Not to worry, this isn’t about adding even more activities to your kiddo’s already maxed-out schedule. Instead, we offer timely tips on raising a confident, well-rounded child who can make his own way in life and who will succeed in his own time.
1. Family matters
Provide a stable family background for your child and you'll be giving him the best start to becoming a well-rounded person. Junior’s immediate family members are his first social contacts — so, the way he’s treated at home and the relationships he builds with his loved ones are the benchmark for all the relationships he’ll have later in life.
Psychiatrist Dr Alvin Liew states that a stable family is not only nurturing, happy and non-abusive, it accepts that children can fail along the way. “Having a stable family and a nurturing environment at home, school and in society cannot be over emphasised,”he says.
Alan Yip, founder of Mind Edge Learning Academy, notes that family support is crucial to building your child’s self-esteem. “They face challenges with courage, excitement and confidence because they know that whatever the outcome, whether they succeed or not, their parents will embrace them at the end of the day,” he explains. This sense of safety gives your child the freedom to explore ideas without fear.
2. Go outdoors
Take time to go outdoors with your brood. Whether it’s a walk to the neighbourhood park, scootering, cycling along the beach, or even going for a swim, it’s the perfect way to get your kids moving. They’ll be getting a dose of vitamin D and some exercise at the same time.
Besides increasing stamina and concentration, exercise stimulates your young ’un’s brains. And very often, physical activities can teach valuable life lessons, such as the value in working for goals and pushing himself.
3. Give praise
Our little ones are no strangers to being warned, corrected and reprimanded every now and then as toddler behaviour can be hard to deal with. To boost his self-esteem, try to “catch” junior exhibiting good behaviour. Whether it’s simply putting a toy away, or finishing up his meal without a fuss, let him know you’ve taken note.
Praise effort, rather than results. Research has shown that kids work harder and do better in school when their efforts are praised, rather than their intellect. So, if your kiddo scores well in a test, say “what a lot of work you must have put in to get such a great score,” instead of “what a clever boy!”
4. Get to know your child
Your child needs to have a strong sense of self, so you need to accept his temperament and help him discover who he is. “Focus on your child’s personality and character, not just on academic learning or performance,” says Vikas Malkani, creator and founder of SoulKids, a life skills academy for children.
Don’t compare him with others either, Yip stresses, as “this will only discourage him from performing to his true potential”.
5. Make sure they get enough sleep
Kids these days often have wall-to-wall schedules. But don’t forget that just like you, your munchkins need some “me time”, too, whether it’s doodling in their colouring books or playing with their toys.
Sleep is also crucial for brain development. Scientists at SRI International, an independent American research institute based in California, have found that the earlier a child goes to bed, the better he performs in school. A study of 8,000 4-year-olds found that those with less than the recommended 11 hours of sleep each night fell behind in their studies.
6. Let them play
Play is becoming increasingly recognised as an important part of a child’s education. In fact, there are several preschools that focus solely on play. Says Alicia Tan, head of marketing and communications at Nurture Education Group, which runs Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse and The Kiddiwinkie Place, “Play allows the child to imagine and take ownership of his learning.” Plus, having fun helps junior enjoy the learning process that much more.
When he plays — think Lego blocks —your mini-me is using his fine and gross motor skills. During role-play, he’ll react to his playmates on a social level. Children use language to communicate with each other during a play activity, and very often, they’ll respond emotionally. These behaviours are essential to the cognitive development of young children.
7. Encourage creativity
Expose your child to the arts because it will help develop creativity, which leads to innovation. Art and music are soft skills that will help your child develop his mental and emotional abilities. Malkani points out, “These bring out the natural abilities and talents the child may already have.”
Rena Chew, who founded HeART Studio, an art school, explains that art helps a child communicate visually, express and document an actual experience (such as playing in the park), and even engage the brain in answering “how” and “why” questions (for instance, when he mixes colours). It also develops his social and emotional qualities, by allowing him to work through his feelings, rather than being told what to do. “In art, there is no right and wrong,” Chew notes.
8. Instil good eating habits
Right from the beginning, teach your child about good nutrition. A good start prepares him for a lifetime of good eating habits. Make sure he has a well-rounded diet that contains lots of calcium-rich food for strong bones, lean meats or other forms of protein, and a good variety of fruits and veggies for vitamins and antioxidants. Don’t forget to offer brain-boosting ingredients like oily fish, nuts and broccoli either. You can also talk to an older child about healthy foods and how these will fuel his body. Or involve him in your grocery shopping and cooking of meals. Also, make sure you practise what you preach — so, if you expect your kids to eat healthy — don’t binge on the unhealthy stuff yourself.
9. Teach responsibility
Responsibilities set junior on the right track to honing life skills. “Encourage him to return his trays after meals, help develop his confidence by letting him place his own order for food and let him help you handle money as you pay for purchases when he’s older,” Tan suggests.
Get your little one to handle age-appropriate tasks. As soon as he’s able to manage a certain task on his own — such as making his bed or setting the table — let him do it himself. But don't overwhelm him with too many chores. Frequent success and praise will motivate him to do more, while too many tasks can result in repeated failure and destroy his motivation.
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