Learning the ropes in life is a complex process for a child, with a myriad of interconnecting concepts they must master. For parents, care givers, and teachers, fostering the environment in which children can readily learn these concepts can be just as perplexing – especially in our new normal of COVID school closures.
Children learn best when they are within a safe, positive, and supported environment that is devoid of trauma or fear. Negative emotions such as self-doubt, and anxiety inhibit their ability to take on any new information and learn in a meaningful way.
Likewise, when children are raised or taught in environments where they are supported when mistakes are made, where they are encouraged in developing their interpersonal skills, empowered to explore ideas, and where trust is built between themselves and their caregivers or teachers, they become far more capable and successful in all areas of life.
Social, emotional, and interpersonal lessons are as beneficial to children as what they learn academically. Encouraging them to be brave and test new ideas or situations requires them to feel confident in their ability to handle unknowns successfully, to relate to others in a positive way, to explore new concepts and ideas with less fear, to communicate in a healthy manner and to regulate their emotions.
To create an environment where we are educating the whole child, let’s first consider our goals, and then we will define some basic things that will pave our way there.
We are aiming to:
- Foster a supportive and encouraging environment through strong relationships with family and friends.
- Design situations in which children can relate concepts they learn to everyday life (e.g., implementing math when baking or cooking).
- Help children develop habits, mindsets, and skills that enable them to become competent in social and emotional situations. For example, when friends or siblings challenge them for their toys or want to voice alternative ideas to their own, they are able to communicate or advocate for themselves in a healthy way.
- Look for ways to enhance their learning by introducing a variety of experiences. Visiting museums, theatres, or even sites of interest will expose them to new and positive things. It will help to broaden their horizons and interests, as well as impacting on their personality.
And now we must consider how we could implement these things through some simple concepts:
- Confidence – by encouraging them to keep trying when they fail, and by consistently reminding them of their worth in this world.
- Cooperation – by creating situations through games and activities where they have to listen and cooperate with others for the task to be a success or enjoyable.
- Curiosity – by exposing them to a wide variety of experiences to help to foster their natural curiosity.
- Communication – by encouraging them to express and accurately represent their ideas, feelings, and knowledge in different situations. This requires active listening from caregivers or parents where no idea is too silly, and children are given the time and space to develop.
Hopefully, with a little conscious effort in these areas, we can help our children grow into secure, empathetic, and open-minded adults that feels confident in their unique contributions to the world around them.
Happy New Year – and I look forward to taking this journey with you in 2022.