FIVE THINGS THAT CAN HELP KIDS GET AHEAD

Your Baby & Toddler - - Features -

#1 READ TO THEM FROM BIRTH You don’t need to wait un­til your baby mas­ters his first words: research shows that read­ing to ba­bies in early in­fancy gives them a kick­start when it comes to lan­guage, vo­cab­u­lary and read­ing skills. It not only fires up the part of the brain that’s be­hind speak­ing and read­ing, but it also stim­u­lates the area linked to men­tal im­agery, thus boost­ing imag­i­na­tion and the abil­ity to “see” the story in their head.

The early build­ing blocks for read­ing will do more than give them tools to tackle nov­els later on. By build­ing vo­cab­u­lary they are likely to un­der­stand the nu­ances and emo­tions wo­ven into the story, which will get them hooked on read­ing.

Try an in­ter­ac­tive ap­proach to read­ing with tod­dlers and young chil­dren who can­not read yet. They can look at il­lus­tra­tions, turn the pages by them­selves and lis­ten for changes in your voice. You can also ask them ques­tions as you go along, which tunes their lis­ten­ing and com­pre­hen­sion skills.

#2 GIVE THEM MU­SIC LES­SONS You may have heard that ex­pos­ing your child to clas­si­cal mu­sic in the womb and be­yond is ben­e­fi­cial, but sadly there is no real ev­i­dence that turn­ing up the Mozart will boost their brain­power. How­ever, en­cour­ag­ing them to learn a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment has proven re­wards. Research con­ducted at the Univer­sity of Lon­don showed that it ac­tu­ally de­vel­ops and grows the parts of a child’s brain that gives them the abil­ity to learn new words and their abil­ity to process them. Be­cause it teaches them to sep­a­rate out sounds and tones it also helps with read­ing. But there’s more… Learn­ing to play an in­stru­ment en­cour­ages cre­ativ­ity, builds self-es­teem, as­sists with math­e­mat­i­cal solv­ing skills and self-dis­ci­pline – all skills that will stand your child in good stead.

Jenni Mor­ri­son of Ju­nior Jive rec­om­mends start­ing off by singing to your baby. “In do­ing this you au­to­mat­i­cally use fa­cial ex­pres­sions and do ac­tions. In this way, you are de­vel­op­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion with him or her, you are teach­ing so­cial skills, you are de­vel­op­ing lis­ten­ing skills and lan­guage skills, you are en­cour­ag­ing your baby to move his or her body with you – and you are teach­ing singing!

“I just love it when ba­bies start mov­ing their lit­tle bot­toms and legs when they hear a fa­mil­iar song – the con­nec­tion is there, and they are ex­press­ing it through move­ment,” she says.

Join­ing mu­sic and move­ment classes pro­vides ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop all the skills needed to play an in­stru­ment and also pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore dif­fer­ent per­cus­sion in­stru­ments. This is then a nat­u­ral way to in­tro­duce your child to a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, says Jenni. “Once you see that your child has an un­der­stand­ing that the lit­tle squig­gles on the page when you read them a story are words, which you read and tell the story from, then they are ready to start be­ing in­tro­duced to the sym­bols of mu­sic no­ta­tion, read­ing mu­sic and trans­fer­ring the squig­gles to mak­ing mu­sic with an in­stru­ment,” she says.

“Also, be aware that chil­dren de­velop their gross mo­tor skills first be­fore de­vel­op­ing their fine mo­tor skills. Take into con­sid­er­a­tion your child’s mo­tor de­vel­op­ment when choos­ing an in­stru­ment to learn.”

#3 HELP THEM TO TOUGHEN UP Our kids are grow­ing up in an in­creas­ingly stress­ful world. Key traits you want to help them to de­velop to cope with the chal­lenges, says Paul Tough, au­thor of Help­ing Chil­dren Suc­ceed, are per­se­ver­ance, self-con­trol and op­ti­mism. These char­ac­ter­is­tics will help a child learn how to tackle a task and see it through from be­gin­ning to end.

