To take advantage of every opportunity, children need to be able to take part and get involved. But in changing environments, with different people this takes both courage and confidence. When you can promote a confident sense of belonging in your child, you will see them engage more readily and gain so much more from the experience.
Social groups form and evolve quickly and new opportunities to get involved will need to be grasped. When children feel confident in their surroundings they are better able to connect socially and to access all the new opportunities this opens up to them. They can go after the things they want and need. And embrace the challenges they meet along the way, seeking the support and guidance they need while quickly recovering from setbacks.
What items might we find?
Build your child’s courage to touch and explore by filling a container with gloop and inviting them to investigate. You might like to hide some toys inside it to reward their investigations. Depending on their age, the season or the things you have available, you could use water or sand. Cornflower gloop of varying consistencies or frozen melon balls you prepared earlier. Then give them free rein to dig, pour, scoop and more. If they seem reluctant to investigate at first, encourage their explorations without their hands. Do they want to use a spoon to stir it? Do they want to hide some animals in it?
Courageous trip to the park
Children need to experience risk. This doesn’t mean putting them in any kind of danger. But it does mean letting them push their limits, to run faster, spinning and falling, rolling down small hills or climbing and jumping from heights that may make us nervous. Learning to handle these little fears is so important to their development. So, take them to the park and let them have a little more freedom. When they are very young this might be pushing their mobility as they move further away from you. A little older and they might want to climb up the slide, to jump off the steps or balance on a fallen tree. It may even involve approaching other children to play. They are unlikely to put themselves in situations they cannot yet manage, so give your child the time and space to find these risky challenges and look with pride, rather than terror as they do so.
Looking for a creative way to engage your child to explore different experiences with confidence? Try filling a shallow container with rice, sand or crumbs and letting them draw patterns with their fingers. The feel of each material will be appealing to their senses, especially if you use sweet smelling (and tasting) cookie crumbs or something similar. As they get more familiar with the sensations, take off their socks and let them feel the sensations through their toes. You can also try this with yogurt or food purées, crumbled crackers or rice cereal. To increase the confidence needed for older children, cover the container with a sheet and invite them to investigate before they know what might be inside!
Increase your child’s physical confidence, their response to new experiences and have lots of fun at the same time. Children love to play with water and, depending on the outside space you have available, you can introduce this through anything from a bowl to splash in, water sprays to run around with or local play fountains to dare each other to run through. You might also like to encourage their social confidence by inviting some friends to play. If their confidence needs a little building, let them return to these activities as and when they feel a bit more ready. Maybe after a sleep or when they have seen some others doing it first.
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL