Raising a little explorer
With a preschooler in tow chances are that the many questions pertaining to the what, why and how are now an integral part of your parenting journey. It is this curiosity in children that is the very basis of their learning. Whether they are playing with clay, painting or building blocks, they are picking up a whole lot of new skills as also developing problem-solving abilities. Compare this with the passive learning that comes from just teaching them the alphabets and numbers alone and you will want your child to become a little explorer. Here are some of the things you can do to set him on his exploratory journey and encourage him along the way:
- Offer choices– Give the child different things to play with. From toys to books to paint, each of them will do their bit to develop his gross and fine motor skills as also to keep his mind stimulated. Remember though that children tire of things easily. Pulling these things out a few at a time will therefore ensure that fatigue does not set in easily.
- Ignore the mess– Hard as it may sound the mess created on account of that finger paint isn’t a good enough reason to limit the child’s exploratory streak. It is best to accept that you will need to spend some time cleaning up after the activity and therefore to budget for that time. In fact you could even involve the child in the clean up process, which further builds a sense of responsibility in him.
- Offer toddler proof areas– As parents we often find ourselves worried about the child’s safety and hence constrict their movement and with it their natural urge to explore. The better idea is to create a toddler proof area instead that does not limit his activity while offering you complete peace of mind.
- Stock enough books/picture books– Stocking your home with books is likely to provide motivation to the child to read and develop a life long friend in books. To build your child’s early relationship with books keep them handy in places that the child can easily reach for them himself. Setting aside a reading time will be another good way to spark the child’s interest in books. In fact while reading the story you could ask the child what he or she thinks will happen next, to keep them involved. Not only will this stimulate them to think, telling you about it will help develop their language skills.
- Build on the child’s interests-Children go through phases with varied interests, all that you need to do is to fuel them. So if the child is enamored by trains, a visit to the rail museum or better still an actual train trip will help his discover many more things especially because the subject is of interest to him. Similarly if dinosaurs hold his fascination, a museum visit will be in order. You could also buy a T Rex puzzle that the two of you can build together. Research has shown that high achievers have had their parents’ support and encouragement in good measure. Pushing the child towards areas that are favourite with other children or hold your own interest, on the other hand may not be the ideal way to get the child’s creative juices flowing.
- Raise an outdoors person– While you may do the mall and amusement park routine, it will be a good idea to have the child connect with nature. Plan a camping trip with age appropriate activities of course or go out on a fishing expedition. While on the adventure, be cautious of their safety by all means but do not treat them as if they are fragile. They will sense your fear and become wary themselves. Allow them to fall and get up, all the while encouraging them to do their best. Another thing to remember is not to box them up into gender assigned roles. Your daughter will benefit as much from that trudging in the mud as your son.
- Do not pressurize the child– Now this one may be the toughest. The fact is that in our bid to motivate the child, what we often times land up doing instead, is pressurizing them. So if he unable to finish an activity quickly we may show our frustration through our words and gestures that the child is quick to gauge. More often than not in a bid to save time we also jump at completing the activity ourselves, forgetting in the bargain that we are robbing the child of the opportunity of developing those problem-solving skills himself. The one thumb rule to remember is that as parents we need to prepare the child for the road and not the road for the child. You, therefore have to allow for enough time for the child to manage things him self while being supportive of his endeavours. Needless to say that if at any time you feel that the child is nearing frustration, a friendly hand may be in order.
- Talk to them– Taking the time to answer the many queries of the child is important. It is perfectly fine if you do not know the answer to every question. In fact looking up answers will mean you can benefit from the joys of discovering new things together. You can also choose to ask them questions, which will engage them and fuel their thinking capabilities besides also helping them develop their language skills. Pro tip- When you are asking him about his day at school for example, specific questions on what he ate or what the rabbits were up to, work better than the open ended (and clichéd) how was school today?
- Rewards for an activity well done may not bring any rewards at all– Often times in our bid to get a child to read a book or complete an activity, we tend to offer a reward. While we may temporarily achieve our objective of having the child complete the activity, in the long run we are turning the child’s attention from pleasure that he derives from the activity to the reward. Next time around, even if the child found the activity pleasurable, the only way to get him to do it will be to offer him that Popsicle.
- Encourage him for the effort– More often than not the outcome of the activity determines our response. When it comes to kids however, appreciating them for the effort not just the outcome is most important. What you are motivating him to do, therefore, is carry on with his quest without being overly worried about the results. This lesson will stand him in good stead in his adult life as well as he will not be unduly wary of making mistakes. On the other hand, if you push him to overachieve as you worry about his future, what you are compromising in the bargain is his love for learning.