Many adult learners quit their courses halfway because of different reasons including learning difficulties. Several types of research have found that children learn better than adults because of biological activity. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is more developed in adults but less flexible, and underdeveloped but more flexible in children. The prefrontal cortex is defined as “the grey matter of the anterior region of the frontal lobe in humans that plays a role in the control of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning.” In simpler terms, children are designed by nature to learn until they reach an age where they have mastered all of the abilities required to function properly in the world.
Kids have more neurons actively creating new connections than adults do, so they can do things like learn to play tennis or memorise the multiplication tables or learn to play video games, or fix a computer much more easily than we can. So it’s much better for you to expose your kids to lots of different things—repeatedly, ideally—to allow those connections to be formed, rather than trying to catch up later. Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Other researchers have found that children are better learners than adults because of some characteristics other than biological factors. Because these other factors are behavioural, adults can adopt them to help them become better learners.
Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. Abigail Adams
Children are curious
Children look at the world with inquisitive interest. They ask questions and try to understand their environment. This is how children generally learn, whether in the classroom or outside. Unlike adults who are more “closed” to new experiences because of previous bad ones, children are more open and explorative. A significant characteristic of adult learners is that they are ‘fixated’, which means that they focus on only topics that they can apply in their professional lives. When an adult does not perceive the need for a conference or seminar in their working field, they are very likely to refuse to go. Even though this is not a bad attitude, it can have some negative outcomes like reduced creativity. Adults can be better learners if they are as receptive and explorative as children.
The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size. Albert Einstein
Children are playful.
Children learn through playing. Their increased physical activity makes their minds active and healthy. Psychologists have found that being in a happy mood releases hormones that improve memory. If you want to be an exceptional adult learner, create an environment that boosts your mood. You can go to the park, or the beach to read if you have to. Just make sure you’re not weighed down by negative emotions.
Children are carefree
Children do not think about the consequences of their actions. They just go right ahead and do what they want. This is not particularly a good thing but it can be a positive quality if translated into adult learning. Adults are too careful and uncomfortable with trying new things because they are afraid of doing it wrong or failing, whereas children are unconcerned and will try anything, even if it is completely off the topic and completely new. It is a good quality to be careful and responsible but it is also a healthy quality to loosen up sometimes and allow yourself to experience new things.
Childhood is the time of man’s greatest content. ‘Tis during these years of innocent pleasure that the little ones are most free from care. [ … ] Their joy is in being alive, and they do not stop to think L. Frank Baum
Children have time
Well, this is the most obvious reason why children learn better than adults, they have time. They don’t have jobs, and they don’t pay bills or have as many responsibilities as adults. This makes them more relaxed and ready to learn. Adults may not have the same level of freedom and relaxation as children but they can certainly make a conscious effort to create time for themselves. Time to learn and explore new skills, as well as time to rest their mind.
No two brains are the same, and one person’s learning style may be difficult for another. This is especially true when you consider how much faster children can learn new skills than adults. True, mastering a new talent gets more difficult as a person ages, but if you want to expand your knowledge quickly in your “old” age, you need to embrace some of the characteristics that make children faster learners.