Does she love to make things out of Styrofoam and rusty springs she finds on the ground? Does he raid the recycling bin for the perfect toilet roll part for his new robot?
If any of this sounds familiar, your child’s passions and talents may lie in the worlds of engineering, architecture, inventing and more.
So is there anything parents can do now to help nurture these interests and prepare their little builders for later opportunities?
“While all kids are natural builders, inventors and creators, this passion should be encouraged and fed in order to develop further,” says Patricia Zawada, director of Creative Encounters with Science, a non-profit science/engineering/technology program for kids at the University of Guelph.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and author of "Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential," says fueling your child’s passions can help kids build happy lives down the road, but cautions parents not to see this process as an end point or golden ring.
“Nurturing our kids' true potential isn't about making sure they meet some predetermined standards,” she says. “It's about helping them develop the skills they need so they can create a life that is meaningful and satisfying to them.”
Zawada explains the benefits of building and offers tips for parents who want to help encourage their kids in this interest.
Benefits of Building for Kids:
- Improved problem solving/informed decision-making skills;
- Increased sense of accomplishment and improved confidence;
- Spatial skills (2D & 3D)
- Increased creativity and ingenuity;
- Improved awareness of science, engineering and technology.
Ways To Stimulate Your Builder:
- Building Kits: Lego NXT, Snap Circuits, Keva Structures;
- Crafts: Use materials around the home to create various one act structures, for example, a marble sorter, catapult or "Paperless" Airplane (made of anything but paper);
- Videos: Pick a machine kids are curious about, e.g.car, washing machine, television and find a video on YouTube on how it’s made.
- Parent/Child Projects: Can include improving everyday tasks around the house, e.g. fixing leaky faucets;
- Reverse Engineering: taking things apart and rebuilding them;
- Science Camps & Clubs: Many camps ae run out of local universities by undergraduate students who are enthusiastic about engineering and inspiring youth.
Parents Should Encourage:
- Interest in how things work;
- Designing & brainstorming before building;
- Failed attempts being just as important as successes;
- Trying new things and stepping outside of comfort zones;
- Using limited materials or recycling;
- Ways to improve & grow;
- Girls to get involved in building as well (women are underrepresented in technology, science and engineering).
Some Final Tips:
Kennedy-Moore offers two more tips for parents working on building projects with kids:
- Don't take over;
- Focus on process, not outcome.