By Shannon Anderson, author of Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day
The warmer months are filled with new things growing in nature, time off from school to pursue interests, and opportunities for camps, classes, sports, and other activities. This being, summer is the ideal time to encourage kids to try new things.
As kids learn new things, they are bound to make mistakes. So summer is also the perfect time to help kids develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can gain new skills with instruction, practice, and time. As adults, we can help kids see that making mistakes and learning from them is just part of the process of mastering a skill.
Here are some ways to encourage learning and growth mindset thinking this summer.
1. Grow Fruits or Vegetables
Growing your own food is a fantastic way to bond as a family, teach plant life cycles, and help kids appreciate where their food comes from. And if you’ve ever tried to grow something, you also know that it can be challenging to keep up with the weeding, watering, and harvesting involved. There may be pests to outwit, and sometimes the weather works against you.
But despite the challenges, growing fruits and vegetables teaches many important life lessons, not the least of these being that we reap what we sow. For example, if you don’t water your strawberries, you probably won’t get any. If you don’t pull the weeds, they’ll likely choke out delicate seedlings. Your kids will get to see the fruits of their labors during the harvest and will build endurance and patience as they “grow” through the season. They will witness how their efforts connect directly with the success of their plants, and they’ll experience joy and pride in seeing their hard work in the beans, bell peppers, and berries they get to enjoy and share with others.
2. Get Cooking
With fresh fruits and vegetables aplenty in the summer months, it’s a great time for kids to learn the art of cooking. From preparing nutritious meals to baking delicious desserts, kids can practice many math and problem-solving skills as they cook. When following a recipe, it is important for kids to pay attention to details and follow directions. Think of all the work it takes to figure out the ingredients needed, shop for the items in the correct amounts, and ensure you have the proper equipment and know how to use it.
You can have kids work backward from dinnertime to figure out how long it will take to prepare and cook the food so it’s ready at the right time. There are many opportunities to learn from mistakes and rework a recipe that didn’t turn out as expected. You can also encourage kids to try to create their own recipes. They can use the experience they gained making other dishes to figure out new flavor combinations and create new foods.
3. Get Creative
During the school year, it may be harder for kids to find time to explore things like art, music, drama, photography, poetry, or dance. These activities promote creativity and help kids learn the value of practice. Another beautiful thing about these activities is that kids learn how to turn a mistake into something delightful. After all, Bob Ross did say that mistakes are only “happy little accidents.” On the canvas, a drip of paint can be turned into a flower. On the stage or the dance floor, a stumble becomes part of the act.
Taking creative risks also builds confidence and helps kids use other parts of their brain. If lessons in a creative area are not available locally, try looking online or search for camps and summer workshops in your area. You might also head to the library to check out books for self-study at home. Once your child learns a song, paints a picture, crochets a hat, or masters a dance, think of ways they can share their work with family and friends. It is fun to celebrate both the progress and the finished product. When your child gains enough confidence and skill, they may even want to teach someone else.
4. Get Moving
With nicer weather and more time, why not get out and enjoy the summer season with a new movement activity? Kids could commit to walking daily with the family dog or a friend, sign up and train for a 5K, take up bike riding, buy a skateboard, or learn to play tennis. All these activities are good for you physically and mentally.
Some sports or recreational activities require learning how to build up endurance or mastering new equipment or rules. They also help kids learn sportsmanship, perseverance, and patience. Kids will see themselves progress over time as they practice. And, of course, these are fun ways to enjoy the outdoors and learn a new skill you can enjoy for many years to come.
What would your child enjoy learning or exploring this summer? Start by brainstorming a list of all the things they might be interested in. From there, research what kids need to do to make those things happen. When kids have some agency in deciding what they’d like to pursue, they are more motivated to persevere past mistakes and more likely to enjoy the ride. Whatever you do, my wish for you is a wonderful summer of learning, creating, and fun!
Shannon Anderson has taught for 25 years, from first grade through college level. Her career highlight was being named one of the Top 10 Teachers who inspired the Today Show. Shannon is also the author of many children’s books and a national speaker. She was named the JC Runyon Person of the Year for her work helping kids with social and emotional issues through her writing and speaking. To find out more, you can visit: shannoisteaching.com.
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