How Kids Learn a Skill

Featured Picture Book

THE ART LESSON by Tomie dePaola

“Tommy knew he wanted to be an artist when he grew up.” He drew all the time. His art was all over his house and the houses of his relatives. He couldn’t wait to go to school in order to get his first art lesson. In the first grade it happened – a real art teacher and a real lesson. But, Tommy ended up very upset with his lesson because it had so many rules. The paper was limited; the crayons were limited; and copying the teacher was expected. Tommy told his teacher he was going to be an artist when he grew up and he needed more freedom when he drew. Luckily the teacher worked out a win-win solution. Tommy drew his class assignment following all the rules. Then, he was free to draw whatever he wanted, however he wanted. He was free to grow into a real artist.

(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

Parenting Thoughts

Do kids need encouragement to get good at a skill?

By all means. Here are ways to encourage your child:

  • Get your child to talk about how well he can do a skill and what exactly he does best.
  • Tell your child what skill he does really well. Be specific about exactly what he is doing so well. Don’t just tell him he is good at it.
  • Tell others how good your child is at a skill and make sure your child overhears you.
  • Tell your child that someone told you about how good he is at a skill.
  • Display your child’s work all over the place.
  • Ask your child for demonstrations – often and in front of others
Should there be rules about how a child practices a skill?

61 Sidebar 2Yes, where safety and responsibility is involved. See One Way Kids Grow Up: Exploration for a discussion about a child’s responsibility to the person paying for his chance to do the activity and to his team, if one is involved.

However, there should not be so many rules that your child has no chance to be creative. It is the creativity brought to his activity that will make him move from being good to great at it.

Should a parent or coach “show” a child how to do a skill better?

61 Sidebar 1There is a place for do-as-I-do teaching or coaching, especially when a child is first learning. This is necessary to make sure your child knows how to do the skill safely, build her confidence, and prevent the development of bad habits or wrong techniques that will prevent later and greater success.

Should a parent let a child just do an  activity, make mistakes, and discover the best way to be successful?

Once the basics are mastered, the child should have more and more opportunity to discover his own ways to do the skill better. As mentioned earlier, it is the creativity brought to his activity that will make him move from being good to great at it.

Can a young child know what he wants to do or be when he grows up?

Many have said in the past that children shouldn’t be thinking about careers too early. How do you know they won’t decide early they want to be a nurse, stay on that path, get educated, and then realize they really want to be a professional golfer? Look at how many adults are trapped in jobs that are not at all fulfilling to them because they settled on it too early in life.

This argument may have had some value years ago, but not so much anymore. A child today will have multiple careers in his lifetime. That is what our fast-changing world demands these days.

50 Sidebar 1Because of this, we can look at the early interests and talents of a child as an important first step to possibly a first career while also being a steppingstone to many other different careers as well. In fact, the world of work has changed amazingly. Future workers may have as many as half a dozen different careers in their lifetime.

Being able to combine an early first interest with another and another interest down the road will only make a person more valuable and successful over time. “Nurse Andy” can learn a lot about medicine in that career and still become a great golfer in a second career by using what he knows about the human body, health, and wellness.

Children need to start early to think of careers in terms of many possibilities, not just one. That famous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is not really the best question nowadays.  Even if a child’s answer ended up being his first job, it will not likely be his only job.

I suggest you ask instead, “What are three things you want to do when you grow up?” It will encourage your child to think she has lots of things she can do in the future. How exciting is that?  If she wants to be both a dancer and a firefighter – she can.

So, don’t worry about your child thinking of his interests and skills as a career – no matter how young she is. Just make sure she knows that changing her mind is OK – not only just OK, but one more thing that makes her special.

All her interests and skills are like building blocks. How she stacks them up over time will be very different from how anybody else stacks them up – and her “stack” will make her a star!

Read More

Your Child’s Special Talents, Part 1

Your Child’s Special Talents, Part 2

Your Child’s Special Talents, Part 3

Your Child is a Star!

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson


 Surf the Internet:
  • learning a skill
  • career awareness for children
  • special talents in kids
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