kids

6 ways to get your kids out of their comfort zone.

Barking Gecko Theatre
Thanks to our brand partner, Barking Gecko Theatre

Growing up, I wanted to be everything under the sun: a potter, a painter, a singer, an actress, an air hostess, even an astronaut.     

I begged my mum for singing lessons, pleaded with my dad to try acting, and tried to be very persuasive in having my brother move his football practice so the parents could take me to learn to tumble. 

But I didn’t actually end up doing... any of them. 

I had a very active sibling, parents who worked full time and what I now understand was (and still is!), a very indecisive nature. All of these things contributed to me not being able to do many of the things I wanted to do. And these things ultimately contributed to me sometimes being too afraid to try something new as an adult. 

But as I got older and worked within media and sales, I grew out of feeling uncomfortable and actually thrived outside of my comfort zone. 

I went solo to macramé workshops, joined a soccer team full of strangers and successfully completed a stand-up comedy course. 

Image: Supplied. 

This is the stuff that makes me feel alive; makes me feel accomplished and like I can face any challenge. I’ve learnt to use my imagination and to embrace my quirks. This, in turn, has made me a more confident and less fearful adult. 

I now have two daughters of my own, and society today can sometimes make them feel the size of a pea; that they need to be quiet to be respected, or that they need to conform to be accepted. 

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But I don’t want them to just go with the grain, I want to give them as much opportunity as possible to feel the way that I do now. To be themselves by being brave. 

Image: Supplied. 

Getting out of their comfort zones and trying things that might be different or feel scary is the perfect way to build resilience and encourage growth. 

Here are 6 ways we can all get our children out of their comfort zones and help encourage their self-expression.

Live theatre.

There’s nothing quite like live performance and children's theatre to help broaden a child’s imagination. Watching characters come to life through storytelling – right before your eyes – creates an immersive experience for children. The lights, the sounds, the effortless release of self-expression. 

It’s an all-encompassing experience for their senses. 

Western Australia’s award-winning Barking Gecko Theatre has introduced the magic of live theatre to thousands of children and their families for over 30 years. In 2022 they are performing two productions you and your children won’t want to miss – The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker (showing 9-16 April) and Cicada (showing 9-16 July). Both shows open in Perth before rocketing off to tour regional WA.

When Wilbur Whittaker surrenders a special shoebox of his most precious childhood wonderings, he must go on an extraordinary adventure into the furthest reaches of outer space in The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker. Joined by a cast of fantastical characters along the way, Wilbur must remember how to wonder once more and restore order to the galaxy.

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A brand new Australian play about creativity, growing up and living outside of the box, it’s a heartfelt and irreverent adventure across the universe for the whole family.

Cicada brings master-storyteller Shaun Tan’s award-winning picture book of the same name to life with exquisite puppetry. It tells a story about, well, a cicada, who works away in a grey office, unappreciated and dreaming of escape. Then one day, something truly extraordinary starts to happen.

It's an enchanting tale of resilience and difference, that celebrates the light that we all have inside ourselves. The light that your children are sure to seek after seeing it. A story of big ideas and one very adorable little insect.

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Public speaking

For children, this is the crème de la crème of I-am-absolutely-not-doing-that.

Public speaking can make them feel scared, vulnerable, uncomfortable and like they’re being judged. What they don’t realise is that it's setting them up with some really important life skills.

Most schools provide opportunities for students to participate in public speaking competitions and opportunities, and I can’t recommend your children participating enough. 

My daughter loves writing speeches but when it comes to presenting them, she can get really nervous and her performance often won’t have the same energy and conviction that it does when she is at home practising in her room. 

Image: Supplied. 

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But, with our encouragement, she keeps trying and improves every single time. 

The excitement and pride she exudes after speaking in front of others is absolutely heart-warming. It truly shows her that even though it feels scary, the reward of venturing out of her comfort zone far outweighs the butterflies.

Out-of-the-box activities outside of school

Saturday mornings, and that space between 3pm and dinner are the perfect times for children to step out of their comfort zone and into something that will expand their creativity, resilience and life skills.

