Are you a kinesthetic learner or teaching a kinesthetic learner? If your child prefers the kinesthetic learning style, then teaching with kinesthetic learning strategies may improve your child’s comprehension. Even if kinesthetic learning isn’t a preference, some activities for the kinesthetic learning style can help you improve as a learner or as an educator. As you explore kinesthetic learning, look for ways you can use these characteristics and activities to improve your learning or teaching strategies.
What is kinesthetic learning?
The kinesthetic learning style reflects a marked preference for tactile, hands-on learning experiences. This style is also called tactile learning or experiential learning. Kinesthetic comes from kinesthesis or kinesthesia, which is the experience of receiving information from the sense organs: touch, taste, smell, see, and hear. The difference between kinesthetic learning and auditory or visual learning is that a kinesthetic learner prefers to directly experience what they are learning about. Being a kinesthetic learner means that you often want to learn by doing—through hands-on activities, by participating in demonstrations, or moving manipulatives around.
Regardless of learning preferences, studies show that there is a direct relationship between movement and memory and learning. In general, all students that participate in active learning (learning with movement) will retain more of what they learned over time.
Importance of Kinesthetic Learning
Using kinesthetic learning strategies can be especially helpful in learning skills that require movement and coordination. Muscle memory allows you to complete familiar tasks or actions using motor functions without needing to think. For example, for most people, writing—which requires a series of complicated fine and gross motor skills—becomes so automatic that older children, teens, and adults rarely need to think about how to form letters to write a word. Similarly, when typing, we rarely think about the position of the letters on the keyboard or even the spelling of the word to type words. The same applies for all skills, crafts, and trades that use repetitive or practiced movements to perform well.
Kinesthetic learning activities develop physical connections between a concept and a real, tangible thing or action. Just as manipulatives help students develop number sense, using kinesthetic learning strategies builds connections and improves memory for specific skills, especially if the students do activities multiple times. The importance of kinesthetic learning comes in that all kinesthetic activities benefit all students, regardless of learning preferences.
Kinesthetic Learner Personality
If you or your child prefers kinesthetic learning, then you learn best by actively participating in learning. You’ll often retain information and new skills best by diving into a new activity and learning as you go rather than being told how to do something first. When you’re learning a new skill, look for ways to be physically involved. You might find it helpful to make up motions or gestures to represent vocabulary words or sequences that you have trouble remembering. Kinesthetic learners also learn best by adding a physical activity, like walking, bouncing, or fidgeting, to their study time. These simple physical activities improve focus and recall for all learners, not just kinesthetic learners.
Kinesthetic Learner Characteristics
A kinesthetic learner may
- Enjoy activities they can participate in rather than just watching,
- Find it easier to read or listen to directions as they go rather than be given directions ahead of time,
- Benefit from mild, repetitive activities while studying,
- Prefer walking tours, learning with gestures or motions, and hands-on, manipulative-based activities over lecture or quiet seat work, and
- Benefit from taking notes or doodling to add a passive physical element and increase focus.
Strengths of Kinesthetic Learners
- Kinesthetic learners often excel at diving in and trying new activities.
- They typically need little direction to get them started on new tasks.
- They may gravitate towards active hobbies, skills, and trades that they can learn by doing.
Kinesthetic Learning Examples
Kinesthetic learning comes when students do things themselves—typically with a physical activity. The first example of a kinesthetic learning experience that many of us share, aside from walking, is learning to write. As students learn about letter shapes and motions, they generally spend time tracing letters and drawing them with their fingers. Once they begin writing, they’ll practice writing the letters to develop fine and gross motor skills. Other examples of kinesthetic skills include
- Riding a bike
- Aerobic stretches
- Drawing and painting
- Needle and yarn art
- Using scissors
Best Learning Environment for Kinesthetic Learners
To create or find a learning environment for kinesthetic learners, understand that freedom of movement is a requirement. If you want to encourage learning for your kinesthetic learner, you can’t have a bottoms-on-the-chair approach. Your top strategy for learning should be to get them up and moving and physically involved in learning. You might arrange a walking tour as a learning activity. Maybe you could add a trampoline they can bounce on while reading or memorizing. Give them a fidget toy or sketch pad to encourage focus for times when they must sit still. As much as possible, do lab activities in science and use manipulatives in math.
Study Tips for Kinesthetic Learners
- If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you may benefit from handwriting notes rather than typing or just listening. When you’re studying, highlight or underline important information. These are small but simple ways to be hands-on with your learning.
- Walk or pace when you’re memorizing.
- Make up motions or gestures to help you remember vocabulary words or sequences.
- Role play what you’re learning about.
Activities for Kinesthetic Learners
If you’d like to bring the kinesthetic learning style into your homeschool or teaching approach, try some of the following activities to get your learners physically engaged with their lessons.
- Manipulatives. Manipulatives are physical representations of ideas and concepts, so they give tactile learners a chance to touch and feel an idea.
- Walking tours. Walking tours get kids up and moving. You might put pictures up on the walls for kids to go and visit and look and different inventions, set up a picture zoo, or create a small art gallery in your home.
- Role play. The power of a child’s imagination can give a sizeable boost to recall and engagement when they get a chance to physically act out events in history, stories, or discoveries.
- STEM. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities give students a chance to use what they know in multiple disciplines to create something that solves a real-life problem.
If you’re not sure what learning styles you prefer, take our learning styles quiz or read about all 7 types of learning styles.
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