Today is our baby boy’s 6-month birthday. It’s amazing how fast those months went by and how much he has changed! Just like all of us Smith faces challenges every single day. Watching him try to grab a book and manipulate the pages is so fun to watch. I can see the determination on his face as he tries to put the whole thing in his mouth only to realize it doesn’t fit. Eventually he loses interest and wants to grab something else to taste.

While your students have certainly developed beyond trying to eat every object in sight, there are still many lesson to take away from baby Smith’s actions. It’s a good reminder for me that students of every age can benefit from the many techniques we use for our 6-month old. Here is just a small sample of some of the things I notice from Smith that are applicable to students of all ages.

The necessity of taking breaks

I LOVE playing with Smith. His toys are so basic, but he gets so much fun out of them. And it’s pretty instant feedback as he gives a big smile when he’s having fun. But he can turn grumpy and fussy really fast, especially when he loses interest. As parents we are constantly balancing his needs and demands. One thing we’ve learned with him is that he needs frequent breaks between activities. His brain can only handle so much at a time, and recognizing when it’s time to stop and relax is important for our sanity as well as his happiness.

This same principle applies to students of any age. I encourage most students I work with to recognize when it’s time to take a break during a study session. While some students can study for 2 straight hours, others require multiple breaks during that time. There comes a certain point where a student will experience diminishing returns…more is not always better when it comes to studying. Help your student recognize the signs of fatigue and encourage taking a break. This will maximize his or her efficiency and prove more effective in the long run.

Beyond the breaks that are beneficial when studying students also need an extended break from academics. Fortunately schools give long stretches of vacation time. I believe students should use some of this time for productive activities (job, internship, summer school, etc.), but I also think students need to take time away from school and let their brains focus on having fun. Childhood goes by fast, and children are supposed to have fun. We as educators and parents need to make sure we allow them to be kids.

We all have natural curiosity

Smith will find interest in pretty much anything at thig point as long as we dangle it in his face. However, he definitely has more interest in certain objects than others. We’ve found that he loves watching our dogs and is fascinated by ceiling fans. Interestingly, he already has a favorite book, “Llama, Llama,” that he will actually pay attention to more than other books. All of this has taught me that he already has a natural curiosity, and it’s selective to certain things.

Students are also naturally curious and tend to shift their focus to the things that speak to them. In most cases, students either prefer math and science or English and history, usually because they gravitate to numbers or to words. It’s important to notice this trend so students can pursue courses and areas of interest that cater to their strengths. While students can’t just ignore subjects that don’t interest them, they can put extra time into those subjects they do find interesting. Extracurricular activities and even job opportunities are great ways to explore these interests outside of the classroom.

Social Time

My wife is a stay-at-home mom, which is great for us. Smith gets lots of mommy time and individual attention, both of which would be impossible if he were at day care. However, one of the biggest drawbacks to having him home full-time is that he is not around other kids as often as we’d like. My wife makes it a point to mix in some activities such as story time at the library or play dates with our friends’ kids, but it’s tough to do that on a consistent basis. Even though he’s only 6 months he does recognize other kids and attempts to interact with them. I think it’s really important that he be exposed to other kids to promote good social skills, even at this early of an age.

Similarly it’s imperative that older students have these same social opportunities. Some kids are just naturally social. I, myself, was always an introvert and an only child for 10 years, so I understand firsthand how important social activities are. My mom put me in a lot of sports to make sure I was around other kids. But sports aren’t the only outlet for socializing. Drama, art, dance, and other clubs are great ways for kids to connect. One thing I always caution parents about is allowing their kids to play video games. This is a huge time suck and even though they can “socialize” while they play, it does not promote the face-to-face interaction that kids need. If possible try to eliminate video games altogether. If that’s not possible, then limit their use to an hour a day.

Even though our baby boy is only 6 months old his personality is already emerging. He’s highly energetic and tries to communicate with us in variety of ways. It’s fun to watch his development, and he really isn’t that much different than many of the students we work with…just smaller! You’ve seen your own children grow up into middle- and high-school students, so just try to think back to what worked when they were 6 months old. A lot of those same strategies are still applicable today.