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"The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.” — Maria Montessori The 1946 London Lectures

Most of us have heard about hands-on learning as a style of learning for your child. I want to explore with you what hands-on learning is, what it looks like and how it can benefit you and your child.

Children begin at an early age to handle things and this is how they explore the world around them. Hands-on activities bring learning to life and it gets your child up and moving. It will get their blood pumping and their minds geared for learning.

Best of all... it's fun!

Hands-on Learning is Engaging & Helps with Retention

Providing a child with hands-on learning materials helps them engage with learning on many levels. They are able to use their senses (touch, sight, sound, taste, smell, & movement) all while learning. Using all the senses helps build patterns in a child’s mind about how persons, places, or events related to each other.

Creating hands-on materials takes creative thought and extra effort, but the overall benefits for the child are worth the work. Because hands-on learning helps the child retain the information.

Hands-on Learning Engages the Brain

Hands-on learning engages both the left and right sides of the brain. It uses eye-hand coordination and also fine & gross motor movements that cross the midline and thus engage both sides of the brain. The left hemisphere is listening and analyzing functions, while the right hemisphere is visual and spatial functions. Using multiple modes of learning, the brain is able to create strong pathways and thus retain more information.

Hands-on Learning Helps with Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Creativity

Students increase their critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity through hands-on learning experiences. While doing hands-on learning, they must make decisions on what to do next to receive the outcome they are seeking. They do not have to rely upon memory for a step-by-step formula but instead are inventing as they go and seeing their creative project come to life as they design and redesign it.

In essence, the child is learning by doing... even if that doing is making "mistakes." It's not the end result that matters so much as the process along the way. The child is tinkering, calculating, and imagining... and this is a beautiful way to learn. They are actively creating knowledge and not just passively consuming it.

Hands-on Learning & Life Skills

Children want to DO "real work" and feel that they have contributed to the family, classroom, or society at large in some meaningful way. Children are not as engaged in just school, or "busy work." They want to know that what they are doing can be of benefit to their future.

For example: How does sweeping the floor help the child in their future job career or marriage?

The child is taught to pay attention to the corners, under the mats, and along the door jam. Paying attention to these little details will open up opportunities for them in the future. Because they learned from an early age to do a job well.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. - Benjamin Franklin

Why I Use Unit Studies For Hands-On Learning?

The beauty of unit studies is that the caregiver can plan and create a prepared environment for the child that embraces hands-on learning. I love unit studies because teaching can be simplified for a younger child or expanded for an older child.

There is great flexibility within a themed study for the child to ask questions and explore deeper into a topic of interest... if they so desire. Or basic information can be presented, and then all can move on. So the themes can grow and expand each year as your child develops and grows older.

  • Follow the Little Hands Learn plans at

  • Keep it simple

  • Use hands-on learning printables

  • Print, laminate (optional), and cut the printables

  • DIY or buy hands-on materials for the theme

  • When ready to use – place the prepared materials on trays on a shelf

  • Review the lessons (in the LHL plan) and present the lessons to the child

  • Gather books from the library to match the theme

  • Include many subjects in each theme: Science, Practical Life, Language Work, Math, Sensorial Work, Music & Poems, Arts & Crafts, Movement (fine & gross motor), Holidays, Nature (observation & journaling)

Hands-on learning can be messy and time-consuming, but it can also be fun. Your child will learn practical life skills while creating lasting memories with you. Let's embrace our children's creative hands-on learning desires and foster them. Encourage your child to exercise their creative muscles and grow... grow... grow.

Let's connect!



Vanessa writes at My Little Hands Learn and started her blog as a way to express her creative side with others. She homeschools her two children with a Christian hands-on learning style and an emphasis on Montessori-inspired education. Vanessa has a Bachelor's degree in nursing, however, she considers her full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom to her children. She takes great joy in watching her children discover the beauty of the natural world and sharing inspiration with others.


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