Whether you are just starting out in your career or thinking of making a mid-life change, you may be considering a wide range of options. If you’ve always loved being around children, you may be thinking about a related profession—perhaps a teacher, a librarian, daycare worker or social worker.
If this sounds like the right path for you, you’ll need to acquire more than just certifications to reach your end goal. You’ll also need specific skills for working with children that can often be overlooked.
Here is a list of necessary skills for working with children in your job:
1. Organization skills
One of the most beneficial skills for working with children is organization. The minute you are sitting in front of a child or group of children, you’ll be glad that you have worked on your organization skills. Children need both structure and forward momentum, whether they are being taught, entertained or counselled.
Build your organization skills as a basic tool for working with children. Playing things by ear or making it up as you go can be both exhausting and disastrous. You will learn a lot about organization, among other useful skills, by taking an early childhood assistant course online.
2. Creativity skills
Kids love to have their imaginations sparked. Whether you eventually land in a role designed to teach, assist or care for children, you will need to dig deep into your own creativity in order to keep them engaged.
Getting in touch with your creative side can take some practice, but it will help you connect with children and even solve some of their problems in productive ways.
3. Communication skills
Just as organization and creativity will help you work with children, so will clear communication skills. Children, especially younger ones, deal best with absolutes. They can understand and respond to black and white instructions—“please take off your boots”, “use this chalk”—but don’t always do well with more ambiguous concepts. As you consider a career that works one on one with children, build communication tools and skills into your training.
Children often have a short attention span. They need to move and change their focus frequently. But even if you have a creative, organized plan, even if your communicate it clearly and allow time for transitions, you may still lose your audience if you are not enthusiastic.
Genuine enthusiasm goes a long way in keeping children’s attention. As you train for a future role, practise having enthusiasm for even the most mundane tasks. Over time, it will become more natural—a skill you can rely upon when needed.
5. Maintaining Calm
Everyone knows that when it comes to children, things don’t always go as planned. Whether your activity, which took hours to prepare, lands in a mess on the floor or a toddler’s tantrum derails plans for the entire group, it is important for you to keep your cool.
Practise maintaining a sense of calm when things go wrong in your life. You may be surprised how well it serves you when things start to go wrong with a child or group of children.
A complimentary skill is your willingness to be flexible. When working with children, it’s not uncommon for plans and back-up plans to fall through, sidelined by unwilling participants, the need for food, the bathroom or simply a bad day. The more you are able to roll with circumstances, allow your plans to bend to unforeseen challenges, the more likely you are to not only enjoy your time with children, but to have greater success with them, as well.
Children know when an adult is truly listening. They also know when they are being spoken to with respect and understanding. As you prepare for a career with children, remember to practice being empathic to those around you—not only to hear their feelings and concerns, but to try and truly understand them. A child who feels understood will listen better, cooperate more and feel a greater sense of connection.
While most children are happy to sit and listen for a short period of time, they need an abundance of movement and a general forward momentum. As you go proceed through your career training, keep this idea in mind as you go. Having an intention to set goals, create momentum and recognize their success is a powerful way to keep children engaged and motivated.
Some people are meant to work with children. Whether this is something you’ve always known or have come to later in your career, it is important that you seek out specific training for the kind of work you want to do and, just as important, develop some of the softer skills that will serve you well. Having an awareness of things that will help you in the long run will colour your training with greater purpose. We hope this list of skills for working with children has given you a new way to look at your career training.