Eas­ier said than done. The anx­i­ety, tantrums and drama our kids throw at us when faced with a chal­lenge can pull at our heart­strings and trig­ger us to com­plete the task for them, com­fort them through it or al­low them to throw in the towel.

In­stead, our valu­able role as par­ents is to sup­port them in their strug­gle, says Janet Lans­bury, an ed­u­ca­tor who pro­duces the pod­cast Un­ruf­fled.

She says chil­dren need to know that we trust them and we be­lieve they can do it when faced with a strug­gle.

“We want them to learn that they can do it on their own, and they don’t need us to make it hap­pen for them. The feel­ings that arise – anger, frus­tra­tion – are nor­mal and we want our kids to learn that it’s OK to feel that. We want them to know those feel­ings do pass and I do feel bet­ter and I re­cover,” she says.

Whether it’s tack­ling home­work or tak­ing on a Lego project, Janet says don’t di­rect or fix.

“In­stead: Be pa­tient and fully at­ten­tive, pro­vid­ing only the most min­i­mal di­rec­tion needed for chil­dren to be able to ac­com­plish self-cho­sen tasks them­selves,” she says.

#4 GIVE THEIR EMO­TIONS A VOICE It is very im­por­tant for par­ents to be part of the child’s jour­ney in build­ing their emo­tional in­tel­li­gence; how­ever, the prob­lem is that par­ents don’t know how to do this, and on a sub­con­scious level are pass­ing on their own is­sues, low self­es­teem, anx­i­ety and chal­lenges onto the child, says Julie Mccarthy, a chil­dren’s life coach at Mag­icblox.

Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence be­gins to de­velop in the ear­li­est years, con­tin­ues Julie. “All the small ex­changes chil­dren have with their par­ents and teach­ers carry emo­tional mes­sages. Par­ents and teach­ers need to adopt an ‘emo­tion coach­ing’ ap­proach,” she says and rec­om­mends the fol­low­ing:

* Chil­dren learn through mod­el­ling, so be more self-aware of how you han­dle big emo­tions in life, be­cause your chil­dren are watch­ing and learn­ing from you.

* In­crease their emo­tional vo­cab­u­lary by la­belling emo­tions as you ex­pe­ri­ence them.

* En­cour­age a larger range of emo­tions than just “happy” and “sad”. In­clude emo­tions such as ex­cited, jeal­ous, frus­trated, sur­prised, proud, and so on.

* Do recog­nise neg­a­tive emo­tions as an op­por­tu­nity to con­nect with your child.

* Don’t pun­ish, dis­miss or scold your child for be­ing emo­tional; rather coach them through the ex­pe­ri­ence.

* Don’t con­vey judg­ment or frus­tra­tion when your child is emo­tional.

#5 GIVE THEM CHORES TO DO We all want the best for our kids, but our ob­ses­sion with their marks is get­ting in the way of their fu­ture suc­cess, says Julie Lyth­cott-haims, au­thor of How to Raise An Adult.

“We should be less con­cerned with the univer­si­ties they may get into and far more con­cerned about the habits, the mind­set, the skill set and the well­ness they have to be suc­cess­ful wher­ever they go,” she says.

The recipe for build­ing the right child­hood foun­da­tion? “Love and chores,” says Julie.

Based on a Har­vard research, Julie says it has been proven that the big­gest pre­dic­tor of achiev­ing pro­fes­sional suc­cess as an adult comes from hav­ing done chores as a child – and the ear­lier you start it the bet­ter.

“It builds a pitch-in mind­set and a mind­set that I will con­trib­ute to the bet­ter­ment of all,” she ex­plains. This “can-do” at­ti­tude and abil­ity to take ini­tia­tive are what gets you ahead in the work­place. Even tod­dlers can be taught to pack away their toys, help with mak­ing their bed, feed pets and other sim­ple tasks – so start teach­ing them to “pitch in” as soon as they can. YB

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