Last week the discussion about learning was focused by the metaphor of children’s minds as sponges. However, there is an art to intellectually challenging a child. In other words, kids don’t learn on autopilot. Mentally reviewing the names of colors or the alphabet’s letters can be tiresome. An added ingredient of challenge or spontaneity is actually what keeps their minds open and ready for more.
On the other hand, don’t overdo it. Kids become frustrated just as quickly as they learn, so it’s important to have some guidelines in mind. These guidelines will help until parents figure out their child’s unique sensibilities. Yes, “sensibilities” is an euphemism for what causes a child to become overwhelmed and shut down. Follow these suggestions, and that delicate balance may be achieved a little easier.
* Keep tabs on what toys your child plays with. If some educational toys are left gathering dust, do a little research: ask directly! At first, you’ll probably hear how the toy is boring, but some non-judgemental supervision might reveal the real deal: that the toy is either above or below your child’s skill level. Simply being there while your child plays can provide this insight in hardly no time.
* Many electronic educational toys have multiple skill levels. Do some supervision to make sure that the skill level is appropriate. This is one trick that many parents fail to do and end up throwing their toys into the wastebasket. Again, all this takes is a few moments of playing with your child to see if he’s blasting through the game or is too quickly stumped and overwhelmed.
The main point here is to be careful of the “it’s boring!” line – this is a clear message that the toy may be too hard or too easy. Boredom is actually very difficult for a young child to achieve. Teenagers, on the other hand, excel at it.
The next post will include some more suggestions about riding that fine line of challenging children without overwhelming them.