Fun ways to build a strong foundation for your kids for the skills they’ll need in today’s working world.
By Gabriella Rowe
Would you hire your child? This is a question I frequently pose to parents. It is an important question that we must force ourselves to ask, regardless of our child’s age. One of the most daunting aspects of parenting is knowing we are responsible for preparing our children for whatever their future holds. This responsibility has never been more challenging and intimidating than it is today.
To succeed in the 21st century, our children need to be just as proficient in communication and creativity, as they are in Science and Math. “Soft” skills are no longer considered a secondary skillset. Most importantly, students must be confident in exploring open-ended problems that are complex and require collaborative thinking.
With such a directive, as both parents and educators, it’s no wonder that I, as a head of school and mother of two, am thinking about preparation from the youngest age possible. Below are a few recommendations parents can follow to begin building a strong foundation for their kids for the skills needed in today’s working world (while still having fun).
• Introduce coding concepts: There are collaborative and interactive games that teach the building blocks of coding and develop the most fundamental brain skills. In today’s digital world, coding is just as important as History. If we’re truly preparing our children to succeed, then math, science, and technology must be integrated into nearly everything they do in school and at home. Two games we use at The Village School are Cubetto (primotoys.com), which allows children to direct the movements of a robot by moving blocks and pegs on a board, and Robot Turtles (robotturtles.com), which instructs players to follow movement instructions to get a turtle through a maze. Two to five people can play the latter, making it a perfect opportunity for collaboration.
• Get them moving: One of the most important parts of early childhood development is movement. Movement activities focus on gross motor skills that strengthen the large muscle groups of the body, increase coordination, and get kids using their brains. This is a great home activity, as a non-competitive environment makes children feel safe to take appropriate risks in trying new skills. One of our favorite games at The Village School is a new version of “Simon Says” called “If, Then…”
To play, you, as the parent, can be “the Programmer,” and your participants are “the Computers.” The Programmer tells the Computers what to do, for example, “If I turn in a circle, then you jump.” As in Simon Says, the “wrong” movement means you’re out. The more elaborate the Programmer gets, the more fun movements the Computers can do. This is a perfect indoor activity for one of our rainy Houston days.
• Listen to music: Music is created to instill and promote the joy and appreciation of sound. You and your kids can participate in a variety of music activities that require different movements (clap, stomp, and jump), the memorization of song lyrics, and use of instruments to keep a steady beat. Most importantly, it establishes good listening skills.
• Plant a garden: The next time you head outside to work in the soil, bring your child. If you don’t have a garden space, you can use house plants. We have a greenhouse at The Village School, and when kids take an active role in planting, nurturing and watching something grow, they learn firsthand the important life-long values of patience, responsibility, and accountability – skills that translate well into the working world. In addition, lessons on Math, Science, and Language are easy to integrate in a meaningful way when working in a garden.
According to a recent Forbes article, companies want employees who can think independently, want to learn new things, have empathy and act responsibly, work well on a team and are goal oriented, and know their strengths and can describe their successes. And, as parents, isn’t that exactly what we want for our children?
Gabriella Rowe is Head of School at The Village School in Houston (nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/houston/village-school).