Helping Kids to Try New Things

One of the great things about being an adult is getting to choose when we want to try new things. Sure, everyone else is watching Mrs. America or Tiger King, but you? You’re going to binge watch all seven seasons of Buffy. For the eighth time. You might temper that with trying a new food for the first time or deciding to find out what squid ink pasta tastes like.

Most people with children not only know every word to the song Let It Go, from the movie Frozen, but they can do the choreography. Kids love repetition. My nieces and nephews love to be tossed in the air – over and over.  They love to play with their favorite toy, and woe be to the person who tries to introduce an undisguised vegetable!

How do we foster the courage to try new things in our children? There are some very simple things you can do at home, and now is the perfect time to start!

Begin with yourself. Kids model adult behavior, so start by demonstrating the courage to make mistakes. If you accidentally burn toast in the toaster, say “oh shoot,” and let’s try again. Part of the fear of trying new things is fear of not being good at it the first time, or the second time. If kids learn it’s OK to make mistakes, they will be less afraid.

Second, point out improvement. Renowned play therapists Terry Kottman and Kristin Meaney-Whalen use the example of bike riding in their book Partners in Play.  If your child struggles with riding a bike but can balance and peddle for half a block, say something like “You stayed up… and yesterday you thought you couldn’t do that! Great job!”

Third, don’t do things for your kids that they can do for themselves. This is likely to involve adjustments on your part: if kids know how to tie their shoes, let them, even if you must start getting ready earlier so that you are not in a rush!

Also, spend 10 minutes a day, three times a week doing an activity of your child’s choice. Yes, that’s 10 minutes per child, if you have more than one.

Activities that you can introduce to help foster courage include playing with Play Doh (mistakes are ok, and you can try again), finger paints and water colors (there’s almost no way to create a perfect picture with finger-paints), make shapes with shaving cream, and stacking blocks and knocking them down.

Finally, have fun with your child!

JD Dreiling, APC, is an Associate Counselor at CHRIS Counseling Center- DeKalb who specializes in play therapy. To make an appointment, please contact intakeccdekalb@CHRIS180.org.

JD Dreiling, APC
jdreiling@CHRIS180.org
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