Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fostering Interests

By Brandi M. Seals

All children have interests, but sometimes they need a little help getting things off the ground. I always wanted to learn how to play the piano, but to this day I can do little more than crank out a bad rendition of London Bridge. Looking back I wish I would have spoken up so my parents could have arranged lessons.

Although I never learned to play the piano, I did learn how to do somersaults and walk the balance beam at gymnastics class. I had never really thought about it, but my parents told me to give it a try and I am glad they did.

All kids need is a little push when it comes to developing interests. They are so young and so inexperienced that they often do not know what all there is out in the world for them to discover. That is when parents come into play. Parents should question their children to see what they might be interested in. Ask about sports, karate classes, gymnastics, music or anything else that might be interested in.

Resist the urge to just enroll them in something because you used to like it or you think they should do it. Ask what they think first. You can make it sound exciting and chances are you can win them over. I mean who would not want to learn how to speak in a foreign language or figure skate. If you catch them at a young enough age, you will be surprised at how willing they are to get involved in something. With headlines everywhere about the expanding waistlines of children, it is important to get the kids up off the couch and get them busy doing something.

If you do not know where to start and your kids do not seem to have any distinct interests, have them choose from one of the following categories: music, dance, sports, foreign language or anything else you can think of.

Once your child has picked a category, you can narrow things down a bit. The best thing to do is contact your local community center and find out what kinds of classes they provide. If there is no community center, you may still be able to find activities for your child. Ask their teachers if they know of anywhere your children can do some extracurricular activities.

Generally speaking though, you should be able to find someone to teach your child how to read music and play an instrument even if it is on a one on one basis. If your child decides to take the music route, be sure to find out what kind of instrument he or she wants to play. Consider renting or borrowing an instrument at first until you find out if your child wants to continue with the lessons.

For those that want to dance, choose from tap dance, ballet, modern, and a number of other dance classes. Choose one class, and then try another one the next time around so your child gets a feel for the different styles. It may help him or her decide what the best route will be.

There are too many sports to list. Your child could take gymnastics, karate, or soccer. Team sports can be a great way for your child to meet new people and make some friends. Individual opportunities are great too. The goal is to find what is best for your child.

Children are little sponges. They can pick things up easily, especially foreign language. It is a great idea to introduce foreign languages at an early age. They will be leaps and bounds ahead of their peers when foreign language is finally introduced in the school system. Plus, by starting early, they have a better chance at becoming fluent. After 8 years of taking Spanish courses, I am still not as good as children I see after only a couple of years of courses.

Whatever you and your child decide to get involved with is fine. Just try to keep the experience fun and not like a chore. While it is good to not let your child quit when things get hard, you also need to know when to throw in the towel of the interest just is not there.

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