20 Critical Factors That Scientists Say Make A Massive Difference To A Child’s Character

Raising kids properly is no mean feat. Indeed, there’s no rule-book for doing so, and it can often be hard to know what’s best for your brood. According to scientists, though, there are certain identifiable factors that are worth focusing on. From reading and drawing to doing chores and taking on summer jobs, these critical elements of a child’s upbringing can all have an enormous impact on their character.

20. Reading

We hear plenty about the importance of reading as adults, even if it’s just to take time away from phone or computer screens. But it’s arguably even more important for kids. Those earliest years are, indeed, fundamental for brain development.

Believe it or not, even before your child learns to read for themself, reading aloud to them is a good idea. For instance, you’ll widen their vocabulary and boost their early reading prowess. And even just 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference, according to pediatrician Dr. John Hutton.

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19. Playing outside

It’s something of a lost art these days, but spending time outdoors offers all sorts of benefits to kids. Aside from boosting their general mental health, it can also improve their creativity, ability to learn and self-worth.

Meanwhile, ditching the screens and playing with others outside will also do wonders for kids’ social skills. According to the American Medical Association, “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.”

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18. Playing independently

Playing with others is a great way to boost social skills, but playing alone has its merits, too. For example, kids will be able to put their imagination to good use, while also developing their own independence.

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What’s more, giving your young one some alone time can help prepare them for the world ahead. After all, you won’t always be there to play with them. And it can even be beneficial to parents, offering some precious downtime.

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17. Doing chores

Few kids enjoy doing chores. In fact, you’ll most likely find that they’re incredibly resistant to the notion. But don’t give up: it’s well worth digging in and making sure they do them. That’s because helping out around the house can have a markedly positive impact on a child’s development.

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By contributing to the family unit with chores, children are learning to take responsibility, as well as how to behave maturely and independently. And you can start them off early: kids as young as three are capable of making their bed.

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16. Education

It’s no secret that education is vital to a child’s development. But you might not know that it’s crucial even before they start school. Yes, there’s really no need to wait until their teachers begin delivering formal lessons – you can get stuck in straight away at home.

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In doing so, you’ll help prepare your offspring for school life. And it doesn’t need to be done in a formal capacity, either. Indeed, it can simply take the form of games that develop physical skills, or math-minded puzzles that boost cognitive abilities.

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15. Visiting museums

If you want to open your children’s eyes to the world, museums are a great place to start. After all, they’re full of fresh perspectives on history and the world at large. And they can also give kids a foundation for their own creativity and independent thinking skills.

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“Children of all ages regularly exposed to museums are provided with a strong foundation for intellectual growth and development,” Linda Mare, of the New Britain Museum of American Art, told the Art Works blog in 2014.

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14. A positive home environment

A happy, positive home environment is crucial for kids, largely because a negative one can have disastrous effects on them. Indeed, behavioral issues, depression and anxiety can all stem from a problematic home life in a child’s first three years.

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And that’s not all. In fact, a chaotic home can affect children all through their lifetime – even in school and their careers, according to the Urban Child Institute. Moreover, the home environment can also impact brain development, including increasing kids’ susceptibility to disease as they age.

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13. Looking after pets

If your youngster constantly bugs you for a puppy or a kitten, it might be time to relent. After all, studies have shown that caring for a pet can boost kids’ social and cognitive skills, as well as their self-esteem.

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If you’re still skeptical, having a fluffy companion around can be a great stress reliever, if nothing else. But a four-legged friend, or any other domesticated animal, can also help kids boost their communication abilities, too – indeed, it’s a win-win.

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12. Gardening

An easy way to get your kids out into nature is simply by taking them into the garden. And it’s also a fantastic means to improving their character. They’ll get all sorts of physical benefits, in fact, from mucking around in the grass.

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For instance, gardening gives young ones the chance to develop their movement skills, including balancing and grasping tools. And it’s also full of opportunities to learn all sorts of things, such as the different kinds of plants or the process of growing your own food.

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11. Summer jobs

If you want your child to get a real head-start in life, you might want to encourage them to get a summer job. According to a 2014 study from the UBC Sauder School of Business, teens who work while at school are rewarded with significant advantages later on.

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That’s because part-time work gives kids the chance to widen their networks, immerse themselves in the world of work early and gain valuable skills, including time management. According to the study, that can then translate into better jobs, and higher earnings, in future.

