Why Do Children Learn Differently than Adults?

Learning is hard, period. There are no magic pills for learning. There is no secret or shortcut to achieving knowledge. There is trial and error, there is training and practice, and above all, there is repetition and consistency. Children and adults have the ability to learn, we all do. However, one thing that children have and we don't is time. Time that we, adults, are always running out of constantly. Time that children possess a whole lot of, and that is one of the major equalizers in our lives.

Time defines everything. But, how does time define our learning process? Wallman estimates that American adults have about 36 to 40 hours of “free” time in a week. (This tracks with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018 American Time Use Survey, which found that men and women spend 5.7 and 4.9 hours of time respectively on leisure activities each day.

On the other hand, Teens report having an average of five hours and 44 minutes of leisure time daily, a major chunk of that is spent on screens.

And surprisingly, not only do kids have less free time, but they're also spending less time playing outdoors. A study published in 2017 by Gallup found that children spend an average of 18.6 hours of their free time playing on screens per week compared to 10.6 hours spent playing outside per week.

Children learn under the guidance of a teacher, which is referred to as pedagogy. American educator Malcolm Knowles suggested that the same method does not apply to adults; he pushed for the idea of andragogy or the science of helping adults learn. Knowles’ five assumptions became the centerpiece of his revamped model of adult learning.

Experts have a way of finding a solution for everything. I was a child once, of course, And I know from experience that learning for me was a visual experience. Teachers are supposed to teach, but I think that they teach more when they are not saying anything and you learn from their faces and reactions more than their words. 

Children are like sponges, they absorb everything, the good and the bad, and then they project things as if they were original, but it is just mimicking the reality around them. If we are going to analyze the findings previously mentioned, we come to the conclusion that the main difference between children and adults is that time plays an important factor, and that we learn from teachers one way or another. 

Having experiences is another factor that contributes to the process. Children do not have as many experiences as adults. This can be good and bad at the same time. Good because children create core memories, and bad because we have been taught the wrong way and then it is much harder to change our ways from scratch. 

I always go back to the time factor. Children spend more time developing verbal and motor skills, whereas adults spend their time working and making money to feed themselves and their families, but this work came from training, or trial and error. Adults do most of their work by muscle memory and not necessarily from new experiences. 

I am an English teacher, and I tend to relate everything to my field of study. English is not my native language, and I was a child once. I did not learn English when I was a baby. I started learning English at the age of eleven. That is eleven years that I was not in contact with the language. Although I was aware of it, I never thought it was important for me. 

Learning English at the age of eleven is not that bad, I know. Learning something at any age is not bad either, it just requires more dedication. When I was eleven years old, I started to learn the language because it was part of my school’s syllabus, not because I chose to do it.

See? I did not choose to do it. It was there for me to learn. Adults have that choice. We decide what we are going to do if we are going to learn another language or not. If we think that learning another language is the best way to improve our way of life. Simple. 

We, as adults, decide what to do with our time. We are aware of the consequences.. Children spend their time in school or with babysitters. There is not much of a choice there. Children are exposed to many things beyond their control. 

In conclusion, we have to accept that time plays a very important role in our lives, whether you are a child or an adult. We also have to realize that there is no bad schedule for learning and that we are the ones who, in the end, choose what to do with our time and the things we want to learn.


1 https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/06/how-successful-people-spend-leisure-time-james-wallman.html

2 https://tinybeans.com/pew-research-center-how-american-teens-spend-their-time/

3 https://www.businessinsider.com/5-ways-kids-spend-time-differently-today-than-in-the-past-2018-9

4 https://www.theclassroom.com/children-vs-adult-learning-6368845.html

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