Children are natural explorers. On the one hand, this means that they get to explore several avenues, but on the other, their interests could be fleeting. “ I will be a singer when I grow up” to “I want to be a vet”, can happen in a matter of days.
While it is important to let the child explore various options, do you sometimes wonder if there is a way to help them find their interest? Here is a handy framework:
1. Figure Out Their Natural Talent
First things first, it is important to find out what the child enjoys doing. This step is about having a conversation with them, as well as observing them to see what are some of the talents they naturally possess.
While observing the child’s interest is important, writing down your observations will provide clarity. Some of the things to think about & document include:
✔️ Which activity is the child excited about?
✔️ What do they spend time mostly on?
✔️ What do they work hard at doing? and more
For example, you might find out that the child’s interest is in music. It is the time to dig deeper to figure out if they like to sing or whether their inclination lies in playing a musical instrument. On the other hand, you may notice that the child loves to work with mechanical devices. You often find him or her taking apart electronic equipment and then putting them together with ease. If so, it is important to encourage the child. Who knows you have an engineer or a technician in the making.
Often times we forget that talent can show up in a number of ways & is not limited to some activities such as playing sports, singing and dancing that we traditionally associate with young children. In fact, Studies at Harvard University have shown that children can display intelligence in many different ways- it could be through words, numbers, music, athletics, hands-on abilities, and more. It will therefore help if you provide a sensory-rich environment at home. Ensure you have material that stimulates the senses. Finger paints play dough, puppets, instruments, there is a lot you can offer.
2. Provide Exposure
In the growing years, it is important to expose the child to a number of activities. That is the only way the child will get to figure out his interests. To assume that the child isn’t gifted in a certain area may not be true; it may well be that he has no exposure to it. A word of caution here though- in trying to expose the child’s interest to multiple avenues, do not land up overburdening the child with back-to-back classes. This could put too much pressure on the child. Additionally, it could put a lot of monetary burden on you.
When the child does not show promise in any of these areas, you could, in turn, pass on your frustration to the child. Simple best practices to follow include signing up for demo sessions, having them explore different clubs in school, letting them participate in community activities, and more. You can also plan family projects around some activities. Shared creativity can go a long way in developing new talents. Additionally, your own passion for learning will act as a great role model for the child.
3. Do not limit the child to labels
It may feel natural to proclaim that your child is a great artist and not a great math aficionado. Your labels, however, unwittingly can severely limit the child. In fact, it could saddle the child with a reputation that the child finds hard to live up to. Similarly, steer clear of encouraging any gender biases when it comes to activities. So telling a girl child that playing with cars is not for her when the fact is that she may have an innate talent when it comes to automobiles. It is best to expose your child’s interest to all kinds of toys & activities irrespective of gender stereotypes. Pro tip- A child’s gifts can be stifled on account of biases and stereotypes as also on account of repressed emotions. So make sure you encourage them to share their feelings.
4. Give permission to make mistakes
Above everything give the child permission to make mistakes. The child may stick to some activities, not stick with others, and may do well in some and not so well in others. The key is to give the child enough room to explore. It is only through the process of exploration that the child will reach his or her true potential. Forcing the child to do something or to do something a certain way, may turn out to be counterproductive. The child may have pleaded to join swimming as an activity and yet after two sessions may hate getting into the pool. You need to be patient through this.
Remember that if children are sent to classes with the expectation that they will shine at every activity, it may put too much burden on them. Gently encourage them but steer clear of judging or evaluating them, as that may lead to them giving up on their talent.
Similarly, while it may be tempting to bribe your child with rewards for doing a certain activity, it is best not done. While encouragement is crucial, bribes typically convey the message that learning the activity is not enabling in its own right.
To Sum Up
It is important to offer choices to children as they go a long way in fuelling initiative. Remember, however, that the child may land up finding an activity that he likes in one go or it may take him a few tries. Either way is fine. It is also important to remember that what may work for one sibling may not work for the other. Comparisons are therefore a strict no-no.
At Pragyanam School, one of the top schools in Gurgaon, we believe that every child is born with limitless potential and that as adults we need to do our best to nurture their potential. To this end, we expose the children to a wide range of activities. What the children also imbibe are life skills that help them navigate life with ease. Our philosophy at Pragyanam is to enable children to believe in their potential and also to prepare them for the road ahead, as opposed to trying to prepare the road for the child.
Here’s to each child rising up to his or her fullest potential!