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10 Tips to make most out of your child’s work activities

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

It’s not just the activities and games you play with your child that develops her. The way you play them makes a big difference. The following ten principles will help your child become an independent minded, thoughtful, self-motivated 21st century child.

1. Ensure success

That doesn’t mean that setting up games and activities which are too easy. It means you should gradually extend the challenges – challenges she can solve, often on her own, with a bit of thought and effort. If your child can remember three objects in a memory game, but not four, play this game using three things, until she is ready to try four.

If she’s getting restless or inattentive, she’s becoming overloaded – stop, or lower the level of difficulty. Your aim is for her to do a little bit more each time, with regular encouragement: “Lena, you’ve read four new words today, that’s better than before. Well done.”

Success breeds a positive self-image and a willingness to keep trying and learning. Failure is demotivating. If you try to play a game before she is ready, she may become uninterested in learning.

2. Givejust enoughhelp

If you take over saying, “Let me do it,” you convey a strong hidden message that she is not competent. On the other hand, never leave her struggling. Give as much help as she needs to succeed – and no more. It’s an important and delicate balance. Be sensitive. Help her break a big task down into small steps – and then stand back. This builds self-confidence and independence. It’s also very important to constantly emphasise that mistakes are part of learning. Use phrases like: “We all learn form mistakes. What can we learn from this?” and, “Well that didn’t work out quite right, let’s see why.” This helps your child to see the mistakes and not the end of the world.

3. Practiceshow and tell

Too much verbal instruction swamps and confuses children. Equally, to demonstrate something without an explanation doesn’t work either – they often misunderstand the steps involved. Show and tell her at the same time, then let her experiment for herself. She learns most, not when you are her teacher, but when you are her fellow-learner guide.

4. Give her time to work it out herself

Avoid rushing in to help. If you ask her a question, leave a long enough pause for her to give you a well-thought-out-answer. Encourage her to think things through herself. Let her correct her own efforts if possible. Help her to put her through into her own words. Use expressions like: “What do you think?” regularly and, “Let’s think about this a bit more.”

5. Give encouragement rather than praise

If your response is: “Good girl” she will come to what you want to do things to please you rather than herself. Trying to succeed in order to please herself, however, is self-motivation. Self-motivation lasts and is what she will need in later life. Give encouragement that contains helpful advice like, “Well done, you succeeded because you looked carefully.” or, “You got on well that time because you did it a bit more slowly.” We are not saying praise is a bad thing but focus more on encouraging so she will get motivated to do more.

6. Encourage methodical thinking

Think things out aloud yourself. Say, “I wonder why that is?” then wait for her explanation. If you provide the answers, she will come to assume that answers lie in what adults and teachers think not in what she thinks. She will wait for an answer, rather than thinking it out for herself. If you prompt her to think for herself, deliberately and methodically, helping with the words she needs, you create self-confidence.

With such support, children of four and five can typically tackle tasks that they may otherwise not tackle until seven or eight. Here are three powerful thinking steps.

Help her see what’s important

If, for example, you were doing a jigsaw together you might say, “Now let’s look carefully. What do you think we should do first?” Pause. “Well, let’s put the box lid in front of us, so we know what the picture will be like when it’s finished. Then let’s turn all the pieces face up and get all the pieces of sky together. That makes the job easier.”

Help her take time and plan

“Let’s stop and think. Where shall we start? Do you think we should do all the outside edges first? What do you think?” or perhaps, “What about starting at the corners? There’s only four of those, so it’s a good place to start.” Children are naturally impulsive. Keep using this phrase “Let’s stop and think.” Point out that making a plan – and not just rushing in – saves time later.

Encourage her to take care

Children tend to rush, so make sure she concentrates and gives the task her full attention. “Let’s take care so we do it right. Let’s look carefully. What shape are you looking for?

7. Avoid rewarding with treats

That’s external motivation. The effort disappears when the bribe disappears. Your aim is for internal motivation where the feeling of success is meeting a challenge – a sense of self-mastery – is its own reward. Say, “I bet you’re proud that you can do that,” rather than, “I’m proud of you.” She should want to please herself with her own efforts, rather than please you.

8. Take your lead from his/her interests

Suggest games, provide potions, but let him choose what he wants to do.

9. Encourage curiosity

Encourage him to look around at everything – to wonder, to ask why, how, what? You do this best by being curious and questioning well.

10. Avoid comparison with other children

Children progress at quite different rates in many different fields of endeavour. Secondly, people who come to compare themselves with others set them up for disappointment. There’s always something richer, brighter, more artistic or more attractive.

#encouragement #curiousity #motivation #methodicalthinking


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