Recent research conducted by Fruit Shoot points to age 7-12 being the age where children are first affected by how other people see them and start to become affected other people’s opinions.
Ben, my eldest, will be eight years old this summer and as such has already found a whole array of things he likes to do to pass the time. Three nights a week he is out swimming, at Beavers or his Street Dance class when he’s at home he loves LEGO, Minecraft and reading. However, his best friend is completely and utterly obsessed with football. Although Ben isn’t really remotely interested in football, what he has realised is that, to keep up with his class mates and his best mate, he needs to at least have a passing knowledge of the sport. Even at 7 he is feeling that societal pressure to ‘fit in’ with his peers.
68% of the 2000 UK parents surveyed by Fruit Shoot believe it’s important for children to find their “thing”, be it a hobby, skill or particular interest – and I completely agree. Football isn’t Ben’s thing. He’s just not bothered by it. Yes he’ll play with his mates at lunch time and chat to Finley about his favourite team but kicking a football around the park or avidly watching a match just isn’t how he would choose to spend his time. As such, when he first showed an interest in learning to break dance when he was about 3 years old we ran with it – I set about researching lessons, trying to find him classes to go to and quickly hit a brick wall. It turns out that, even in a big city like Manchester, pre-schoolers don’t really learn to break dance! In the end, when he was six, we finally found him Street Dance lessons with the lovely Sophie (who I met when she was teaching us the MADs Flash Mob dance!) and he’s been dancing with her for about a year now. He’s still desperate to learn to spin on his head though!
Of course what we all really want is to be able to give our children the freedom to discover and indulge their passion. And, to my mind, its not just about finding something you enjoy doing to pass the time, as without people being given the opportunity to nurture and develop their interests and passions we would never have Olympic gold medals to celebrate or amazing technological advances. We would all just be ploughing the same path through life, head down and focused on our academic achievements with no breadth or depth to our character. (You only have to ask a Year 6 pupil knee deep in SATs prep just how boring that would be!)
As part of the Fruit Shoot It’s My Thing campaign, Ben was sent a hamper of surprise activities to try out and see if he found a new ‘thing’.
Safe to say Ben’s eyes lit up when he saw that little lot and he was keen to get stuck in. With Dave’s help he decided to build his bird feeder first. As someone with more than a passing interest in LEGO, Ben was more than capable of following the instructions and fitting all the pieces together. Had he just been sent a book about birds I’m not sure he’d have been all that interested, however tapping into his love of all things construction and letting him build his own bird feeder meant he was really keen to but his feeder up on the playroom window and see who might come passing by! It’s funny how an interest in one thing can lead to something completely different isn’t it?
Next up in Ben’s hamper of goodies was a Bug Safari kit containing everything he needed to safely capture and investigate all the creepy crawlies present in our back garden! It didn’t take us long at all to find a beetle hiding underneath the slide. With a bit of help from Dave, Ben scooped the little creature up in his bug collecting tongs before tipping it gently into a magnifying pot for a closer look! He was fairly convinced he’d found a stag beetle but thanks to the information guide in his set he was able to identify it as a pretty common black beetle. Much as he enjoyed hunting out mini-beasts in our garden, I’m not sure this is something he’d be bothered about returning to all that often – exploring bugs is probably not his new ‘thing’!
Finally, the Exploding Science Kit which had both boys excited! Dave has always had more than a passing interest in Science (specifically physics) and I think Ben just liked the fact that things might explode!! Who wouldn’t? In typical boy style, they decided to dive in with the Super Snot experiment – sadly, despite their best efforts (and much re-reading of the instructions from Dave) the experiment was a bit of a flop and nothing really seemed to happen. Both boys were disappointed! I know they’re both keen to have a go at the other experiments in the set though!
After a busy afternoon of building, examining and investigating – had Ben found his new ‘thing’? Perhaps not, but what he had done was build on his current passions and found new ways to explore them. I want my boy to grow up proud of who he is and the things he’s interested in. Not to feel he has to bend and conform to be like everyone else.
Fruit Shoot launched the “It’s My Thing” campaign to celebrate our children’s individualism and to build their confidence to be a bit different, to encourage creativity and self-expression – things which are all to often stifled in modern society. You can join in and celebrate your kid’s ‘things’ on the FruitShootGB Facebook page as well as finding advice and information from Dr Ranj Singh on helping your children to find their ‘thing’. (I’ve had dinner with him you know, twice – he’s lovely!)
I’d love to know if your child has a ‘thing’ already – what do they love? How do you encourage them?
Research conducted with 2,000 parents of school aged children in February 2017.