Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15
| Nurturing Children's Talents
By Sara Gable
May 3, 2008, 09:23 PST
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Human Development Extension State Specialist
Adults can nurture children's
positive self-esteem by helping them discover what they are good at doing. Part
of a child's self esteem comes from feeling competent and skilled at something
she or he enjoys. You can play a big role in helping children to be successful
and feel good about themselves.
A place to start is by creating opportunities for children to explore different
objects, activities, and people. Early in life, children show personality traits
and preferences for what they like and dislike. By planning learning opportunities
with children's unique personality styles in mind, you nuture their positive
feelings about themselves.
The many ways of learning
Children learn about the world
in many different ways. One educator, Howard Gardner, believes that children's
ways of learning can be grouped into eight categories. To help children discover
their personal abilities and learning preferences, you can provide opportunities
that cover the eight different types of learning. Some children have many interests
and want to learn about a variety of things; other children are satisfied with
one or two kinds of learning and want to focus mostly on them. All children are
unique; what is important is that you help them to learn what they are good at,
what they enjoy and what makes them feel good about themselves.
- Learning about logic
and mathematics. This category of learning emphasizes understanding and organizing
the world of objects and includes math, sorting objects by size and/or color
and seeing patterns.
- Learning about language.
Language-based learning is about understanding and using spoken and written
language. This category includes how children learn to explain themselves,
to persuade others and to tell and write stories.
- Learning about music.
Learning about music centers on principles of music, such as rhythm, pitch,
melody and tone quality. This might include how children learn the words and melody
to a new song, as well as
learn how to sing and play musical instruments.
- Learning about spatial
relations. This learning centers on seeing objects in the environment and
recreating what was seen later in our minds. For example, teaching children
about spatial relations may help them to find their classroom at school, to
remember the location of a favorite spot in the woods, or to read and follow
a road map.
- Learning about physical
control. This type of learning helps children to control the movement of their
bodies. Learning how to string beads, hold a crayon, kick a soccer ball, perform
gymnastics or ride a bicycle are all examples of physical control.
- Learning about others.
Learning about others helps children understand how to get along with others
one-on-one, how to recognize the needs, thoughts and feelings of others, and
how to get along in groups of children.
- Learning about self.
Children also need to learn about themselves and to understand their own needs,
thoughts, feelings and personal likes and dislikes.
- Learning about nature.
Learning about nature helps children to recognize and understand characteristics
of the natural world, such as animals, plants and the environment.
You can work with children
to discover and nurture their personal learning strengths and abilities. Encourage
them to practice and exercise their talents so that skills grow and improve.
If you provide opportunities that touch on the different kinds of learning,
children will recognize which activities come naturally, feel right and are
and the ways of learning
Recognizing children's unique
personality styles can help adults to better understand children and to plan activities
that children can learn from and enjoy. Research shows that a child's emotional
style, activity level and social nature are present during the first few months
of life and are unlikely to change much over time.
Consider these questions when learning about a child's personality (adapted
from Buss and Plomin, 1984):
- Does the child tend to
be somewhat emotional, whether positive and/or negative?
- Does the child get upset
- Does the child react
intensely when happy or upset?
When determining how well
a child enjoys, or does not enjoy, a new learning experience, watch the child's
emotional reaction. For example, a child who does not react strongly one way
or the other after a new experience may need to be asked directly about whether
or not she or he liked the activity. A child who is negatively reactive during
new learning opportunities may require a few chances with the experience to
see how well she or he likes something.
- Does the child move and
run about quickly or slowly?
- Is the child immediately
off and running in the morning?
- Does the child prefer
quiet, inactive games instead of busy, active ones?
When planning learning
experiences, keep in mind that activity levels vary among children. Some children
are highly active and may favor trying new things that require large muscle
movement and physical agility. Others may prefer object-oriented activities
that require concentration and coordination of the small muscles in the hand.
- Does the child prefer
to play with others rather than alone?
- Does the child make friends
- Does the child find people
more stimulating than anything else?
Some children enjoy learning
through talking and sharing with others. Other children prefer to learn on their
own through a process of trial and error. Some children favor a combination
of both. Regardless of a child's preferred level of social interaction, with
the help of caring adults, most children can learn to understand themselves
and understand the needs, thoughts and feelings of others. Learning about others
and about the self helps children to feel positive about themselves and their
abilities to understand and get along with others.
All children are unique.
You can recognize this by planning activities that take a child's personality
into consideration. The traits described above are unlikely to change much with
time, so you are best advised to work with a child's personality style rather
than work to make changes in it.
The importance of observing
To nurture children's talents
effectively, carefully watch how they react to learning opportunities.
