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5 Ways to Bring Out the Best in Your Child

Bringing out the best in your child isn't necessarily something you can or should leave to chance. It takes a certain amount of conscious creativity. But the rewards are tremendous and long-lasting.

1. Point out things near and far.

Like all of us, and perhaps more than some of us due to a lifestyle built around orderly routines, children can become very 'fixed' when it comes to observing the world around them. Things in the house, their street or on the journey to school can develop a sort of 'sheen of sameness' through the prolonged habit of seeing them. Next time you go out, or even inside the house, try pointing out things some distance away or close at hand which a child (or even you!) may not have noticed before: the tree on the horizon; the leaf-shaped mark above the door; the design on the carpet; the colours of distant clouds. Children will take notice -and their worlds (and yours) will grow more interesting accordingly.

2. Notice wonderful things.

Similar to the above, try this: pick a patch of garden or outside area of some sort, about a square yard or metre in size. In it, with your child, find fascinating things: different colours, tiny leaves, perhaps a small ant, sqiggly lines and so forth. Apart from heightening a child's attention to detail, you will have fun and maybe inspire your child to do something creative: drawing, collecting, gardening. Gardens or parks are best for this, but you'll be amazed at what a square yard of apparently boring concrete will reveal upon close scrutiny!

3. Go on adventures.

To most children, everything can be an adventure. Even going to the shops can be a voyage to excitement. You can make your life and your child's life much more interesting by framing as much as you can as an 'adventure'. 'Let's go on a Grocery Shopping Adventure!' or 'Time to get started on the Dentist Quest!' or even 'Let's play 'Climbing Upstairs Mountain'!' can all have the effect of casting a net of magic over otherwise ordinary, everyday activities. Children will rush to accompany you to do something you considered mundane, seeing themselves as pioneers or superheroes -and probably helping you just by being so enthused!

4. Encourage drawing and painting.

Practical advice here: leave reams of blank paper and a copious supply of brightly coloured pens or (washable!) paints around the house. Try not to worry about the mess. Your child will create mini-masterpieces openly or in secret, and present them triumphantly to you. It helps if you have a go too, no matter how hopeless you may think you are as an artist -let your child grab your drawing from you and 'correct' it, even if, to you, it appears that they are ruining it. Your child will gain confidence and be happier as well as potentially developing talents in this field.

5. Try to avoid drawing attention to mistakes.

With all of the above -and indeed, generally- try not to jump on any errors a child makes. Too much criticism, even very little criticism, results in a child feeling blunted and negated. A light, non-sarcastic remark like 'Oh I didn't realise my hair was quite so green!' is so much better for a child to hear and cope with than 'Look here, do you see how you didn't quite get the shape of that ear right?' Most mistakes that children make are by accident. A child is usually completely mortified if he or she, while whirling around in an exhilarating dance, knocks over a valuable vase. Don't make a big deal out of it and you'll both win. Which is better? An unbroken vase or a happy, beaming, rapidly-forgiven child?

I know which I'd prefer.

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