We bet you this is the most common question parents or caregivers are constantly battling with. It is a valid question no doubt, however, we have come to the realization that this question leads to lot of anxiety among parents and a lot of pressure is placed on children to identify a particular skill area and work on it.
We suggest that instead of pondering over this rather intimidating and limiting question, we rephrase it to What are my child`s interests? Now interests are easier observe, figure out and can also be easily expressed by a child. In addition, the reality is that most children as they grow up seem to possess multiple and not singular interests therefore narrowing down to a particular talent becomes very difficult at this time. Thus, identifying interests is an initial important stepping stone.
Identifying children interests
Below are some of the interest areas we have picked out from the children whom we have interacted with:
• Some are drawn to aeroplanes, cars, bikes, scooters, robots, rockets they are fascinated by their movement, speeds, their assembly etc.
• Drawn to Dolls or making little dresses for their doll, styling their dolls hair or applying make up or constantly checking their doll for illness or heart rate.
• Keen to understand how things work; computer, phone, radio, television, alarms, door bells, pumps or they are constantly mixing things to see what happens etc.
• Keen in learning a sport for example outdoor games like football or indoor games like chess. etc
• Very inquisitive about what is happening in the world, sensitive to injustices around them, environmental concerns, they join clubs that allow them to care for others and make things better.
• Drawn to reading, writing, constantly day dreaming about imaginary worlds.
One concrete example we drew from our mentor was this: Growing up she was very curious about the Gulf War. She was 11 years old and would constantly ask her father about the war; who was involved in the fighting, why and what was happening to the affected people. Her dad faithfully answered her myriad of questions, and encouraged her to join the Children Helping Children group in school where their patron who would inform them of children in difficultly situations around the world and they would do some fund raising activities to support them. She grew up to be a humanitarian aid worker working with and for persons affected by conflict.
What influences the activities or ideas we are interested in?
Overtime we have observed that children tend to develop interests and subsequently reveal areas of giftedness based on what they are constantly exposed to within their environment(s). The home environment is a key space, followed by the school, the neighborhoods, virtual environments etc. Have you observed children who eventually develop a talent that is in line with their parents? For example parents who are musicians. You find musical instruments around the house or a lot of singing, a child born into this family becomes exposed to this musical environment very early and depending on the child’s level of interest and the stimulation they receive they may end up being musicians too. We are however not naïve to the fact that some parents or caregivers may constantly persuade their children to follow their path even when the child shows a different interest. This is not what we would advocate for.
As such our observations led us to believe that environments where are key in ultimately revealing/exposing children’s giftedness/talent(s). Why do we say reveal talent? Are talents like hidden treasures we are born with waiting for us to discover? Our response would be most likely yes. That’s why some people end up unearthing these hidden treasures and make significant contributions to the world around them and beyond while others do not.
In light of the discussion above, we are constantly encouraging parents to ask themselves these important questions:
1. How much am I exposing my child to different experiences? What kind of toys, videos, trips and activities do my children take part in at home.
2. What kind of environment I am creating for my child? Is it stimulating enough? Does it make them curious and creative?
3. Does the school environment allow my child to develop their multiple or specific interests?
4. What kind of verbal and non verbal feedback do I give my child when they show interest in a particular area?
5. I am able to assist my child develop in their area of interest?
6. What resources are within my reach that I can utilize to develop my child’s interests? Books, films, mentors, field visits etc.
How can we develop our children’s interests by exposing them to stimulating environment(s)?
We encourage parents to take an active role in identifying and enhancing their children’s interests by creating stimulating environments. This paves the way for the child to identify and to demonstrate areas where they have natural abilities or natural ease in performing.
For example say your child is interested in swimming. First enroll them into a swimming program, let them have practice sessions and as they grow better let them engage in simple competitions with their peers. On top of these, acquire some swimming books or online videos showcasing best swimmers in the world. Let them watch how they do it. Let them meet good swimmers in their locality and learn from them and share ideas. Let your child keep a scrap book or small diary of their swimming journey how they feel, what moves they want to learn. Also film your child practice lessons when you can so that you can watch with them the milestones they have come. As they grow better let them join major swimming competitions. The parental role is to provide a stimulating environment that develops the child’s interest in swimming.
Stimulating interest in drum making and ICT
We encourage the parent to keep accessing the child’s interest and natural giftedness in swimming. Have honest conversations with them and let them feel safe to change their mind if they feel it’s not really their thing. But even if they change their mind at least they have learn a skill for life and they learnt values like discipline, persistence, self awareness and many more.
We are glad to contribute to the talent development discussion. We urge parents and care givers to take positive strides towards identifying and grooming the interests of their child a step at a time. Boresha Talanta Mentorship Program is committed to support children and young persons aged 3-24 years develop talent. Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/Boreshatalanta/ Check our next blog item soon.