Identifying a Child’s Interests
Every child has innate abilities, interests, skills and habits. According to the Early Years Learning Framework, using a child’s strengths, abilities and interests in the learning process helps to increase their motivation and engagement. While you probably know many of your child’s interests, you should always have your eye out for new developments, and observe your child throughout the day in as many activities and contexts as possible. When you are observing your child, use the following questions to identify their interests:
- What makes them smile and laugh?
- What holds their attention?
- What gets them excited?
- What are their favorite things to do?
- What do they work or try hardest at?
- What brings out the best in them?
- What gets them to try new things?
- What do they choose to do most often?
- What is their favorite toy?
Keep your eye out for your child’s interests, because these can inform future activities, excursions and learning opportunities. If you would like to find out more about child development behavior and mental health, check out this great online course on children’s mental health.
Developing a Child’s Interests
As well as observing a child to discover their current interests, it is also important that you expose them to new experiences, so that they have the chance to develop new ones. Children can only be interested in what they have already been exposed to – this is a fairly limited selection of interests to draw on. This is why it is the role of parents and educators to introduce children to new ideas, things and situations. Aim to expose your child to as many aspects of life as possible, so that you can expand their pool of potential interests, passions and skills.
An Introduction to Interest-Based Education
According to the Early Childhood Personnel Centre’s ‘Practice Guide’, attention based child education is considerably more effective and maintains a child’s engagement more than non- interest-based learning. Interest-based child education opportunities use a child’s preferences and interests as the constructing chunks for teaching original aids and aptitudes.
Interest-oriented child education comprises practises that deliver a kid with openings to exercise present aptitudes and study original skills, and capture and maintain their attention and engagement. For example, if a child is interested in insects, you could use insects to teach them basic mathematics (by counting the insects they see outside), improve their English skills (by having them tell or write a story about an insect), introduce them to basic insect biology, or take them on a field trip to an environment with an insect-rich ecosystem. The child will feel interested and compelled because they are engaging with something they love, whilst also being taught new skills and concepts.
According to the ‘Practice Guide’, the basic appearances of interest-oriented child education include:
- Observing a child and identifying their interests
- Appealing a kid in everyday actions that are related to their interests and provide opportunities to discover new interests
- Replying punctually and absolutely when a child demonstrates interest-based skills
- Letting a child savor the accomplishments that result from their interest-oriented learning
Children can quickly lose their love of learning if they associate it with pressure, struggle, anxiety, anger or disinterest. Using interest-based learning, you can improve a child’s social skills, behavior, communication, motor skills, imagination, functional skills and more, while keeping them engaged and entertained.
Reis, Sally M., and Joseph S. Renzulli. “The schoolwide enrichment model: A talent development approach resulting in opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all students.” Creating equitable services for the gifted: Protocols for identification, implementation, and evaluation. IGI Global, 2022. 39-57.
‘Interest-Based Everyday Learning’, Carol M. Trivette, PhD Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute Morganton & Asheville, NC, https://www.eciavic.org.au/documents/item/400
The Hanen Centre, What Makes Your Child “Tick”? Using Children’s Interests to Build Communication Skills, http://www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/what-makes-your-child-tick-.aspx
Early Childhood Personnel Center, ‘Practice Guide’, https://ecpcprofessionaldevelopment.dec-sped.org/interest-based-child-learning-practice-guide/
Belonging, Being & Becoming, ‘The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdfAistear Siolta Practice Guide, ‘Developing an Emergent and Inquiry-Based Curriculum’, https://www.aistearsiolta.ie/en/transitions/resources-for-sharing/developing-an-emergent-and-inquiry-based-curriculum1.pdf