Earlier this summer, my husband Brian and I took our 20-month-old granddaughter to her neighborhood playground. She loves to climb up the slide ladder and giggle her way down the slide. She was wearing a new baseball cap that Brian had brought her. As she climbed up the ladder, the brim of the cap was getting caught in the rung just above. She quickly stopped, looked up, lifted her hand and turned the cap around, so the brim was in the back. Then she was able to keep right on climbing! I was amazed at how quickly she figured out the problem and solved it. When I told that story to an educator friend, he reminded me of what good intrinsic knowledge she demonstrated.
Intrinsic knowledge is simply defined as occurring as a natural process, or instinctively knowing something. Often, it’s what you know without even realizing you know it! For example, in infants it’s the startle reflex or being able to self-soothe and go back to sleep. In older children, one example is balancing when learning to ride a bike.
Intrinsic knowledge often leads to intrinsic motivation. For example, you might have a child who naturally just loves to run—and runs everywhere. That’s the child who will probably enjoy learning the math involved in using a timer or stopwatch. Or your child might be that quiet observer who hears and understands much more than you realize. He’s the one who might say a few weeks or months later, “Remember you said we can go to the zoo the next time we visit Uncle Frank.”
Awareness of and building on intrinsic knowledge and motivation can accelerate your child’s learning. Here are ways you can help:
When a child has a genuine interest, he is more likely to do well and stay with a task until finished. Recognizing and making the most of your child’s intrinsic knowledge will prepare her well for a lifetime of learning.