Apart from the usual reading, writing, maths and science skills that your child needs to learn for their future career, there’s another set of skills that they’ll need to succeed, no matter which field they go into. We’ll tell you what these skills are and how you can teach them to your child.
For your child to navigate an increasingly competitive landscape, they need to be able to think critically. Problem-solving skills help your child make decisions, sort out conflict and come up with smart solutions for complex situations.
In order to develop problem-solving skills, your child needs to ask questions like, ‘why’ and ‘what if’. Children are naturally inquisitive and even toddlers start to ask ‘why’. Instead of just providing the answer, help your child discover the answers on their own by turning their questions back on them. Ask your child to come up with possible theories to their problem, help them do the research or experiments to validate their theories, then ask them to explain what they’ve discovered, so they can process what they’ve learned. This encourages them to think through all sides of a problem.
Settling disagreements is another aspect of problem-solving, and your child needs to practice staying calm in the face of confrontations and disagreements. Teach your child to breathe, weigh all sides of the issue, ask ‘why’ and ‘what if’, so they’re focused on the problem, not the person or the emotions, such as anger, indignation or guilt.
Chances are, your child will work as part of a team in their future job, so learning to collaborate effectively is a skill you need to start nurturing in them. As much as possible, give your child the chance to team up with others and work toward a common goal. Turn your child’s next playdate into a cookie-making session, where taking turns and having a set role can help them learn cooperation. The more your child teams up with other children, the more they learn to accept different views and ways of working. It also teaches them to take other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration.
Some parents might try to restrict screen time and take their child to the park more often, but let’s face it, technology is a part of your child’s life. Teaching them how to use technology effectively is probably a better way forward than trying to ban it. Start teaching your child about technology from a young age, so they grow up understanding how to judge whether or not the information they are getting is valid, how to navigate social media and how to use technology in a smart way.
A good way to explore technology together is to start a family blog. Post pictures, write family news and display your child’s latest artwork or projects. Not only are you beefing up important technology skills, blogging will boost your child’s writing and editing skills.
Instil a healthy dose of skepticism for computers and information found on the internet by pointing out things like autocorrect errors, so your child learns that computers don’t have all the answers.
Spatial awareness is the ability to visualise objects and how they fit into a space. Along with basic maths, spatial awareness is the building block for STEM ( science, technology, engineering, maths) learning. It’s also necessary for any profession that requires you to imagine your end product as you work, whether it’s a building, a couture gown or bypass surgery. But most schools don’t provide much training on spatial skills.
Typically, girls need more help with these skills because parents tend to give train sets, Lego kits and educational videogames, like Minecraft, to boys.
Even without toys, you can build spatial skills by giving your child building tasks using popsicle sticks, containers and other simple household objects. Start off with establishing the relationship between objects by asking your child if a smaller piece should go over or under a bigger piece. Then progress to getting them to build two towers with a zip line between them for a doll or action figure to ride. Building a structure that can support a load is not easy! Document your child’s building to encourage more construction.
Your child needs to be able to explain their ideas succintly and diplomatically, firstly, to their classmates and teachers, and then their future colleagues and clients. Your child will be able to achieve things more easily if they are able to communicate effectively.
While most children like being the centre of attention, many adults have a fear of public speaking. So nurture your child’s willingness to speak in front of a group by having them stage plays, read their favourite book and later on, present their case when they want more privileges from you.
Let your child place their own order at a restaurant or pay for something at the cashier, so they get used to interacting with adults and making themselves heard.
To really give their communication skills a workout, have your child give you directions to pick up an object in a room while you’re blindfolded. Then swap so they practice both listening and giving directions.
Creative thinking skills
We often associate creativity with art and craft, but creativity is the ability to imagine what could be and to find original solutions or ways of thinking; and that’s a useful skill no matter what your profession might be.
You can encourage your child’s creativity by getting them to go through the same process designers or engineers go through. They start by identifying the problem, then they brainstorm possible solutions, come up with a plan and put it into action. Brainstorming teaches children that there is always more than one way to solve a problem, and encourages flexibility in their thinking. Following through on a plan and putting it into action teaches discipline and persistence.
Give your child problems to practice on, such as turning on their bedroom light from the hallway with only a ball of string and some tape.