t seems from an early age parents feel the need to figure out what special talent or passion their child will have. It’s understandable, we want our children to have something that makes them feel and be special. Children will find that spark, but we need to provide them with the time and tools to do this. It is important that children be introduced to many different outlets; like the arts, music, sports, languages to name a few. By exposing young children toward a variety of areas, they will begin to gravitate towards what excites them, which hopefully is a multitude of interests. When parents narrow the possibilities to one particular focus, a child often becomes pegged. You often here parents refer to their child as, “she’s our lacrosse player,” or “he’s the actor of the family.” When we do this we may be stunting a child’s ability to explore and to be curious. They may begin to feel that they have to fit a mold.
The elementary years is an opportune time for a child to try a variety of activities. When a child is energetic we sign them up for sports like soccer, tennis, T-ball, gymnastics which are all great options. If your active child is not ready for organized sports there are plenty of other ways to channel their energy while still working on their eye hand coordination, and gross motor skills like partaking in racquet sports or art projects. Something to keep in mind is that if a child is athletic and motivated they will still be able to pick up sport later on regardless of whether they started at a young age. In fact their excitement and determination may be stronger at that point.
Whether it’s art or music providing your child with the space and materials to create will build a solid foundation for them to continue to explore in these areas. Your child may be interested in video games, animals or Legos. If they like animals, they can help on a farm or with adopt a dog. If they like video games they may like coding, robotics or a camp where they can create an app or a game. A Lego fan may like other building experiences such as an architect class or tinkering or even just taking apart an old cell phone to see how it works. Continue to encourage these interests while also exposing them to new ones.
As a middle schooler interests and participation can change. This is still a great time for children to try something different, but also a time where they may feel hindered. Middle school can provide a time for children to be exposed to sports, drama, arts and music in ways they didn’t know existed. For example a school may offer squash, fencing or track which a child may not have tried and all of sudden they love it. They may become part of the tech department, stage crew or try out for a play. An art teacher may encourage a student to submit their art work or an English teacher may want a student to write for the literary magazine. This happens in high school as well. Opportunities to try different areas may be influenced by friends. In some cases this can be great and in other ways a child may drop a musical instrument or their interest in acting because it doesn’t seem cool anymore. But these passions can resurge again in high school. Other times activities may be dropped because a student has participated for so many years and they lose interest and motivation. As middle schoolers transition to high school they hopefully have a better sense of what it is they like and begin to narrow their focus. They may still try to be part of multiple sports teams and clubs, but they will also start to choose which interest to be involved in after school, on weekends and as part of the school they are attending. Children need to feel valued. They want to be part of something, be excited about their interests, and feel uniquely special. We just need to be mindful in the ways we encourage them to get there. Let’s remember many fifty year-olds are still trying to figure out what ignites them! Children will find their “thing”, they just need time and experiences to figure what it is.