Last updated on Feb 23rd, 2021 at 12:53 pm
When you watch your child play, do you detect a certain flair, perhaps for kicking a ball, drawing stick people or even negotiating between warring factions at the soft-dough table? If so, how can you help her make the most of these talents?
“To maximise your child’s potential in any area, you need to give her the opportunities to develop her skills within a loving environment,” says Andrew Holtom who is from an organisation committed to helping moms and dads help their children reach their full potential.
If the next David Beckham, Lily Allen or Kofi Annan is squishing baked beans and spilling juice in their high chair, here’s how to bring out the best in them.
Raising a thinking child
Your child doesn’t have to be super brainy to be a thinking child. If she’s quiet and contemplative, it could be that she’s watching and taking it all in. With the right encouragement, you can nurture her inclination to observe.
“Babies need experience to help their brains grow,” says Holtom. “Without these, the brain’s neurons can’t make the connections babies need to think faster and more directly.”
This doesn’t mean you have to sign her up for all the activities. All she needs is stimulation and interaction. Talk to your baby and read books to her. Have proper conversations and don’t just give instructions. Point to the pictures when you read and explain what you see.
Play with your baby. Adapt your games as her understanding expands, making problem-solving gradually harder and introduce role-play from 2 years.
If your child is naturally quiet, use open-ended questions to encourage two-way interaction.
- From around 8 months, create a ‘safe’ cupboard with interesting objects for her to explore and play with.
- From 12 months, try a game of matching objects and colours – gather kitchen items or things you’ve collected from the garden.
- From 2 years, put several items on a table and ask her to close her eyes. Then remove one and ask her what’s missing.
Raising a gentle child
Your little one may show great compassion, but she’s still going to need guidance from you to learn how to balance her needs against those of other people.
At 2 or 3 years, your child is the centre of her world. Talking about other people’s feelings will help her begin to understand that what she does can have an impact on others. Helping her to find words to express herself rather than actions, such as biting will develop her social skills.
It’s important to set a good example. If you comfort a child who is hurt or upset, you show her how to be kind to other children.
- If your child hurts another child, comfort the other one before dealing with your tot to emphasise how she’s made the other child feel.
- Use pretend-play to practise social situations where kindness is involved.
- Encourage your child to ‘take turns’ rather than to ‘share’ – it’s a much easier concept for her to understand.
Raising a creative child
Most kids love to get messy with soft dough or paint, but what if you think your little one might have a particular creative talent?
Provide a wide variety of materials to experiment with and then hone in on the ones she appears to be interested in. Let your child take the lead.
You might want her to create a nice animal but a splodge painting can look every bit as good stuck on the fridge! How you respond to your child’s creations can also have an impact. She’ll love praise, but make comments too, such as, “I see you’ve used lots of red in this painting”. By asking her to tell you about what she’s made, it gives you a chance to engage on her level.
- Provide different materials – netting, wool, cellophane, polystyrene, ribbon, and cotton wool – to use when painting, modelling and sticking.
- Go for a walk and collect things along the way. Make a collage with the items you find.
- Find ways for her to play messily – in the garden, in the bath, or on a plastic tablecloth.
Raising a musical child
Encouraging your child’s musical abilities can help her speech development and language skills, problem-solving, reading, maths, reasoning and spatial recognition.
Sing and play a variety of music at home and in the car, and make up songs together.
Introduce household ‘instruments’ from wooden spoons and saucepans to bottles filled with different amounts of liquid. Use lots of intonation in your voice when you speak, and encourage her to explore the range of her own voice.
- Make musical instruments; use kitchen towel tubes stuffed with paper for drumsticks, containers filled with rice or beans for shakers and saucepan lids for cymbals.
- Dance to music, waving scarves, ribbons and feathers around.
- Make up your own songs or put your own words to familiar tunes.
Raising a sporty child
If your child is going to be good at sport, she’ll need the right encouragement. Enthusiasm is important, so your response is vital. If you’re playing a ball game, instead of saying, ‘Oh dear, you missed!’ or criticising and constantly correcting, say something that’s more encouraging.
Pre-school children are acquiring and perfecting basic skills such as walking, running, kicking and catching. Given opportunities to practise and build up their confidence, your child’s more likely to want to be active throughout her life.
- Throw a ball into a laundry basket to practise aiming and help her eye-to-hand coordination.
- Bowl a large ball to knock down 2-litre bottles.
- Have a go yourself – and show your child that it’s okay to miss the target.