Maximized Potential

I was listening to an interview with Melinda Gates in the What’s Her Story with Sam & Amy Podcast. The interviewer asked, “you talk about the potential of women, you have helped so many women, do you feel you have reached your full potential?”

There was a pause and in that pause I repeated in my head, “please say no, please say no.” And then she replied, “I sure hope not…” I sighed in relief. And then I thought about why. Why was I so invested in her answer?

Maybe because this solitude of social distancing makes everything feel emotional and intense.

Maybe because I wanted to answer for myself, “no, there is more…I can feel it!”,

But after all, I actually think it’s because I talk so much with parents about the potential of each child. And potential means change for the future. Potential keeps us hopeful. 

I often advise parents what they can do to “maximize their child’s potential” and today I want to talk a little about potential. It is not a peak, it is not a point of arrival, it is a journey to strive for better. For ourselves, for our families, for community, for those we don’t know…yet….

When I say, “This activity will help your child maximize his potential,” what I mean is, “through discovery with his own actions, with his own hands, following his own natural urge to learn, he will fall in love with learning. He will continue to ask why, how, and what if…he will be ever-striving to maximize his potential, all the while happy in the moment of discovery. He can be content and strive for more, he can be proud of who he is and what he has done and still want to push further.”

You may ask, how does that come from working with a toy. Well, here are a few of my favorite examples…

In the Kitchen

Children able to stand at the counter or a table are ready to help in the kitchen. Their connection to the work of the family all while learning how food is prepared, the chemistry of baking, and the sensory experiences all contribute to laying a foundation of wanting to learn more.

I love this introductory baking set and if you are looking for child-size recipes and tips for parents to stay calm in the kitchen, by book, First Foods to Family Meals explains it all.


Young children love ramps. They help develop concentration, tracking abilities, and are a foundation for physics. This Ramp offers different vehicles to see how differently they move not he track. A wonderful and open ended activity for young children.

And as they grow, their interest continues and they can start to build their now structures. One of my favorite open ended building sets is the MakeDo construction set that works with all that cardboard you already have! Encourage your Childs interest in ramps by reading books with photo images like this one, Ramps and Wedges.

For Babies

Babies are curious too. And they are just learning that as they move their hands and feet, their movements effects what is around them. The Skwish is a great toy that allows your baby to transfer from hand to hand and watch the movement and hear the gentle sounds as they do. 

Pop up toys like this rainbow are fun for a long time. First as they learn to take the pegs in and out and coordinate movement and experiment with distance and hand control, they then move to learn about force as they learn to make the springs work!

There are so many great toys out there that are open ended and inspire concentration and discovery. Choose a couple as your child does not need all of them. They need time and opportunity with just a few to push the limits of what a toy can do and what they know.

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