How to help children figure out what their interests are

I recently visited the Butterfly Show at the Krohn Conservatory. I entered the butterfly room and my eyes were greeted with splashes of winged color. My ears were met with the laughter of young children. My nose took in the smell of nectar-filled flowers. I enjoyed watching the butterflies as they would bask in the sun, fly from flower to flower, and roost under the leaves of trees. After walking around the area for a while I sat to rest and watch everything around me.

Children need help figuring out what they're interests are!

Later, I contemplated the events of the day and my mind wandered to my observations at the Conservatory. I reflected upon the beautiful, flying creatures and saw them as unique and beautiful individuals. I also reflected upon the children I saw. Each child there was also a unique individual with individual needs, likes, dislikes, and gifts. Just as each butterfly takes a different path to get to the flowers so does each child take a different path to what he needs and wants.

I thought about our responsibilities as child care providers in helping each child find her own path in life and I decided there are so many things we can do to assist children in developing their gifts. Below are some tips in helping our children become the best person they can be and grow into and embrace their individuality and the path they choose.

Child care providers need to offer a variety of materials for children to learn and explore their interests. Having materials available allows children to discover, experiment, and manipulate the world around them. Classroom materials not only need to support a range of interests but also a range of developmental levels. Children have different interests and develop at different rates. Children will also want to use the materials in ways that are different than expected. For instance, Playdoh may become food for the dramatic play area and unifix cubes may become a rocket to fly in space. This is a wonderful way for children to use their imagination and creative skills.

We also need to simply talk with children and allow them the opportunity to share, speak, and converse with us. So many times we talk “at” children but do not allow them to offer their ideas, thoughts and opinions. It is amazing what we can learn from children when let them speak and we actually listen.

Reading with children and sharing stories about a variety of topics will help children expand their interests and knowledge on certain topics. Exposing the children to the many interesting things about our world will expand their vocabulary and show them how big and small our world can be at the same time.

Butterflies instinctively know the path they need. But as teachers, it is our responsibility to show children the many paths from which they have to choose. Being a child is an exciting time for discovery. It’s a time to know they can be and become whomever they choose.