Unique outside-of-school programs like Gecko Ensembles, offered by Barking Gecko Theatre, encourage children to stretch their imaginations through weekly drama classes. It's a fun activity for kids to try, where boosting their self-expression can lead to greater self-confidence (something we all wish for our children!).

Classes are facilitated by accomplished industry professionals for children aged 5 to 18, held in multiple locations across metro Perth and regional WA. Gecko Ensembles put children in the driver’s seat. They’re encouraged to question, explore, imagine and create; all the things they can sometimes feel a little nervous to do.

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The program helps children develop collaboration and communication skills whilst building empathy and resilience. It might be uncomfortable at first, but that vulnerability soon leads to new skills and a whole lotta fun.

Team sport

Sometimes children might think it’s easier to play a sport solo than to join a team – no competing personalities or people to make them feel silly or not good enough. 

But, what they could be missing out on is the opportunity to work with others, learn from others and to celebrate with others, all of which can push comfort zones in connecting and cooperating with new people.

Soccer, netball, football, basketball... the list of team sports is endless, and so are the benefits. 

Just like with drama classes, when your child joins a team, they are likely to be grouped with other children that they don’t know. This is a great way to form friendships outside of school, using and working on their communication and friend-making skills. 

Being part of a team also helps children develop empathy and resilience and gives them the opportunity to practice new skills with others rather than learn alone. It also presents the opportunity for them to teach others something new which can be really rewarding and give children a huge boost confidence. 

Image: Supplied. 

Singing lessons

When my daughter was 8, she declared she wanted to be a singer. I said it sounds wonderful, so was excited to find her some lessons. 

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She recoiled in fear and said she was joking. Recognising the thought of singing in front of someone else made her scared, I encouraged her and booked her in for lessons with a local singing school.

She soon participated in her first group singing lesson and although she went in nervous and shaking like a little leaf, she came out of that room absolutely beaming, talking no-stop about the songs she sang and practicing her tongue twister warm-ups in the car on the way home.

Singing lessons taught my daughter to be vulnerable. That vulnerability allowed her to open herself up to something that she loved by stepping outside of her comfort zone and into the complete unknown. 

Since that first step into the studio, she has performed in front of audiences and has a lot more self-confidence on stage and in group settings. 

Journaling

Self-reflection can be really difficult. It forces us to look back on certain events or experiences and own how they made us feel or act. 

Although uncomfortable, it can also help to grow our emotional intelligence and strategically formulate ways that we could do things differently next time.

This practice, although confronting and well out of the comfort zone for most children, is a great way to exercise their ability to reflect on their day and consciously think about how they act, react and feel. 

Writing these thoughts down in a journal is the perfect way to allow them to look back on these feelings and thoughts at another time and really work on developing greater awareness of how they may make others feel and how they may react in certain situations. 

In turn, this creates greater self-awareness and builds empathy. Building our children’s ability to step outside of the box is a constant challenge, but with love, support and encouragement, they will flourish. 

I learnt to be comfortable in scary settings as an adult, but I want my daughters to learn this much younger so they can experience as much as possible and gain important life skills along the way.

Being scared is scary, but coming out the other side, there’s no other feeling quite like it.

Barking Gecko Theatre believe when children’s creativity is nurtured, their potential is endless. Get tickets to the 2022 performances of   The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker and Cicada now. 

Book Gecko Ensembles now, Barking Gecko Theatre's weekly drama classes for children across WA.

Feature image: @barkinggeckotheatre/Instagram/Supplied/Mamamia.

Barking Gecko Theatre
Barking Gecko Theatre is Western Australia's locally cherished, nationally significant company that creates theatre for children and their families. Barking Gecko has a global reputation for crafting exquisite theatre that inspires audiences to imagine the world anew. After premiering in Perth, Barking Gecko's productions go on to tour regionally, nationally and internationally. Across its 30+ year history, Barking Gecko Theatre has created 72 new Australian works and performed in 12 countries across the globe. Their award-winning theatre has reached audiences of over 1 million people, leaving a legacy of wonder and imagination in the hearts and minds of children.