The world today needs independent thinkers.
I have to admit though, I laugh a little bit when I hear that term. My kids were born independent. They needed no encouragement in that area. From the very beginning they have wanted to follow their own path, and as a mom, I look at it as my job to encourage that.
I find that my kids are pretty capable if left to their own devices so, for the most part, I just try and stay out of their way and let them discover who they are and what they want out of life.
There are definitely some great ways to provide kids with opportunities for independence and creative thought, though. I look for those whenever I can.
My family dynamics are a bit interesting because I had three older boys then three younger girls. The oldest of the girls is as strong willed as they come and she wants as much independence as I can give her.
She sure makes life interesting, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Here are a few of the tricks we’ve learned along the way to help raise independent thinkers:
Have confidence in them. Kids need to feel that you trust them. I’ve found that the more confidence I have in my kids, the more confidence they have in themselves. Kids are often much more capable than we give them credit for. Use your words to express your confidence in them and their abilities. Let them hear you talking about their strengths to other people. Show them with your actions that you trust them to make the right choices.
Ask them to think things through. I have one child who wants reassurance for every little thing that he does. In a house full of strong willed people, somehow he struggles with his confidence. One trick I’ve learned with him (and this works well even for my naturally independent thinkers) is to ask him how he thinks he can solve a problem.
For example, he’ll ask me every morning if he can read before school. My response to him is, “What do you think is the best choice?”
He’ll respond with “I haven’t finished getting ready for school yet so if I read now I’ll be late for school” or “Well, I’m all ready for school and it isn’t time to go so I think I have time.”.
The question gives him the chance to think things through and decide for himself if reading is a good idea. My hope is that working things through on his own will also encourage him to become an independent thinker and have more confidence in himself.
Provide tools that encourage independent thought. Kids have access to so many electronics and battery operated toys these days (I always feel like I’m 80 when I say that). The problem is, those toys require almost no independent thought. They do all the work of playing for kids.
I’ve resorted to TV or video games just as much as the next mom, but I’ve made a serious effort to cut back in recent years because I’ve seen how big of an impact it has on their development and ability to think for themselves.
We try to find toys that encourage problems solving skills and give kids a sense of acomplishment. This is especially important for those kids who come as independent thinkers already . . . because if you don’t keep them busy they will find something to get into.
Since they fit so closely to what we look for in a great toy, Lego has long been a favorite in my house.
My little girls have played with Duplo bricks for years but my 4 1/2 year old was ready to move onto something a bit more challenging. She wasn’t quite ready for her older brother’s Lego bricks though, so the Lego Juniors series is perfect for her.
Lego Juniors has the cutest sets. Designed for kids ages 4-7, they are perfect for kids who want a bit more of a challenge.
The instructions that come with the Lego Juniors sets are so easy to read. My daughter built her set with a little help from her big brother but she’s on the low end of the age range for this and it was her first time putting a set together.
The set included numbered bags so my daughter could build one part of the set at the time (and it was easy to sort out which Lego bricks needed to be used for each step).
We built the Family House Lego Juniors Set and the details on this were absolutely adorable.
My daughter rarely sits still but she was totally absorbed in this project. It was so fun to see her work through the steps and watch how proud she was of herself when she was done.
Even after she put the set together, she loved using it for pretend play. I actually had to go into her bedroom several times last night to tell her to stop playing and go to bed. She kept climbing out of bed trying to play with this set.
I have a feeling there may be a few more Lego Juniors sets under the tree for her this year. Lego sets make such great gift ideas. We keep going back to them year after year because they consistently get played with in my house.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.