theory of human motivation, people are motivated by physiological needs, safety, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization. These motives are hierarchical. When one need is satisfied to a certain degree, the next level of need emerges. Maslow says that the human desire to know and to understand may satisfy needs of basic safety, as well as expressions of self-actualization.
Motivation is the motor for learning. When you encourage your baby without pressure to enjoy acquiring knowledge for its own reward, she will be inspired to be self-directed and intentional as she learns, rather than focused on gold stars and other extrinsic goals.
Provide Natural Motivation
You can help your child sustain her natural motivation and love for learning in the following ways:
- Praise her efforts rather than her success. For example, say, “You worked hard painting your picture,” instead of “You painted a beautiful picture.” Your words of praise for her process help her learn to put forth effort, not to concentrate only on the goal.
- Pay attention to what inspires, interests, and excites her.
- Provide a motivating, inspirational environment. An environment that invites learning has good light, low noise, natural materials, and clean spaces for working.
- Model your own intrinsic motivation for learning. Your enthusiasm for learning is contagious and shows your child that learning is fun and enjoyable.