How to encourage your child’s special interests

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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One of my favourite parts of being a dad is watching my girls begin to show interest in specific activities. Up until the age of two, I’ve found kids can get excited about anything as long as it has colours, numbers, letters, wheels, no wheels a bottom, a top, feathers or anything else. Everything is new to them so everything needs to be played with for hours.

Once Leah turned three, some things became more exciting than others. Tea parties, dancing and puzzles have been particularly interesting to her while throwing a bear, making a picture in the dust on the floor and hanging upside down on the couch have taken a backseat.

Leah, at this young age, is showing signs of following her parents along the route of creativity with words and paint etc. May she blossom into a world renowned scientist or mathematician or rocket scientry person? Of course she might, she’s not even four yet so predicting her future is senseless, but it’s still obvious that at this point she prefers liberal arts to anything else.

So how can you further promote creativity in a child who is creative enough to turn a straw into a pet unicorn?

Get dirty with them. Unless their creative outlet is cleaning. In my experience, there’s nothing more exciting to a young kid (read: not teenager) than finding something they can have fun doing with parents.

Find a group of kids that have similar interests and let those kids play with your kid. I may have lied in point one, there is something more exciting than doing things they love with parents. And that thing is doing things they love with other kids who love that thing. Plus, there’s no way a 34-year-old is going to out-creative two three-year-olds. If you can think up an animal that can fly underwater with a fiery tail while wearing rocks as necklaces, your child can think of that times infinity.

Make up a something if a something doesn’t exist that your kid loves. Have you ever played kick Frisbee? I haven’t but I would if Leah came to me one day and said “Dad, I can’t do anything good and don’t want to do anything bad,” and then I said to her “well what do you like to do?” and she told me she “liked to kick things and look at Frisbees.” I’d be outside punting that disc as far as I could and then I’d coach my girls’ Kick Frisbee team to a provincial championship.

Remind them over and over again how spectacularly good they are at the thing they’ve taken an interest in. Whether or not you think that thing is mundane is irrelevant because it’s not you who’s showing interest, it’s them. If they think they’ve found a pattern in the way ants exit and re-enter an ant hill, sit there for an hour and let them explain that ants walk down the hill to get out of their home and up the hill to get back in. That’s groundbreaking stuff, literally.

There are plenty of other ways to help your kid do what they love to do but really, there’s no better advice I can give than to just let them do it. Don’t suggest ways you’d do it, just let them figure things out. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you would be better served by trying to do some things the way kids do them. Put your peanut butter on your bread and then throw it in the microwave for a few seconds. Watch the end of a move irst so there are no surprises. Colour ONLY outside the lines in a colouring book. You’ll be surprised at what they’ll think of.

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