This morning, she did it again. My 8-year-old woke up and went straight back to the project she was tinkering with during every free minute she had yesterday and the day before. At various stages of the construction of her Lego house, she has regaled my husband and me with her ideas for the floor plan and the flow, the finishings and the flooring, the landscaping and the roofline. She’s excited and super focused. As her mom, I know just what this is.
This is the spark that is born of curiosity combined with all of the magic that makes individuals who they are. This spark is ignited every so often throughout people’s lives. In childhood, it’s a most beautiful thing to witness—that innate curiosity and wonder that pulls the child to play, to try, to tinker, to learn, to make, to dig deeper, and, sometimes, to keep on going.
This spark presents a huge learning opportunity. All a parent needs to do is notice it and support it. It can lead to a few days of intense learning or a lifetime of developing an expertise (or somewhere in between). Regardless, it is a window into a child’s innate interests and abilities and frequently leads to learning in other areas as well.
I’ve seen this play out with my 11-year-old. When he was very little (around 2) he became interested in the birds visiting my parents’ backyard. They’d let him help fill their bird feeders and discussed the various types of birds they saw and heard. As time went on, we dove into books about birds and documentaries about birds. He began pouring over field guides and studying maps in relation to which birds lived where. His interest has grown stronger and stronger the more we have explored and he now photographs birds, writes books about birds, and shares his love of birds with others.
Quite by accident, this deep dive exploration has enhanced his aptitude in reading, writing, geography, science, math, and history. He has enhanced his skills in photography, typing, drawing, graphic design, marketing, communications, and more. It has brought our entire family great joy as we have traveled and gotten out into nature in support of his interest.
The key to supporting the spark is to simply notice it in the first place. This is one of the greatest reasons to incorporate free time into your family’s schedule. Children need the time and freedom to explore and parents need to be available to notice.
Of course, the spark could show up anywhere—on the soccer field, at school, at the grocery store, on vacation, at a relative’s house or at home. If you’re lucky enough to see it, do all you can to support it.
My daughter has exhibited an interest in architecture and interior design (and art in general) since she was very young. We’ve explored books and documentaries and always ensure she’s fully stocked up on craft supplies.
This time, though, she is showing a greater level of seriousness and enthusiasm in designing and building her Lego house. It’s time to kick it up and ignite that spark.
I’ll now be on the lookout for books and publications about architecture and interior design. We’ll dive into more documentaries. I think she’d love to peruse books of house plans and floor plans. Perhaps we can tour the office of a local architect. On our next travel adventure, I’ll make sure there’s a focus on architecture. And that’s just off the top of my head.
Once you see the spark, it’s not difficult to support it. Just take the theme and run with it.
Of course, interest in any topic can wain as children grow and change. My daughter may be onto something else this time next week or next year.
That’s ok. I know even a week of exploration has educational benefits, not the least of which is learning how to learn.
So, parents, be on the lookout for that spark in your children, and when you see it, light it up!