What do you want to be when you grow up? Without fail, kids receive this question in various forms, coming from relatives, school teachers, neighbours, and friends. It is an unavoidable question, but children more often than not have a ready answer to offer.
Whether they want to be an astronaut, firefighter, doctor, or teacher, the aspirations of some children seem to be as fleeting as the weather. Nonetheless, the beauty of this question is that it offers a glimpse into the interests of the child. An aspiring astronaut’s dream is likely to have stemmed from a keen interest in all things outer space, and a child who wants to be a vet will likely have a love for creatures large and small.
Why is it a good idea to nurture your child’s interests?
While it may be too soon to set a child on a certain path based on their childhood dreams, a child’s interests should still be acknowledged and encouraged, as it has multiple benefits to the child.
- Shapes their identity
Exploring various hobbies and activities can shape a child’s identity. They go through the process of finding what they like and not like, and develop relevant skills and aptitudes along the way. Finding an interest can shape a part of their identity, giving them something to be known by even at a young age. For example, a young child who loves dinosaurs might become known as ‘the child who can name any dinosaur’. This makes them feel valued and respected.
- Learn new skills
Children who are interested in specific things will naturally want to learn more about the subject. This is an excellent way for children to pick up new skills and knowledge. Driven by their own passion, they will be more willing to put in the effort to learn and practise these skills. Even if they grow out of their interest in time to come, you never know how these skills can come in handy. For example, the confidence and speaking skills a child attains through a drama class can help him in school as a communicator and presenter.
- Productive use of time
Research has found that kids who spend time exploring and developing their interests have a lower rate of getting into trouble. Having an interest gives children an outlet to spend their time on after school. This occupies them productively, giving them fewer chances to mingle with bad company or get up to no good.
How can parents help their child develop their interests?
Having established these benefits of encouraging your child to pursue their interests, here’s how you, as a parent, can provide your child with the appropriate environment to explore various hobbies:
- Give them opportunities to explore
This might sound obvious, but it is a pity how many parents make the mistake of pigeonholing their child at too early an age. Most commonly, parents limit their child unknowingly, influencing them with the parents’ own interests, or sticking to only one thing the child likes. Children need to be presented with a variety of activities to try, and be exposed to a variety of subject matters. This can be done by diversifying the type of play items, the type of content they are exposed to, and the type of activities available to the child.
- Assist them in finding relevant resources
When your child expresses interest in a particular topic or activity, you can help your child go further by recommending relevant resources to them. Parents can sit down with their child to find informational books or videos, and encourage more in-depth learning on the subject. This promotes a healthy spirit of independent learning in the child, which will serve them well beyond academics. Assisting them in finding learning resources also shows them that you are involved and supportive of their interests.
- Engage them in related activities
Parents can also help their child develop their interest by engaging them in related activities. This helps them explore various ways in which their interest can be applied. For example, engage a child who loves arts and crafts by employing their help with decorating a corner of the house. If you have a child who loves sports, dedicate some of your family days to play sports together. Signing them up for workshops can also be a good way to develop their skills and give them opportunities to meet like-minded peers.
- Support their endeavours
Most importantly, parents should maintain a supportive attitude towards their child’s interests. Being supportive means to affirm them in their passions, and to provide avenues for them to pursue what they love. It doesn’t need to entail signing them up for expensive classes, but could be as simple as showing them that you recognise their interest, and show an effort to be involved. The worst thing a parent could do is to dismiss or criticise their child’s interests, as it will make the child feel neglected, stifled, or lost.
Other than the parents’ efforts, a good school environment is also instrumental in shaping a child’s interests. To enhance their child’s development in their interests, parents should choose a school that places emphasis on developing well-rounded students through a wide range of activities. One such school is the Canadian International School.
The international school in Singapore offers a diverse selection of activities including sporting activities, performing and creative arts, and service-oriented activities. The school, which runs the IB programme in Singapore, also boasts robust language programmes and the STEAM programme, making it suitable for those with intellectual pursuits in languages or STEAM-related projects. At CIS, you can give your child exposure to various activities with a top international school experience.
Giving your child the chance to discover their passions is one of the best things you can do for them. Use these tips to build up your child in their talents and interests, and support them every step of the way.