How well rounded kids will help us reimagine the world we live in
“Happiness is when you realise your children have turned out good people” - Anon
Think about the last time you watched the news on TV. Did you see anything that made you feel good about the world or give a warm fuzzy feeling inside? Or was it all about violence, hate, racism and all the things that make you cringe? Statistically speaking, crimes have gone up incrementally year by year. I won’t bore you with the numbers, instead I’ll just say that the world needs more well-rounded people. Sure, we can’t easily influence grown adults.
But we can influence kids.
As C.S. Lewis famously said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” How can we raise a good child, one who will do the right thing, even when no one may see them do it, and when there may be no reward? While there is no guaranteed formula (if only!), here are some ways we can help build good character and grow a child into a good person.
But what is a well-rounded child?
Well-rounded children experience a balanced lifestyle that combines intellectual, social/emotional, and physical health. Strong listeners and communicators, well-rounded children are known to have empathetic behaviour, be open-minded, have curiosity in bucket loads, and have self-discipline. So let’s dive in:
Intellectual, or cognitive development, is the development of the mind. During the covid lockdowns I spent much time with my then 1-year old daughter and 4-year-old son. I have admired how they are free to think, move and create. Unconditional and unapologetic, curious and demanding, relentless and undeterred. Learning from a 1 & 4-year-old I rediscovered the meaning of the word ‘yet’. Which is also the simpler definition of what Carol Dweck defines as the Growth Mindset. A growth mindset allows them to care about the process of learning, rather than finishing a task. It is this understanding and application of “not yet” that appeals to me as an entrepreneur of a start-up because as adults we tend to bring a fixed mindset to the business. Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset— creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. In adult world, every situation calls for a confirmation of our intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
Kids brains are very elastic, much more than adult brains. Other than schooling and education, we can help promote cognitive development by creating an environment that applauds and praises their efforts rather than labelling them as smart or talented, thereby impacting intellectual development.
Social and Emotional Learning
Social and Emotional development is often undervalued, but it holds the most important lessons for a child to be happy impact society for the better. This is about raising kids with more empathy and kindness, teach them to think critically, engage in problem solving and to have some self-regulation. We are currently wired to teach our kids through the lens of the Industrial Revolution: Math, Science, Literature… and the focus on SEL (social and emotional learning) often goes unattended. Because these are considered; human’ traits, either you have them or you don’t. That’s where we feel we can do better. Sometimes, humans need to be taught to be humans.
Neuro-scientific research tells us that 75% of a child’s brain is developed between 3-7 years of age. What does this mean? It means that it is during this time that a child’s world views and value systems will be formed.
There are many studies out there that prove and favorably argue that social emotional learning for kids is crucial. I’d like to reference the study by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where they showed that by increasing social competency by 1 point a child was 2x more likely to geta college degree, 54% more likely ro finish school and 46% more likely to get a full time job. However, when the social competency is decreased the impact on the child and society is much more than just academic. When social competency is decreased by 1 point, the study noted that 67% would have a higher chance of being arrested in early adulthood, 82% higher chance to consume illegal drugs and 82% higher chance of needing welfare benefits.
Today SEL isn’t part of the mainstream education. But it is essential for the wellbeing of kids and society at large. The good news is that social and emotional skills can be learned, or rather have to be learned. But they can’t be taught standing in a classroom in front of a blackboard. They need to be experienced through methods kids enjoy: PLAY.
Take a moment to think about activities you participate in regularly. Household chores? Walking? Running? Gardening? Shoveling snow? Do you consider yourself naturally active? You might think to yourself, “I’m so busy, even the thought of adding physical activity seems ridiculous!” Being physically active does not mean we have to run a marathon.
But it’s the appropriate physical skills’ development during the growing years that allows you to do all the above. Preparing kids for school and social interactions requires more than developing a set of cognitive skills; it includes physical development and health. When a child is more likely to engage with their environment and surroundings they are more likely to engage in exploration. Therefore, physical development and health can help prepare kids for activities that support language development, social skills, and other areas of learning, which result in later success in school.
Now let me ask you again…are you more hopeful for the future now?
CEO & Founder of Toy Around, a company specialising in toys and games that are age appropriate. With the support of psychologists the company develops its own board games and card games in order to develop kids in the way they learn best: through play!
To discover which games Toy Around has created and developed, visit https://www.toyaround.io/pages/space-puppies