by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., Parent Coach
When Manuel arrived at preschool at 3 years old, he was already identified with speech delays and considered to be on a path toward school failure. Fortunately, his teachers noticed his fascination with geography and maps and they followed his lead. They nurtured his interest, putting out new maps as soon as he finished one.
His passion for maps caused him to develop his language– he was excited to communicate about it! He also learned various math concepts and developed his fine motor skills through working at maps. By the time he left that school two years later to go into kindergarten, he was identified as gifted and talented. It was very fortunate for him that his teachers knew how to follow and nurture his interests!
Many people would think 3 years old is too young to pursue an interest. But it made a world of difference for Manuel.
What can your child become GREAT at? Something they are interested in!
This is because we ALL work harder at something that interests us. Think about something that you worked at for a long time, developing greater and greater skill. It’s a good bet that you kept working at it because it interested you.
None of us can become great at everything. But we have the potential to become great at something we spend a lot of time working at. Research proves that children and adults alike work harder and persist more at tasks that they choose.
Persistent work results in greater skill development, and we are more likely to work persistently at something that interests us. How it works in our brains is that the connections we need to do something we do repeatedly become stronger and faster, and we get better at those activities, while the connections for things we don’t enjoy or do as often become weaker and slower.
How many children never discover their talents? How many adults do you know who never find work that truly utilizes their talents? I believe this occurs, partly, because we are generally not encouraged to pursue our passionate interests.
We can make this go differently for the young children in our lives! How?
Don’t feel you have to guide or manage the young child all the time. It’s too easy for us to inadvertently lead them away from their interests and thwart their initiative.
Observe them, quietly and without judgment, to learn their interests. Slow down and notice what the child is naturally drawn to. What holds their attention? (I don’t include screens here because they are both captivating and disorganizing to the young child’s brain.)
What do YOU do to nurture the young child’s potential?