Parents, if you were given the chance to look ahead into the future, would you want to find out where your child’s true talents lie- and how best to hone their strengths? We all hope to be able to fully support our kids on their developmental journey, and to provide them with the skills needed to reach their goals and dreams.
makchic recently ran a sharing session on Instagram, where readers weighed in on how – and why – they are nurturing their children’s talents. Many parents cited the value of encouraging passion over mere practicality, as their kids explore new skills and interests; however, others remained unsure about how to best support this.
Although we (sadly) don’t have a crystal ball into the future, what we do have are some very useful tips from Ms. Antonia Confalone, Assistant Head of Primary/ Early Years Centre (EYC) at Garden International School (GIS), to help parents along on this journey. Ms. Antonia lends her expert advice, along with eight practical tips on discovering and nurturing hidden talents, encouraging exploration, and unlocking the full potential in our little learners.
1. Set the stage
Exposing our children to a wide variety of opportunities is a great way to set the stage for the discovery of talents. Ms. Antonia suggests “spending time with your child in a variety of settings and different places, and to look out for sustained interest (in a way that’s different to others).” In addition to the normal academic subjects, parents can expose children to the arts, nature, music, cultural activities – the list is endless!
Encouraging our kids to have a full experience during their early years is also crucial, as this is when foundational skills are being developed. “The three ‘prime areas’ – communication and language development, physical development and personal social and emotional development – are essentially the building blocks upon which everything else (including talents) will be built on,” says Ms. Antonia.
2. Follow your child’s lead
Every child has unique characteristics, preferences and dispositions. Some children have endless energy and thrive on routine and order, while others may prefer less structured programs. “Follow your child’s lead, and see what suits your child,” suggests Ms. Antonia. “At the core of it is just knowing your child, and following their cues to open doors for discovery.”
Is your free-spirited child not a fan of structured lessons? Try opting for classes that provide more freedom and flexibility.
What holds true for pretty much every child though, is that they all love to play! Which is why the philosophy at EYC is to support the importance of learning through play. As an example of play-based learning, the “Storytime” co-curricular activity at EYC had children reading and carrying out discussions about a book entitled Rosie’s Walk – and then had them going through obstacle courses and re-enacting the scenes together. “If you provide them with the activity that they are enjoying (and that feels like play to them), they will learn,” says Ms. Antonia. Our curious children are hardwired to want to explore, learn and discover!
3. Check your own inhibitions or biases
We’re all humans, and we all have our own prejudices which (consciously and unconsciously) influence our decisions. But be aware of your own biases when choosing experiences for your children. We don’t want to end up being too pushy on a specific activity (that we secretly really want our kids to excel in), or completely avoiding other subject areas (that may just end up being their passion)!
Ms. Antonia understands that “if it’s not something the parents themselves feel so confident in, they might be less inclined to sign their kids up for it.” In this scenario, she suggests “finding other people in the child’s life to help, or using the school to support and nurture those talents that you see.”
4. Let them know what to expect
We may unconsciously assume that our little children have ‘accurate’ associations with words and phrases that we adults take for granted. Ms. Antonia reminds us that little children “might hear the name of a (new) activity and not even know what that is, and might create a completely different picture in their mind.”
Whether they are just not sure if Mum will be back to pick them up after music lesson, or worry that there will be sharks in their swimming class, the fear of the unknown is real (and can be truly scary)! For children who need more encouragement in trying new things- be sure to give them the extra reassurance they need, find out any concerns they may have, and talk them through the entire process. The more they know what to expect, the better it will be.
5. Create an intrinsic motivation
Many of us have done this out of desperation and frustration- giving sweet treats as a way of getting our kids to cooperate with us at an enrichment class. A better alternative? Focus on the intrinsic motivation and direct consequences that arise from your child participating in a class.
“It’s the fulfilment the child will get from being there,” says Ms. Antonia, who suggests capturing the feeling your child experiences when they enjoy an activity. “Remind them of this feeling over the week- for example: Remember how you felt when you were so happy, because you managed to kick the ball through the hoop?” This helps build positive associations for the child because “a week is a long time for a child, and over that one week they might remember that one thing they didn’t like, and build it up to become a big thing.”
6. Looking at the many folds of talents
Ms. Antonia highlights that the nurturing of talents will also lead to qualities that can easily transfer to other areas of learning. When a talent or natural inclination is spotted in a child, the talent “would still require nurturing, passion, motivation, patience and practice.”
A child singing at a concert, for example, will have their talent celebrated and gain a confidence boost, whilst also inspiring other children. But what is also showcased here is something beyond the talent of having a great voice. “What tends to be inspiring is the work they have to put in to develop it further. It’s the responsibility, resilience, and team work that they are showcasing as well,” emphasises Ms. Antonia.
7. Reflect positivity
Threats and demands are (very) tempting at times when trying to get our kids to cooperate during activity time, but this can eventually lead to negative associations with the activity. There’s also the (often overlooked) powerful effect our vibes, mood, and subtle suggestions have on our kids.
Our kids pick up on all our cues- so staying calm, reflecting positivity and providing encouragement are all great ways to encourage participation and excitement in activities. Ms. Antonia suggests that parents speak to the instructors in privacy regarding any anxiety-provoking concerns they may have, away from any little listening ears. This may be particularly useful for children who are more sensitive and may be more hesitant with new activities- so do try your best to keep everything they hear positive and encouraging!
8. Lose the labels
Avoid labelling, especially in the early years, as this could make children feel like they are on a ‘one way path’, posing a hindrance towards other opportunities to fully develop other aspects of their personality. The world is their oyster at this tender young age, and “asking a child to overly focus on one thing can be taking opportunities away from them,” says Ms. Antonia. “My aim as a mother, teacher, and someone who has worked in the early years would be to create well-rounded individuals. Our children need to explore different sides, to use their minds in other ways, and have other outlets too.”
If your young child wants to move on from a particular activity, avoid calling it ‘quitting’ or ‘giving up’. Instead of closing doors, nurture a growth mindset by using more positive phrases. Replace the phrase “I quit ballet” with “I tried ballet, but maybe it’s not for me at the moment, so I’m trying art now.” suggests Ms. Antonia. Who knows, if one of the preventive factors (Has their best friend left the class? Is the class getting too crowded?) is eventually removed, it might end up being their favourite activity sometime in the future!
Wishing you all the best on this exciting journey, #makchicmumsquad!
[*The contents of this interview have been edited for clarity and brevity.]
This is a sponsored post by Garden International School (GIS). All images provided by GIS.
To arrange your personalised tour of our Early Years Centre, contact our friendly Admissions Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit our GIS website (gardenschool.edu.my). Enquire today to find out more on how the EYC can help nurture the talents of your 3-to-5-year-old with their play-based learning approach!