How to Create a Nourishing Space for Children to Learn and Grow

One of the most beautiful gifts that Goa (on the West coast of India) bestows on its inhabitants is space- colourful, creative and cultural space.

I bring my daughter to this beautiful place called the Museum of Goa- a gallery and community of contemporary art founded by one of India’s most respected contemporary artists, installer and sculptor, Subodh Kerkar. Besides being home to his art, it is also an incubation centre for creative artists and offers its community and its visitors that much needed creative space in the form of a beautiful cafeteria, gift shop, art workshops for all ages and also events where all kinds of artists from Chefs, classical dancers, actors and many other artists are invited each week to tell us their story, their journey to success.

Now you may wonder why am I talking about this here on a parenting blog. Because – for me parenting too is all about creating this space- where one is free to explore, think, create, learn and grow without the fear of deadlines, exams and judgement of any kind. I personally feel most schools stifle and suppress this in children. No one is more vulnerable to negativity, fear and threat as much as children. Many schools thrive by exploiting this vulnerability and beat kids to submission, conformance and control in the name of discipline, education and careers.

The first time I visited this place, the Museum of Goa, I knew there was something special about this place. It felt different and made us think different. This Saturday when I brought Aanya for the art workshop, I was told that the workshop is not being conducted on the day because no children had registered online for the same. And then I bumped into the great Subodh Kerkar himself and looking at Aanya, he immediately arranged for someone to attend to Aanya’s art craving. Then she simply left her creativity free on the canvas for the next two hours.

Can we create such space in our homes and our schools- a space where children can give their talents the freedom to express themselves in a safe, friendly, fearless manner and learn?

I think there are three essential ingredients such a space would need: the right environment, the right experiences and the right conversations.

1. Expose children to the “right environment”

  • Strive to learn more about how children learn by reading articles, books or watching informational videos.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to engage children in learning.
  • Create an environment at home that is conducive to learning.
  • Instill in children a desire for learning.
  • Allow children to actively interact with the environment – allow them to explore and ask questions.
  • Do not restrict children to experiences that focus only on one set of skills or to experiences that only interest the parents.
  • Show love for all your children equally. (Don’t be partial to some of your children.)
  • Celebrate the uniqueness of each child.
  • Model respect for other’s beliefs and values and expect children to respect other’s beliefs and values.
  • Don’t criticise or demean children for their actions, beliefs and behaviors.
  • Do not impose your will without an explanation for your action.
  • Plan the home physical environment with children’s needs and desires in mind.
  • Purchase toys that are specifically designed to stimulate children’s thinking and creativity.

2. Expose children to the “right experiences”

  • Turn as many everyday life experiences as possible into learning opportunities.
  • Model learning from everyday experiences.
  • Talk about the importance of learning as a self-initiated activity.
  • Expose children to experiences that teach social, academic and motor skills.
  • Capitalize on children’s interest in selecting learning experiences.
  • Provide opportunities for children to excel and experience positive feelings about themselves.
  • Provide children opportunities to learn and problem solving by using all the senses.
  • Teach children that some questions do not have a right or wrong answer.
  • Provide children with opportunities to role play.
  • Avoid teaching children to learn only by reading and memorizing materials.
  • Avoid teaching children that one way of learning is better than another.
  • Provide opportunities for children to appreciate art and music.
  • Do not leave children’s learning to chance.

3. Expose children to the “right conversations”

  • Talk to children as often as possible.
  • Engage children in conversations.
  • Ask for their views about certain topics of interest.
  • Increase children’s vocabulary on different topics through conversations.
  • Don’t criticise children for the way they say words or express themselves.
  • Do not turn down an opportunity to explain or respond to a question.
  • Do not expect children to listen passively.
  • Do not dominate a conversation with children.
  • Take advantage of children’s questions to extend learning.
  • Always interact with children when they ask a question (Don’t say “I don’t have time to talk”).
  • Respect children’s views of the world.
  • Ask and value children’s opinion.
  • Provide opportunities for children to communicate ideas through speech or writing.
  • Show children ways they can communicate ideas.
  • Encourage children to use acceptable behaviour and redirect unacceptable behavior.
  • Do not criticise or demean cultures or languages that are different from theirs.
  • Do not teach children to react or respond in one specific way.

These are some ideas that I put together after researching a bit myself online. There is a lot that I need to learn and put into practice myself but educating myself on the topic is a great first step. Like marriage, parenting can be one of life’s most rewarding and important commitments. Let’s give it our best.

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