Children have all sorts of different characteristics. Some are daring, adventurous types – the sort that would be rich in points if emergency departments ran loyalty schemes. Others are more cautious. They can be creatures of habit and reluctant to push their boundaries. Whilst the adventurous child will lap up new experiences, it can be hard to introduce a more cautious child to anything they haven’t seen before.
Fear can be a big driving factor in not wanting to try something new. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being out of control. Teaching your child that it’s ok to be afraid and being brave and trying it anyway is a hugely important skill for later life.
If you have a nervous child forcing them into new experiences can be overwhelming for them. Instead look for small ways in which you can change the routine. Use the summer holidays as a chance to jumble up the routine a bit – to eat in different restaurants or visit different beaches. Perhaps even encourage opening up by changing on the beach – using a changing robe of course! – instead of hiding away in the toilets. Suggest other small challenges such as crossing a stream on stepping stones or jumping into a swimming pool that your child may be refusing to even think about.
Try it Together
Of course you are never going to convince a reluctant child to try something that you’re not prepared to do yourself. So why not make this summer a chance for you both to have a go at something different? Go body boarding instead of just building sandcastles or hire some mountain bikes and try some proper downhills. Whatever you fancy do it as a pair. And yes that really does mean you’ll have to get wet, dangle on the end of a rope and don that helmet!
Get it wrong
If fear of failing is holding them back them make sure they see other’s making mistakes without anything bad happening. If Mummy can fall out of the canoe or Daddy is all thumbs when trying to tie a knot then your children will see that trying and failing are part of succeeding. Don’t make a big thing of your failures, make a big thing of shrugging them off and having another go. If at first you don’t succeed try again!
If your child is reluctant to try a new activity because they’re worried about the unknown then try turning it into a game. You pretend to be the waiter, teacher, instructor or guide and let your child try out a few scenarios before they actually do the real thing.
Trying something even if it doesn’t sound nice or you’re fearful of the consequences is more important than being able to complete the activity perfectly. Praise attempts and support learning – keep reminding your child that everything they can do now was once impossible. Look at family photos or videos from before they could talk and walk to show them just how far they’ve progressed.
Have a Target
The National Trust have a list of 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ and there are plenty of similar tick lists available from other organisations. Check you’re happy with the contents, or mix and match to make your own, then challenge your child to collect as many ticks as possible over the summer holidays. And if that means you need to walk on wet sand, have a midnight picnic or find somewhere to fly a kite maybe you’ll have an amazing summer break too!