Inspiring a Love for Trying New Things
Let’s face it, children can be stubborn sometimes. Parenting has its challenges, and one of those can be getting kids to try new things. Some children are more open to unknown situations whether it be travel or a new type of food, whereas others are not. This is just the same as adults who prefer to stick to routines while others prefer to branch out and push limits. By teaching kids to try new things early in life, we might lead them down a path that opens them to more opportunities and more diverse perspectives later in life.
Here are a few common scenarios and how we can help kids through the journey of trying new things.
Trying new foods
Meals can be a battle. You might have encountered this at the dinner table last night after you worked so hard on a meal that your son or daughter refused to taste. We have a rule at home that my daughter has to at least try everything once. If the opportunity presents itself, we talk about where certain foods are from. At home, we eat foods from many different parts of the world, using different spices. Whenever she looks skeptical of something we remind her of the deal – that she has to try it. Often, a frown turns into an immediate smile.
Occasionally, I still refer back to Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham:
YOU DO NOT LIKE THEM. SO YOU SAY.
TRY THEM! TRY THEM! AND YOU MAY.
TRY THEM AND YOU MAY, I SAY.
Allowing children to help prepare and select new foods is also a great way to get them invested in a meal.
Trying new activities
We all have activities we gravitate to because they are familiar and we are already good at them. Sometimes starting a new activity means practicing and practice takes time.
My daughter is going through a perfectionist phase. She enjoys many activities, but she wants to excel at all of them. One of my personal parenting goals right now is working with her so that she sees that we aren’t all great at everything and that is okay! I do not want her to avoid a new activity because she is afraid of failing at it. I reiterate to her that there are beginners and experts and everything at life. She was able to see this firsthand lately when she went skiing. Though she felt frustrated that she couldn’t go as fast as she wanted, she saw others nearby who were beginners just like her and realized falling and getting up again was part of the process.
If your child has specific interests, that could be another reason he or she might not want to engage in another type of activity. For example, if your child loves art, the idea of doing a kid-friendly science experiment might not seem appealing. However, unless you provide your child the opportunity to try something else at home or outside of school, he or she might miss out on another interest and talent he/she was born to use. Your child might also find that some activities dovetail nicely with others.
Pursuing certain interests is wonderful as well, and we all end up doing this as adults. Allowing kids time to fully explore the width and depth of interest areas through activities is important for them to develop who they could be.
Trying new places
Does your child have a favorite place to eat, or visit, or vacation spot? From recent stories from friends, it seems getting kids interested in new places can be the most challenging, as it is often a combination of new activities and new foods. Having cherished places are great, but how do you break kids out of the rut?
I found out that so much came down to how I positioned a new place in conversations with my daughter when she was much younger.
When my daughter was 2- and 3-years-old, there were only a few places she wanted to go every weekend. Though I loved those places, too, I wanted some variety and knew there were many more places in and around Tulsa. I started researching and found that there were tons of places to take children nearby from free public parks to local museums and other attractions. We started something new, and that new thing was to visit as many new places as possible! It became a game for us. Finding new places is still a hobby we enjoy, and it gave me an entirely new appreciation for our city, county, and Northeast Oklahoma in general.
To sum it up, allowing kids to try new things is important because it can promote self-esteem, add fun, and open their outlook on many things in life. The key is never to force new things, but to encourage them. In subtle ways we can teach our kids that life is not always about staying within one’s comfort zone.
About Amanda Murphy:
Amanda Murphy is passionate about what parents can do to enhance and supplement their child’s educational experience outside of the classroom. She believes in a model where kids grow up excited to learn, which starts with the parent or caregiver. As mom to a very bright and active 5-year-old girl in a not-as-active pandemic world, Amanda is constantly seeking out new ways to tie learning into real life to keep her daughter engaged. This involves outdoor exploration, a focus on literacy, building imagination, learning toys, and much more. Her belief is that each child is born with a passion for learning, but that harnessing it correctly is essential. Equally, she believes all children are smart, just in different ways.
Amanda was born and raised in Tulsa where she attended the University of Tulsa before earning graduate degrees in management and new media studies at Northwestern University and DePaul University in Chicago. After work took her to the East Coast, she moved back to Tulsa in 2014. She is married, and in addition to her young daughter, has a stepson entering his teen years. Amanda consults through her business, Lemons 2 Empires.