The foundation for sound mental health starts building early in life, as experiences, relationships and surroundings start shaping the architecture of the brain. Nurturing mental health at a young age is essential in creating a foundation of stability that supports all other aspects of human development such as forming friendship and the ability to cope with challenges and adversity. It also plays into achievement in school, work and the community long term. By starting to teach healthy coping mechanisms and learning to identify emotions at an early age we can set up our children for bright futures. We have a few simple steps to help begin the journey to mental health.
1) Develop Competencies – Kids need to know that they can problem solve, overcome obstacles and reach their goals by being in control of their own actions. One way to do this is through individual, hands on play like tasking children to use SpinningGears to create movement. Another way is to provide goals and guidelines when using blocks and manipulative like TubeConnectors to provide an end result for children to aim towards completing. These tasks help teach how to deal with stress, as well as using academic achievement as a way to encourage further learning.
2) Teach Positive Behaviors & Decision Making – it is important for children to learn what “good behavior” is so they can start thinking of their own actions in relation. Start small with learning tools like Good Behavior Board Books and continue to give positive reinforcement and acknowledgment of good behavior. Focusing on rewards for positive behavior is more effective than punishment for the negative.
3) Encourage Helping Others – Teach your children that they can make a difference! Encouraging social behavior and fostering connections leads to kids knowing they have a place in their community.
4) Develop Awareness of Emotions – Sometime kids are able to pick up healthy emotional awareness at home and through their own interactions with family and friends. However, some emotions are harder for them to verbalize and recognize. Emotional awareness toys help them label and identify these emotions that they otherwise would be stressed by and give them the vocabulary they need to be successful.
5) Assist in learning to express emotions – Once children know how to identify confusing emotions, learning how to express them is just as important. Being able to share how they are feeling will curve feelings of isolation and the idea of being misunderstood.