10 Easy Ways to Scaffold Your Child’s Learning

Please enjoy this excerpt from our ebook ‘How to Super Boost Your Pre-Schooler’s Learning.’ If you’d like to download our FREE ebook, click here.

Scaffolding is one of the most effective ways to take your child’s learning to the next level without stress, pressure, tantrums or boredom.

But what is scaffolding I hear you ask? Let’s find out.

Lev Vygotsky, a well-respected developmental psychologist proposed a theory that learners have a ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD), a region where they acquire new skills more readily with the assistance of someone more knowledgeable than themselves (Berk 2001; Vygotsky 1962). From this theory, the term scaffolding was born and as the term suggests, it aims to support and extend learning. Scaffolding is a technique you can use to guide a child’s construction of understanding and assist them to reach new levels of learning they otherwise couldn’t. As discussed in the last segment, it is important to have an idea of your child’s stage of development so that you are not pushing them too far outside the ‘zone’ (ZPD) but are taking them just far enough to co-construct new learning. Teachers use this method all of the time and you can too if you would like to super boost your child’s learning.

Here’s a great quote from Vygotsky himself!

“An essential feature of learning is that it creates the zone of proximal development; that is, learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers.” – Lev Vygotsky

Scaffolding is also a great way to foster relationships. It allows us to:

  • Be an attentive parent without having to swarm around like a helicopter parent.
  • Build trusting relationships where feelings of cooperation, teamwork and collaboration are fostered.
  • Learn from anyone who has achieved the next level of learning: grandparents, older siblings, parents, friends, etc.
  • Help children to become self-regulated learners where they feel comfortable to have a go at new things independently.
  • Observe the progression of the learner, which is amazingly satisfying and rewarding.
  • See children achieving things for the first time.

10 Easy Ways You Can Scaffold Learning

1. Provide your child with games, activities, and experiences that are just outside of what they can already do comfortably. You will need to be available to support them to truly scaffold their learning.

2. Resist the urge to do things for them. If they say,“I can’t cut this shape out”, no matter how easy or convenient it would be for you to do it, you are not allowing them to try something new. Instead, you can help them hold the paper while they cut, or place your hand over their cutting hand while they cut, or talk them through it.

3. When you see your child struggling allow them to problem solve, but
 if they aren’t getting anywhere give prompts. You can also assist them to look for alternatives if no resolution can be found.

4. Use questioning to guide exploration, problem solving, or finding an answer. Scaffolding is not answering for them or directly showing them how.

5. Encouraging children to extend their thinking will take their learning to the next level. Saying things like “Yes we will try that. I wonder if there is also another way” or “Why do you think that happened?” or “What do you think would happen if we…?”

6. Make sure you are aware of when your child is becoming frustrated. This could be an indicator that the activity, game or experience is a little too far out of the ZPD. If this happens, you can ask if they need a break and you can adapt the activity to suit their needs.

7. If you have a particularly complicated task or activity, break it down into smaller more manageable steps so they are challenged but are not overwhelmed with difficulty.

8. Waiting to be needed is a great way to identify when scaffolding should take place. If their behaviour is telling you that the activity is a little too difficult to be completed on their own you can step in with some scaffolding techniques.

9. To scaffold learning outside of play situations you can model your behaviour out loud. For instance, “Hmmm, I wonder how I will be able to water this plant now that the watering can is broken.” Work through a few different options out loud so they can hear how you are problem solving and the reasons why you chose your final alternative.

10. Helping children to plan their ideas or projects is a great way to scaffold. Ask them what equipment they may need and the steps they will take. Assist them to plan, to make their ideas a reality. A great way to help with the planning is to draw each step they suggest so they can follow it as a visual plan.

Reference: Berk, L. (2002) Child Development. 5th Ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from our ebook ‘How to Super Boost Your Pre-Schooler’s Learning.’ If you’d like to download the rest of the FREE ebook, click here.