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What kind of enrichment should your child have?

27/04/2016



 

With hundreds of different interesting and unique enrichment activities available today around Singapore, how does a parent pick the right ones for their child?

 

You’d definitely want the activity to be a constructive one, and of course, one that enriches your child! But most parents also want their kids to enjoy the activities - and have fun! Picking the right enrichment activity for your child can make mountains of difference to their self-esteem, leadership skills, and even their grades at school.

 

But how does a parent choose an activity that fits well with the child’s interests? Might they have an innate talent, gift or interest we can develop? Surely we know that picking an enrichment class that respects their evolving interests would help them much more than one that we decide on their behalf.
 

The most obvious and straightforward way is, of course, to ask. But this is a lot trickier than it sounds. It would be great if your child is able to clearly express an interest and verbalise that to you. But many of our children aren’t quite sure how to. So we do need to be creative when we ask them. Firstly, don’t stop at simply talking to them. Talk to their teachers at school too, and ask them what they’ve observed. Don’t feel guilty for not simply knowing what your child’s talents and interests are. Teachers spend hours a day with your children, guiding them through school activities and lessons. They are bound to have a tip or two for you.

 

Develop weak areas. Does your child need help academically? Perhaps he’s a little slower at mathematics and can’t quite see the logic behind it? The answer seems simple, let’s enroll him into a mathematics enrichment class. But don’t stop at academic performance. What about socially? Is he apt at making friends, having conversations, sharing and communicating? If not, try an acting class or anything else in performance. How about a class where he needs to build something together as a team, like robotics or model aeroplanes? Is he emotionally secure, has a healthy self-esteem, leadership skills, and confidence? If you want to help him develop these areas, try art or writing classes to help him express himself - or perhaps show-and-tell or story-telling activities to build up confidence and public-speaking skills! 
 

Try different things out. One of the best ways to find out what interests your child is to expose him to different activities. This can be done by having him “observe” or “experience”. You may want to take him concerts, art museums or sports tournaments to see which ones interest him most. As an “observer” of art or sports, you will see his level of engagement in the activity. Look out for the questions he asks, or how much he pays attention during these “observe” sessions. Does he express, or show, that he would like to be part of it? Share with him how the paintings come about - that someone paints them and the best paintings get put up in the museum. Observe if that piques his interest. You can also let him “experience” and the most straightforward way is to take him to several different trial classes. Then ask him open-ended questions about it. Don’t make him feel obliged but give him a choice if he’d like to continue the classes. Remember to balance this delicately, though. Once a child expresses interest to go beyond a trial class, and you sign him up for 6 or 8 weeks straight, make him aware of the commitment and don’t allow him to quit halfway. But once those 8 weeks are over, congratulate him for sticking through it and allow him to explore something new.

 

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. Observe your child during free-play to discover what they tend to gravitate to. Provide them an environment that is full of sensory stimuli so they can discover themselves, too. When they express interest in a certain activity but are not very good at it, encourage them anyway. It’s not about what they are good at, it’s about what they like doing. Parents often expect to uncover the next Kobe Bryant in their child just because they like basketball, but they could be learning so many other things like teamwork and just keeping fit while we get too focussed on how many points they score. What if your child just likes to play computer games or watch TV? No need to despair because even these can give you clues to their interests. Look at how their doodles evolve - perhaps a skill in illustration? Imagine them working at Pixar! Does he like watching Star Wars? Talk to him about the facts behind sci-fi movies, the artistry behind special effects or make-up, and discover which elements interest him most. You can also ask him what his favourite subjects at school are. If they love playing games on the iPad, ask them what aspects of the game they love so much. Who knows? Zoning out on Farmville could mean an interest either with animals, or it may indicate that he loves to explore the logic behind game programming!

 

Some final tips. Even if you are confident about a certain class, it’s probably wiser to start with a trial class or two. Children can be so unpredictable and joining a trial class first gives you a way out if needed. Remember, children can sometimes lose interest in an activity, and then later circle back to it again. So keep an open mind and go with the flow if your children lost interest at first. Lastly, when it comes to enrichment, try not to have more than two at any point in time. An experiment with the US Military showed that people can only focus well if they are engaged in three activities at any one time. When a fourth one was added, engagement and productivity reduced significantly. With school as an activity already, two more enrichment activities should do just nice. This also ensures your child has time for free-play and is not simply rushing from one class to the next.

 

 

 

© Rise & Shine is established to provide our children with a better opportunities for their upcoming future. Our founding vision was to help and educate parents to nurture healthier, happier and brighter children. As part of what we do, we organise parenting workshops, carnivals and the largest play and educational festival in Asia. We also organise a series of children events throughout the year where families can bond, learn and have fun.

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