For parents, one of the most challenging things they do is prepare their children for independence. Although some parents — especially those of younger children — may like to think that they will be there to hold their child’s hand every step of the way, this is rarely the case. But by teaching their kids how to learn and build key skills, parents will know that their children will be prepared to handle anything the world throws at them.
When it comes to their kids, parents can easily become selectively encouraging, in that they only allow their kids to focus on things they are already good at. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone, however, is a lesson like no other. Supporting a child’s interests is essential, but teaching them the importance of trying new things could help them discover more passions and learn new skills.
When kids are young, their ability to think outside the box is at its peak. Since creative thinking is a “use it or lose it” kind of skill, if children don’t learn how to actively practice creative thinking in their more formative years, they will be unlikely to pick those skills up later in life. In contrast, practicing these skills early on allows kids to develop their cognitive processes in a way that sticks with them as they get older.
Teaching kids what schools won’t
Schools often emphasize teaching hard skills that young children need to know, such as reading, writing, and basic math, but the soft skills they need to succeed in life are just as — if not more — important. It is up to parents to teach their children how to socialize so that, when they get to school, they can more easily make friends and form genuine bonds with them.
Teaching skills to young children is just as important as the content they learn, as well as how they learn it. If a child is taught how to learn and think earlier in life, it will ensure that they become strong critical thinkers for the rest of their lives.
One of the best ways to do this is to teach children how to set achievable goals. When children grow up and begin pursuing a career, having this ability will greatly help their chances of success. Showing a child how to create a simple path between idea, learning, and the result better positions them to successfully develop and achieve their goals.
Indeed, most children have a natural curiosity about them that can be fostered in healthy, constructive ways, leading them to seek new topics, skills, and experiences. Rewarding children for exploring new ideas will encourage them to continue asking questions that help them to learn more.
Parents can encourage their children’s curiosity and open-mindedness by practicing it themselves. Kids often learn by example, so showing them that you are willing and eager to learn and try new things is the best way to stimulate and encourage them to seek out those things, themselves. Performing these exercises together can also make for a tremendous bonding experience between parent and child.
Learning need not be a laborious process for children — especially during their early years. There are plenty of opportunities to make learning fun for their children, and even a scientific explanation behind the benefit of this: fun activities release rewarding neurochemicals in the brain, causing the brain to associate the stimulus (learning) with the response (rewarding neurochemicals).
In addition, studies have shown that — thanks to these neurochemical responses — training games for employees have a significant positive effect on the retention of knowledge, with an increase of nearly 40% in retention. The same philosophy can be applied to teaching children new skills and materials. If they are taught in a way that stimulates this same phenomenon, they will not only enjoy the lesson much more, but are likely to retain and remember what they learned.
Plenty of free online resources can help parents spark this sense of curiosity and foster the learning of creative problem-solving. Some of these are tools that were developed to assist teachers in the classroom and help parents teach their children more skills at home. Others were designed to specifically cater to the needs of parents with young kids and help them teach their children valuable lessons.
How DIY.org exemplifies the teaching of these skills
DIY.org bills itself as a social learning app for kids. By combining aspects of social media with online educational principles, DIY connects children with videos teaching them skills in fields from writing to art, to cooking, and more. This is all done in a safe, moderated environment, free from bullying and predators that make typical social media platforms dangerous for kids.
The benefits of online learning for children are evident. For one, online learning allows children to learn on their own time at their own pace. There is less of a strain on their attention spans because they do not have to sit in a classroom continuously, regardless of their mindset at the given moment.
Some critics of online learning have argued that it only increases children’s screen time to unhealthy levels, but that isn’t the case with DIY. “For every 10 minutes kids spend on the platform, they spend 30 minutes offline imagining, planning, and building,” explains Bhavik Rathod, co-founder and CEO of DIY.
According to Rathod, one of the biggest advantages of the DIY platform is that it allows children to learn from one another. Seeing other kids who are just as excited about a topic as they are can encourage them to continue pursuing and growing their passions. Children want to feel like they belong, and a platform like DIY provides that feeling to them.
“It’s incredible seeing kids from different backgrounds and cultures connect based on shared hobbies and interests. The inspiring-others-while-getting-inspired loop on DIY is my absolute favorite thing about the platform,” says Tripti Ahuja, co-founder and COO of DIY.
Thanks to their experiences on DIY, the global perspective offered to children will allow them to open their minds to diverse perspectives, which will remain important for them as they grow up. Teaching kids compassion and empathy early on is critical; having these skills throughout life are what allow us to make the world a better place in the long run.
Opinions expressed by NY Weekly contributors are their own.