"Children communicate with
us through their eyes, the quality of their voices, their body postures, their
gestures, their mannerisms, their smiles, their jumping up and down, their listlessness"
(p. 5, Cohen, Stern and Balaban, 1983).
By observing children's
behavior, you can learn what children prefer and what yields positive feelings.
A child who can't stay on task during piano lessons and who gets angry when
asked to practice may not be the best candidate for music lessons. Keeping a
child involved in an unsatisfying activity may keep the child from discovering
something more satisfying. A child who enthusiastically gets dressed and ready
for soccer practice 15 minutes early and who talks endlessly about the most
recent game may have found a wonderful place to nurture his or her skills and
Table 1: The eight intelligences
and activity ideas for children (birth to 12 years)
ideas are listed below for each kind of learning. Try different activities
on the basis of the child's age and the child's personality style. Record
thoughts and ideas about new experiences, games and activities to try with
||Infants and toddlers
- Show black and
- Simple counting
- Sort small and
- Provide structure
in daily routines
- Go Fish card game
- Matching games
- Objects for sorting
by size and color
- Point out patterns
in daily routine (wake up, get ready for school, etc.)
- Sorry board game
- Card games (Go
- Talk about patterns
in everyday life (school and work schedules)
- Take turns in conversation
- Play in a face-to-face
- Label the world
and the child's experiences
- Elaborate on child's
simple sentences ("Yes, the pizza is hot; blow on it before you eat
- Read books
- Encourage storytelling
- Engage in emergent
literacy activities (let chile "write" thank-you letters, use wordless
storybooks, encourage child to read street signs and food boxes)
- Read and write
- Ask for verbal
explanations of child's thoughts and behaviors
- Provide joke and
- Create opportunities
for child to write
- Visit the library
- Play misic
- Sing songs
- Change tone of
voice when talking; use "motherese"
- Provide musical
- Have parades with
groups of children
- Sing songs
- Write songs
- Music lessons
- Sing in groups
- Attend musical
- Provide child with
own radio and/or tape player
- Hang mobiles within
child's sight, yet out of child's reach
- Build, build, build
- Play hide and seek
with toys, provide verbal clues
- Memory games
- Draw maps
- Read maps
- Talk about different
places you have visited
- Write stories about
places you have visited
and physical control
- Rattles and other
toys for baby to grasp
- Encourage reaching
and self-produced locomotion (crawling, pulling self up, walking)
- Play with balls
- Jump ropes
- Crafts, such as
simple sewing and easel painting
- Jump ropes
- Label other people
and narrate what they are doing
- Make opportunities
for small group play with age-mates
- Encourage peer
- Talk about feelings
and thoughts of others
- Provide clothes
and props for role play and fantasy play
- Encourage conflict
resolution and peer problem solving
- Talk about needs,
thoughts and feelings of others
- Participate in
organized group activities (e.g., Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts)
- Tell child what
you like about him or her
- Label child's feelings
- Provide consistent
direction and guidance
- Provide constant
guidance and direction
- Talk with child
about likes and dislikes
- Discuss child's
feelings and the reasons for them
- Help and encourage
child to pursue hobbies and interests
- Encourage child
to talk about feelings and reasons for them
- Carefull acquaint
child with the outdoors
- Slowly introduce
- Talk about the
earth, plants and animals
- Plan outdoor adventures
(short hikes and bike rides)
- Plant seeds
- Encourage recycling
- Can assist with
- More outdoor adventures
- Visit nature centers
- Plant a small garden
- Encourage recycling
- Can take more responsibility
for pet care
You can nurture children's
learning and talents by creating opportunities for children to explore different
objects, activities, and people. When children participate in different learning
experiences, keep track of their behavior and ask them about their thoughts and
feelings. Helping children to discover what they are good at promotes healthy
self esteem and is essential to their future success.
References and resources
Berger, E. H., and M. J. Pollman.
1996. Multiple intelligences: Enabling diverse learning. Early Childhood Education
Buss, A.H. and R. Plomin. 1984. Temperament: Early developing personality
traits. NJ: Erlbaum.
Cohen, D.H., V. Stern, and N. Balaban. 1983. Observing and recording the
behavior of young children. NY: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Gardner, H. 1983. Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences.
NY: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. 1995. Reflections on multiple intelligences: Myths and messages.
Phi Delta Kappan 77:200-209.
Gottman, J., and J. DeClaire. 1997. The heart of parenting. New York,
NY: Simon and Schuster.
Plomin, R. 1990. Nature and nurture: An introduction to human behavioral
genetics. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
1999 University of Missouri. Published by University
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