What Parents Can do to Promote Healthy Observational Learning

Observational Learning from Parents

Observational learning in childhood refers to the process where adolescents learn by watching others, retain the information, and subsequently replicate behaviors that were observed. For most Canadian kids, observational learning occurs in the home as they watch every little thing that their parents and siblings do. The process is advantageous when activities promote a healthy lifestyle, but can backfire when observations include activities that are potentially problematic. Habitual smartphone use is a clear example of the latter. While parents are quick to chastise their kids for spending too much time on mobile devices and playing video games, it’s them (parents) that are setting the example. CBC reports that in a recent survey, nearly 50% of parents admitted that they spend too much time on their smartphones. To keep from fostering a similar environment and forming behaviors in your child that may carry through into adulthood, we encourage you to be more mindful of observational learning. In doing so, you can alter your own behaviors when around your kids so that you teach (without teaching) by example. Below are five healthy “activities” that you can become more engaged in that your child will observe and learn from. Make one or more a part of your daily rotation through summer vacation and beyond.

5 Things Parents Can Work Into Their Daily Routines to Promote Healthy Observational Learning for Their Kids This Summer (and beyond)


1. Gardening

Observational Learning from Parents

Head outside into the yard and start gardening. You won’t even have to ask them to join you as they will see how much fun you’re having as you plant seeds, water crops, decorate the space, and mingle with birds, beneficial bugs, and other awesome pollinators.

2. Cheffing it Up!

Observational Learning from Parents

It’s time to start cooking in the kitchen, like really cooking (and baking). Put the TV on blast with Canada’s top cooking/baking shows playing in the background as you experiment with new foods (including those grown in your garden), spices, sauces, and ingredients on a daily basis. Feel free to work on your Julia Child impression which will make your child think that you’re a little off your rocker. This will only attract them to get involved even more!

3. Playing Outside Every Day

Observational Learning from Parents

Never let a day pass without going outside to play. Yes, we’re talking to you parents. If your child sees you grab a basketball, racket, club, stick, bike, or whatever floats your recreational boat (a kayak works too) for even just 30-minutes a day they will learn to follow suit with you and/or with their friends. Keep it going through rain, sleet, or snow through all four seasons and you’ll show them that nothing can stop you, nor them.

4. Getting Crafty

Observational Learning from Parents

Remember when you were a child and dedicated hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon to drawing, painting, pasting, building, or sculpting? Why did you stop? Put the digital devices down and get crafty with your favorite creativity tools. Start artisan projects so large that you will never finish (it’s the journey, not the destination) or do a series of small projects that require a daily touch so that your child observes your immersion in it on a frequent basis. We can all but guarantee that they will ask to help or start their own.

5. Volunteering

Commit to supporting a non-profit. In addition to donating funds (if you’re able to) donate your time, knowledge, and skills as applicable to a given organization or foundation. Your child will observe you doing things such as fundraising, managing food drives, or participating in marathons and the like that will develop altruistic behaviors within them that could one day change their community for the better, if not the entire world.


The Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation works tirelessly to inspire and promote healthy living for kids across Canada. Help us help the next generation by pledging your support too! View more on how you can get involved.

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