Best Toys (and games) that teach essential life skills and help skills to children.
American columnist Ann Landers says, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, will make them successful human beings” and several child counselors here in India agree to what she says.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says learning life skills such as decision-making, leadership and critical thinking make children more adaptive to change.
Despite the presence of several good schools and a number of education boards, it seems the education system still focuses on academic scores and development, and not on making a child independent.
Learning life skills prepare kids for challenges ahead in life, and makes them emotionally stronger.
Apart from better decision-making and being able to see a situation from a different perspective, here are a few life skills that every child needs to learn.
Childhood is littered with challenges and the ability to make decisions and solve problems by oneself can help children cope better in the long run. Parents should help kids develop so that they can make healthy decisions in the future. Parents shouldn’t run to rescue their children all the time and allow them to go wrong. Just give them a couple of chances to figure it out. Give them situations and they are asked to come up with a solution. Such role-playing exercises teach them to work as a team and tackle problems independently.
Parents take most decisions on their child’s behalf assuming that they aren’t equipped to. But doing so can be detrimental. Giving children opportunities to make decisions in their day-to-day life brings in a sense of responsibility in them. Parents should allow children to identify the decisions to be made and think and evaluate the options. Encourage children to pen their thoughts and feelings. Talk to them about real-life situations and ask them what their decision would be in a certain case. Children are comfortable taking ‘programmed decisions’ for which there are clear rules and guidelines. But they struggle with ‘unprogrammed decisions’ where they must rely on their own judgment. Most adults, at the time of crisis, tend to take emotional decisions, which we regret later. Even children choose how they will behave, their choice of games, books or TV shows in a similar way. Children should be taught not to take impulsive decisions. Decisions that offer instant gratification may not ideal in the long run.
Independent thinking skills
Being able to have a distinct opinion that may not always subscribe to the herd mentality can help a child form his individual identity. Independent thinking skills are essential for a child’s overall development. Kids should be taught the importance of being different and not just living up to everyone’s expectations. This will help them to be more accepting of themselves.” Marker feels that parents should give their children the liberty to think for themselves. As parents, we often unknowingly do all the work for them. This can actually hinder the child’s independent thinking skills.
Creative thinking skills
Children who are encouraged to think creatively exhibit higher self-esteem and motivation. In order to furnish the creative experiences which will help children express their feelings, they need to have an open mind and not be bogged down with restrictive thinking. To stand out in the competitive world, children need to be able to think differently. Parents must inculcate imagination in children.
We should encourage children to ask more questions and create their own art. Everything is so standardized today that the child hardly gets a chance to be creative. Allow your child to splash some colors on a white canvas. There is a concept and a story hiding behind those splashes of colors.
Critical thinking skills
Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making included critical thinking on her list of seven essential life skills needed by every child. And its contribution to mental growth cannot be refuted. Children should be able to critically analyze information and differentiate between right and wrong. Parents should ask open-ended questions to tickle their thinking process. Quiz them on why a certain thing is happening and what caused it. Developing a holistic vision with different ways of looking at a piece of information can be used for critical thinking.
Creating a sense of self–awareness
Self-awareness is a skill that helps children tune in to their feelings, thoughts and actions. This means children are able to keep track of what they are doing and figure out what’s working for them and what’s not. One of the reasons for suicides in young adults is lack of self-awareness. Self-awareness also leads to self-reflection. If children are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, it helps them make better decisions, understand and talk about their feelings and see how their behavior affects others. Self-awareness can be developed by maintaining a diary and penning down thoughts, ideas, feelings and behavior patterns which help in understanding oneself.
Building interpersonal relationships
The happiness and satisfaction of every individual depends on how his interpersonal relationships are. Helping children develop the full range of interpersonal skills will ensure they learn to build healthy relationships with others in their adult life. “Developing the attitude of gratitude in children helps them value relationships.
Learn to be empathetic
Shah’s workshops includes role plays and discussions on empathy by teaching children to be good to others. She says, “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. They need to learn to remove all biases and prejudices and think from others point of view.
We need to teach children to see a problem as a challenge. Good leaders must know the difference between wants and needs and learn to prioritize. Being impulsive in taking decisions may spoil things. Doing what is right even when no one is watching is an important trait of a leader and needs to be developed in children, such skills also help a child communicate better.
Dr Marker adds, “They need to learn to be able to accept and tolerate people irrespective of gender, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, skin color or disability.”
Estimating time, doing tasks on time, being on time are all part of time management. Giving children a visual estimate of time is important so that they can track the time for any activity. Sand timers for young children who cannot read time on a clock, works best.