When did you first notice your young child becoming keenly interested in a specific activity? Did he pick up a small keyboard, start playing, and eventually begin picking out notes that sounded almost like a melody? Maybe your little one started counting to five, and then ten, and has moved on well into the double digits, counting everything from dolls and stuffed animals to the cars that drive by. In either case, nurturing these interests can lead to a lifelong affinity that can help your child to develop valuable skills. But remember to approach these interests in an age-appropriate fashion.
Help Your Child Move Slowly and Independently. When you notice that your child loves to pluck out notes on a guitar, practice gymnastic moves he’s seen his older sibling perform, or recite the alphabet from memory, it can be tempting to look for intensive classes, to push them to move to the next level, and to give them mounting tasks. But instead, give them what they need to slowly develop their skills independently before you start the search for a private tutor. Does your little one love to count? Give her an abacus, and let her engage in independent play. If she begins to ask you about addition, subtraction, or wants to share her interest with you on a daily basis, then think about next steps.
Keep Things Fun! Does your little one copy dance moves perfectly, exhibiting a real interest and skill? That’s great! But before you have her wrapping her toes and practicing at the barre daily, have some dance parties! Show her a few ’80s videos and get dressed up together to move to the beat! If your nature lover is growing his own curiosity, get down and dirty in the backyard, finding and identifying plants, insects, and types of rocks, and maybe even arrange a scavenger hunt. There is plenty of time for getting serious, but preschool age kids will benefit from having some fun with their interests.
Dial Back Your Expectations. Your little mathlete may well turn out to be an MIT grad one day. Your gymnast-in-training could make it to the Olympics. But there’s also a chance that your child’s interest is a passing phase, and that’s OK, too. Allow her to explore each of her new interests as she grows, and if she drops one subject and takes up another, that’s simply part of the process.
Let your daycare and preschool teachers know when your child begins to develop a growing interest in math, science, arts, or athletics. Continuing his interests at childcare is a great way to nurture them!