I love to dance. But that hasn’t always been the case. I didn’t grow up dancing. I didn’t even experience that world with my daughters. And though it’s my favorite form of exercise to date—I go at least once a week—I didn’t pick it up until about ten years ago.
And even then, it almost didn’t happen.
When I checked out the new dance class at my local gym all those years ago, I faltered over the (very intimidating) red feather boa draped around the instructor’s shoulders. All I saw was something unfamiliar and potentially daunting to a thirty-something mother of four. Maybe I should stick with the treadmill and call it good, I reasoned.
Thankfully, I did not. Instead of backing away slowly, I gave the new form of exercise three good attempts before making a final decision. And the verdict? Love, love, love. I’ve been dancing ever since.
So why share my dance story? Because, for me, it’s a lesson for life—especially for young kids. Unfortunately, people are afraid to try new things. And sometimes our kids’ fears of the unknown and unfamiliar rob them of amazing experiences. But if they can muster a willingness to try new things, they will consistently reap the rewards.
If you have ever asked questions like “Why is it important to try new things for kids?” or “What is the benefit of trying new things?” check out these benefits and suggestions to help your kids try new things.
The Benefits of Trying New Things for Kids
1. Self Discovery
Kids are constantly trying to figure out who they are and what makes them tick. That’s part of being a kid. Are they athletes? Are they artists? Do they like math problems or learning a foreign language? Trying new things helps kids discover their likes and dislikes, their interests and aptitudes. And don’t forget about the activities and pursuits they can do without.
When we encourage our kids to try new things, we help them discover who they are and who they want to be. Every future Einstein has to start by trying that first math problem.
2. Adapt to Change
Our family has moved from state to state several times. And one thing I’ve noticed with each move is that change is hard. But when we encourage our kids to try new things on a smaller scale, especially in the comfort of broader routines, they are more likely to approach bigger changes with more confidence.
Like it or not, adulthood is going to throw change at our kids. It’s the nature of life. If we can help them learn to adapt to change when they are young by trying new things, they will be more equipped to handle the inevitable change they will encounter when they grow up.
New things help us grow—physically, emotionally, and socially. Maybe you’ve heard the inspirational message floating around the internet these days. It goes something like this. “There’s no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.” It’s probably such a popular saying because it rings true. Trying new things stretches us and, much like exercising physical muscles, makes us grow stronger, better, faster, and more resilient. If we want our kids to progress in life, we need to help them embrace trying new things.
4. Improve Brain Function
Is trying new things really good for your brain? Turns out the answer is yes. According to healthnavigator.org, “‘Mental sweat’ helps your brain build new cells and strengthen connections between the cells. When you learn something new you are exercising your brain, which can help improve cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall and problem solving, and also reduce the chance of developing dementia.”
Our kids may not be struggling with dementia quite yet. But encouraging them to try new things now will help them develop habits that will reap rewards decades into the future.
Ways to Help Your Kids Try New Things
But how do we get our kids to try new things? After all, trying new things can be scary, intimidating, and downright unappealing, especially if our kids are on the timid side. If you’re struggling with ways to help your kids try new things, consider these tips.
1. Be Supportive of Effort, Not Outcome
When it comes to trying new things, it’s more about the effort than the end result. After all, if your kids are trying something new, they are obviously not proficient. Therefore, focus on their willingness to try, explore, and, at times, fail. It’s all part of the process. With your encouragement, they will understand that trying leads to success, even if that success is defined differently at different times.
Galileo.com offers some great tips for supporting effectively. They include:
· Use non-evaluative feedback. Praise effort and action rather than outcome.
· Praise thoughtfully. Rather than focusing on intelligence or talent, praise determination, progress, and strategies. For more tips on how to do this effectively, click here.
· Don’t focus on what didn’t go right. At this point, it’s about the effort, not the failures.
2. Record “New Thing” Adventures
Document the new things your kids try. You can do this with words, photos, or video clips. You can record their efforts digitally or encourage your kids to go old-school by writing in a journal or making a scrapbook of their adventures. The important thing is to make a permanent record.
Looking back, your kids can see where they knocked it out of the park, struck out, or managed a base hit before moving on to something new. Not only will this record allow them to reminisce about past experiences, but it will help infuse them with courage when they want to try something new again. If they can remember how it felt last time (or the last ten times), they have more courage to do it again.
3. Teach Them to Fail Forward
In our society, we’re often afraid to fail. In our social-media driven, filtered digital world, our kids get the message that perfection is the only acceptable outcome for any endeavor. But that’s not true in real life.
Thomas Edison, prolific inventor, failed countless times before finally achieving success. Once a friend commented about Edison’s work: “I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!'”
Help your kids understand that failing at something new is just a way of discovering, learning, and moving forward—either with that activity or something else.
4. Mix New with Familiar
Kids thrive with routine. When encouraging your kids to try something new, embed it in a familiar routine. If they know that most elements in their lives will remain constant and comfortable, they will be more likely to take a step into the unfamiliar.
5. Provide Choices
Choice is empowering. If you want to help your kids try something new, give them a few new options to choose between. Maybe you want them to try new vegetables. Rather than forcing them to eat Brussel sprouts, give them three equally delicious and nutritious vegetables and let them make the choice. Need to get them off electronics for a bit and get active? Give them some options for alternative entertainment and let them decide. When the decision is in their hands, they’re more likely to try something new.
6. Set Small Goals
If your child tends to get anxious with big, new adventures, start small and work your way up. Help your kids get out of their comfort zone—but just enough to stretch them. If they set their goals too high at the beginning, discouragement might rob them of the overall gain. However, if they start small and keep readjusting their goals to incorporate more over time, eventually they will succeed at the new things they try.
7. Have Fun
Finally, encourage your kids to have fun with new things. If your kids associate new adventures with pain and discomfort, they won’t want to try them again. But if you can help your kids see that new adventures are fun, they will be eager and anxious to add new things to their “to do” lists all the time.
The Wrap Up
Am I happy I tried that first dance class a few times before backing away? Absolutely. Do my kids always love that I’m a middle-aged mom who loves to bust a move? Not so much (and yes, I’m fully aware of how uncool I sound when I say that. The best part is, I don’t care. What’s the good of being a mom if I can’t embarrass my kids every now and then? But the real benefit of my dance class, or any other new thing I have tried over the years, is the example I set for my kids. In their eyes, I don’t just talk the talk. I get out there and give it a try. And those actions show my kids that trying new things is the best way to take on life.
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