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10. Traveling

Chances are, your home environment isn’t as relaxing as you’d like it to be. Indeed, the daily stresses of life can take their toll – not least on how much time you spend with your kids. Taking them on vacation, then, can be advantageous in more ways than one.

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Not only will you reap all the usual benefits of a vacation, including time to de-stress away from the office, but your kids will appreciate the bonding time, too. Meanwhile, exploring new places and engaging in new activities is crucial to their development in their early years.

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9. Eating healthily

A healthy diet is important throughout life, but it’s perhaps even more important for kids – and in particular, infants. After all, we experience our most rapid period of growth in infancy. It’s essential, then, that we get all the right nutrients.

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Indeed, nutrition professor Dr. Reynaldo Martorell told LiveStrong that a poor diet in early childhood can have a severe effect in later life. That’s because proper brain development hinges on obtaining the correct mix of vitamins and minerals. In their absence, behavioral issues and learning disorders can arise.

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8. Laughter

Laughter comes naturally to babies – after a few weeks, anyway. And it’s more than just a natural instinct. In fact, it’s effectively a tool that helps infants communicate with the outside world, engaging with people in the absence of vocabulary.

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And that same laughter can even help broaden kids’ minds in their earliest stages. Emma Citron, a clinical psychologist, told Theirworld in 2017, “Humor allows children to see things from a different perspective and to look at the world in a different way.”

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7. Drawing

Even if a child is not the most naturally gifted artist in the world, picking up a pencil can still be invaluable to them. At a young age, kids aren’t always the best communicators through speech or writing. Drawing, then, can give them another avenue through which to express their feelings.

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Meanwhile, drawing also develops kids’ hand movements and physical coordination. And putting pencil to paper can help them become great problem solvers, even if those issues are, “Which color would work on this bit?”

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6. Learning a second language

It’s not just teens and adults who have the capacity to learn more than one language. In fact, kids as young as three years old may actually cope better with bilingualism. That’s because brains are more malleable at that age, according to school head teacher Catherine Ford.

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“The younger the learner, the better they are at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation,” Ford wrote for the Telegraph newspaper in 2014. “Children who grow up learning about languages develop empathy for others and a curiosity for different cultures and ideas.”

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5. Reading Harry Potter

Apparently, following the adventures of the boy wizard can hugely affect a child’s character, according to a 2015 study. Indeed, a group of Italian researchers found that kids who read J.K. Rowling’s books held less prejudice towards minority groups.

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It’s not hard to see why, considering how many marginalized communities exist in the Harry Potter universe. The research did indicate, however, that kids who related to the main character, rather than the villainous Voldemort, would be more likely to have an outlook of acceptance.

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4. Sharing a bedroom

When kids get older, they’ll probably be begging for their own space. But at a young age, sharing a bedroom can actually be a good thing. Indeed, clinical psychologist James Crist told the Chicago Tribune in 2017 that there are plenty of benefits for sharers.

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Not only will it stave off the anxiety of being alone, but sharing a bedroom also helps siblings learn how to negotiate with each other. What’s more, it’s great preparation for adult life, where shared spaces are common – whether at work or home.

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3. Learning about gender equality

What children learn in their formative years is incredibly important – and that doesn’t just mean formal education. Indeed, it also extends to the values and lessons imbued in them by parent figures, including those surrounding gender equality.

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According to a 2017 report from children’s advocacy group Plan International, if children are taught that men and women have different, predetermined roles in society, it can be incredibly limiting for them later in life. Teaching children about true gender equality, then, can massively affect their character.

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2. Health

In 2018, a group of researchers measured the development of children up to three years old, across Turkey, India, South Africa and Argentina. And they found that the kids’ development was consistent – as long as they were healthy.

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The authors, in fact, concluded that the wealth of a child’s background is ultimately irrelevant, as long as their basic needs are met. That means they’re well-fed, cared for and provided with the right stimulation. For kids, it seems, money doesn’t matter: health does.

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1. Love and affection

It might sound obvious, but the amount of love and affection kids receive has a huge impact on their lives. For instance, with daily emotional support, a child will have a greater capacity for learning, because they’ll feel safe in their environment.

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What’s more, that child will also have an easier time developing both physically and mentally. And it doesn’t even need to be a massive outpouring of love and affection – even small praise can make an enormous difference to a kid’s character.

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