06/14/2013 05:00 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2013

How Do We Know When To Enrich Our Children's Learning Experience?

Recently, I had a parent of a young child ask me how a parent knows what to do to enrich their child's school experience. This was a young, hard-working man who wanted to offer his son "everything that he might need." I was touched by this concern by a loving parent, and I delved deeper to try to understand just what his question implied. After much discussion, I realized that he had no idea of what to offer his son or when to offer it. He just wanted to be a good parent. I explained that children tell you what they need most of the time.

There are parents who feel the need to give their children any enriching class on any subject if they think it is interesting. While this is a good goal, the timing of a class means everything to a child. A child who comes home talking about music and the possibilities of learning an instrument will probably not be ecstatic about being put on another sports team instead. A child who spends his time after school immersed in drawing and creating art, is probably not going to be thrilled about taking Karate lessons. A child who wants to tumble and do gymnastics is probably not going to be happy about learning a new language.

My point, very simply, is to take your cues from your child. It might be possible that your child is tired after a long day, and needs some quiet time activities. When I tried to teach my son how to play the piano, I was faced with the dilemma of "but Mom, I want to go outside and play ball!" He was not interested, and I felt defeated at the time. I wanted him to play the piano, but that was about ME, not about HIM. When I saw that my daughter was getting interested in putting on plays and dancing, I found a local school that put on a musical theater production for young children. That was a thrill for her, and I was delighted that she had found something that was interesting for her. I was taking my cues from her.

It is my belief that when a child finds something about which they are passionate, learning of all kinds takes place. A passion or strong interest builds self-esteem in the child. It activates different parts of their brain that can help them excel in other subjects. It also keeps the child involved in healthy activities.

I had a little boy in my second grade class who was always unhappy when he was chosen last for many of the sports games. He was not well-coordinated, but his heart was in the right place. I spoke with his parents, and he was soon a part of a low-keyed sports team that played soccer on Saturdays and had one practice a week. By the end of the year his large motor skills had improved, as had his self-esteem, and he faced his classmates with renewed confidence. He was no longer the kid who got picked last anymore!

It is vital that we listen to what our children have to say. Encourage conversation without judgement, and discover what your child's interests and concerns are. You will sometimes be surprised at how well little children know what they need. By supporting their needs you are doing major work in developing trust issues between you as well as opening up dialogue. Your child will be one of the lucky ones!