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Posted on July 25, 2022 at 10:47 AM by Kari Bray
This is Part 15 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Young brains are growing quickly. Babies through elementary age, especially, are wired to be constantly learning new things. Structure and routine are helpful, but a lot of great learning happens when things don’t go to plan. Try to be flexible and adaptable with children and teens. There are many resources to encourage new activities as well as to learn about new topics. Find resources to explore in your community.
The growth and development of children’s brains is remarkable. Babies are born ready to learn, with billions of neurons firing and millions of neural connections constantly being built. The human brain is designed to grow rapidly during childhood.
So what does that really mean?
It means children are wired to be learning new things all the time.
It’s not always easy to be open to new lessons, topics or experiences. As adults, we sometimes forget how challenging but rewarding it can be to step out of our comfort zone. Or maybe we don’t recognize that something we consider easy or routine is actually new and challenging for a child.
The thing about children, particularly infants through elementary age, is that parents and caregivers have a fantastic opportunity to help them explore and learn new things because we are their comfort zone. Children are not set in their ways, but they may be set in their people. Trusted adults can hold their hand – often literally – while they start to explore many new and exciting things.
Remember to talk with your child using real and helpful words, even if they are too young to talk themselves. When they can talk, be sure you listen to questions and respond thoughtfully to their side of the conversation. The time you put in to helping them learn and explore will pay off in tremendous ways as they get older.
Structure definitely has its place in children’s lives. Stability and routine can be comforting as well as productive. It’s helpful to brush teeth around the same time every day, eat regular meals, read a book every night before bed, set aside certain times for educational activities, and take part in sports or games that have specific rules to follow.
But when it comes to learning and growing, some of the best lessons happen when plans change.
This can play out a lot of different ways. It might be as simple as allowing your child to turn a different direction on the walk you’d planned, or stopping so they can examine something interesting and unexpected. Little kids might make up their own rules to a familiar game or meet a new friend to play and explore with.
Older children and teens likely will start making more of their own goals and plans, and those won’t always fit perfectly with yours. Don’t dismiss a new proposal, even if it means you have to adjust. There are times when parents and caregivers need to say “no,” particularly for safety reasons. When it comes to new ideas and opportunities, though, it’s also important to say “yes” and offer support. Be adaptable and encourage children’s ingenuity, creativity and problem-solving.
Remember that being open to new things and willing to change plans is a way to help children and teens build resilience. Be their cheerleader when they tackle something new and possibly strange to them. Show them that there is always more to do and learn.
You might be amazed by what’s right in your backyard, or maybe just around the corner, that can encourage your family to stay open to new things.
Expand your children’s experiences and widen their world. Curiosity and eagerness to explore, create, build, and discover isn’t just for those young years of fast brain growth. There are plenty of new things worth opening yourself to, regardless of age. A love of learning can last a lifetime.
Here are some questions and suggestions to consider:
Take some time now to check off the “O” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. How can you encourage children to be open to new things?
Help build children’s resilience by supporting them through changes, cheering them on in trying new things, and nourishing a lifelong love of learning.