My mind is such an interesting space. It’s so full of ideas, itineraries, to-do’s and think-aheads. When I’m spending time with my boys, though, my mind is a place of curious wonder directed at them. It’s an amazing experience watching boys grow up, but it’s also full of questions when I think about what is to come for them.
I think a great deal about who they will be and what they will do as grown men, so I’m constantly gauging their interests to see what their little hands, brains and energy levels naturally gravitate towards. It’s an awesome exercise in patience and observation, like watching tiny sprouts develop from underground potential to beautiful garden flowers. Here are a few things I felt like sharing when it comes to helping kids kindle those sparks of talent and interest.
Watch Them, and Watch What They Watch
Babies and kids are constantly filling their sensory canvasses with all of the new things their eyes, ears and hands experience: bubbles, bouncing balls, colors and the list goes on. It’s important that you pay attention to what captures their interests throughout the various stages of development. Does s/he freeze and give all their attention to a tune when they hear it? Are they completely enthralled in playing with cars? Do they absolutely love the jungle gym at the park? These could be some key indicators of future passions or interests.
Introduce Your Kids To New Things Consistently
From the places you go to the things you do, give your kids new sensory experiences regularly. Whether it’s the aquarium or a boat ride in the Pacific, my boys love visiting different places and experiencing new things in- and outside of their regular cultural experiences. This past Christmas, I decided to gift the boys with several instruments instead of the usual toys. I had no idea if the boys would get into them or not, but I wouldn’t know until I tried. They each got drums and a cymbal. They still use them today as go-to “toys.”
I also recently introduced them to puzzles. My youngest son adores them, and I’ve found that he tends to like more analytical activities like building and putting things together, opening a complicated box, etc. His older brother, not so much. But the key is that they tried it! Everything won’t be for every kid, and that’s perfectly fine.
Encourage Their Exploration!
Being inquisitive is an innate part of every child, so use that to your (and their) advantage when tapping into the things that get their attention. Ask them questions as they engage in various activities, and encourage them if you see that they’re genuinely interested in what they’re doing. As their parent, you’re one of the most influential people in their lives. Your support will bolster their freedom to discover more about their activities and, consequently, themselves.
This is especially true if your kids are interested in things that are outside of stereotypical norms. In 2017, I think it’s important that we stop sending the message that some things are for males and others are for females. Your daughter may be the next female soccer star, or your son may be the next male ballet star. You never know! Do not give in to the false notion of gender-specific creativity. Let kids be kids, and allow them to find themselves without boundaries!
Avoid Projecting Your Passions – and Fears!
We’ve seen it play out in television shows and movies for years: the parent wants his/her child to walk in his footsteps, take over the family business, live out the deferred dreams of the parents…but all of that is wrong! You are not your child, and vice versa. Allow your kids to have their own fascinations and enthusiasm for what’s in their hearts, even if it’s not something you like or enjoy.
I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. My boys have seen me DJ in the house, and they’ve expressed interest in “playing” with my turntables. I love that they enjoy the art of it, even if it is more about the music on the surface.
On the other hand, I find it challenging to be open to my boys playing sports because of the injury risk, though I love the idea of it and recognize the benefits. We did soccer for a season, and I thought it was great for two energetic boys. I can also appreciate something like martial arts that will help them protect themselves and others in a physical way. While sports won’t be my first choice as a protective mom, what they like will ultimately be up to them. I will support them regardless.
Our kids’ talents and interests will change and evolve throughout their lifetimes, but we should be engaging them in every stage of them growing and developing. Be there for them and allow them to discover their truest selves with your support.