Children are innately curious and creative. When given time to play, tinker, and explore, sooner or later, they develop a keen interest in something specific. The very best thing a parent can do, when that spark of interest reveals itself, is to add kindling to the fire and watch how long it’ll burn.
Here are ways to encourage and support your child’s interests.
First, of course, you need to be paying enough attention to notice an interest when it surfaces. What does your child most enjoy talking about? How does your child spend free time? What sorts of books does your child regularly choose at the library or bookstore? What is your child doing when he or she loses track of time? Notice where their true interest lies and take it from there.
Gather All the Books
Once an interest has been identified, seek out books. Request a stack of books on the subject from your local library. Check new and used bookstores for titles that your children can dive into. Find books that approach the subject from different angles and books that are written for different age ranges, including adults (assuming appropriate content obviously).
Let movie night become documentary night in your home. Whatever your child is interested in, I bet you can find a documentary about it. Get the whole family fired up about this interest by making a movie night out of it, complete with popcorn and snacks.
Might a field trip be in order to learn more about your child’s interest? Whether you head to the park to explore nature photography, to the local bookstore to hear a favorite author speak, or to a factory to witness how a certain candy is made, get out there and see firsthand what’s what when it comes to this new interest.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Hands-on learning is a favorite among most kids. Roll up your sleeves and get to work creating, making, and experimenting with this new interest. Ensure your child has all of the tools necessary to tinker and thoroughly explore what has captured his or her interest. You may find yourself foraging along the beach for shells, shopping the hardware store for tools, or visiting a flea market for collectible toys.
Share With the World
As your child learns about his or her new interest, he or she may be enticed to share newfound knowledge or creations with others. For example, a baking interest definitely calls for cupcakes delivered to the neighbors or grandparents; a photography interest will delight online friends; a writing interest may even lead to self-publishing a book. Invite friends over for a themed party based on the interest. Branch out and share the delight with others.
Take It to the Next Level
As the spark turns from a flame to a roaring fire, it may be time to kick things up even further. Might this interest become a business venture? Would formal study or a public blog be in order? The sky’s the limit when it comes to encouraging and supporting your children in their interests.
As a bonus, when children are engrossed in something, they truly enjoy and explore it from every angle, and as a result, tend to learn the more fundamental academics lessons you’d expect from school but through their interests.
Cheer them on. Comfort and strengthen them through their struggles. Let them follow their deepest interests wherever they may lead and for the greatest good they can conceive. Don’t forget to marvel at the unique and wonderful genius that is specific to them. It’s a blessing.