Is your kid a visual or hands-on learner?

Don’t worry if your kid doodles while revising, or fiddles with his pen. EVELINE GAN finds out how to use his innate learning style to help him study better.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Is it better to write down notes, make flashcards, watch educational videos or read out loud when revising school work?

The truth is, every child learns differently. There is no “good” or “bad” way to do it, shares Lee Sue Lynn, academic director for the Early Years and lower primary programmes at The Learning Lab.

Part of it has to do with your kid’s personality and lifestyle.

“If we consider the range of personalities among children, surely it is logical to look at each child’s learning profile as unique, too,” she explains.

Figuring out how your kid learns best and playing up his strengths can make a huge difference. Researchers say that children acquire and retain knowledge better when they learn in their preferred learning style, she says.

A word of caution: Avoid pigeonholing your kid’s learning style and demand that he learns only in one way, she warns.

“Just as you would not eat your favourite hamburger for every meal, a child will not study in the same way every day, too. The point is to identify your child’s preferred learning style to enable him to customise his learning environment or tools, so that he gets the most out of it,” she says.

With that in mind, Sue Lynn rounds up four main learning styles and shares smart study tips for each one. 


Does your kid like making notes, drawing or doodling? Does he zoom in on illustrations in his textbook? Visual learners are motivated by what they see.

“They may show a tendency to recall what they see rather than what they hear,” Sue Lynn says. In fact, they may find it tough to remember what they have heard unless there is a visual element to it.

STUDY TIPS Crafting mind maps or drawing pictures may help him learn better than just study notes.

Exams and tests often appear in fixed formats with walls of tests, and few diagrams and charts. Encourage your kid to draw boxes around key words or draw arrows between parts of text when sourcing for answers. By creating these visual cues, they process information more quickly and accurately.

Visual learners may find it challenging to write down a set of sequential steps when presenting solutions to a maths word problem.

Remind your child that there is a need for a step-by-step explanation in these situations. 


Auditory learners prefer to hear information rather than read or see it. They are motivated by sounds so they tend to take verbal instructions well.

Before and while working on a task, they may ask a lot of questions. They also tend to recall information shared with them verbally and can remember what they say to others. 

STUDY TIPS Let your kid read out loud when studying. Encourage him to repeat what he has learnt to you or ask questions.

Have your child make a recording of the content he needs to revise so that he may replay it at a later time. Auditory learners may also benefit from listening to music while studying.

Such learners tend to hum to themselves during lesson time. When engaging in quiet work in a classroom, encourage your child to focus on sounding out words of written instructions in his mind so that he remains motivated to complete the task. 


If your kid seems fidgety in class and loves taking things apart, he could be a hands-on learner. Also known as kinaesthetic learners, such kids learn by using movement.

Hearing the teacher drone on for hours in class is their worst nightmare. For them, “doing” is key.

“They love to be in the thick of the action because that’s where they best acquire and retain information,” Sue Lynn says.

STUDY TIPS Spending long hours in the classroom may be challenging, as kinaesthetic learners may not get the chance to move around and express themselves.

One way to sustain their attention span is to write and decorate notes in class.

Let your child incorporate movement into his studying methods. Resist the urge to criticise him when he does things like tap his pen, bounce his legs up and down as he revises, or pace up and down the room while absorbing information.

Some kinaesthetic learners remember better when they engage in an activity or are allowed to play/ fiddle with an item linked to what they are learning, Sue Lynn shares. So, get creative with learning tools. For instance, use manipulatives for maths, play educational games that require plenty of action, and so on. 


Definitions, explanations, notes and handouts – the more, the merrier for read-write learners, who process and retain information by writing and reading.

Interacting with text, rather than image-based information like charts and diagrams, works better for this group of kids.

STUDY TIPS Visual elements like charts and diagrams are becoming increasingly important across English, math and science content. For kids who learn better through words, this can be a hurdle.

Encourage your child to take notes in class.

Then, use these notes to organise information into charts and diagrams of his own. This helps him to process the information better.

Teach your kid to annotate diagrams and charts with words or phrases. That may help him make sense of visual ideas.

In school, lessons and instructions are often delivered verbally. A read/ write learner should focus his energy on worksheets and handouts.

By translating what he hears on a page during lesson, he will be armed with additional information that can be used to bridge his understanding of complex concepts and ideas.