Thirty-eight percent of kids don’t know what their spark is. They haven’t yet discovered what gets them excited, pushes them to learn and gives them purpose.

We know that sparks are the first step to thriving—to creating a healthy, purposeful life. What can help kids find their spark?

We can. But research shows that adults don’t always know it’s important to be spark-proactive. Only 55 percent of kids say they get support for their sparks from adults.

Adults are critical in kids’ sparks journeys. Not because we can assign passions to sparkless kids. But because we can get kids thinking and talking about sparks. We can earn their trust, start conversations and name the sparks we see come alive.

Adam Kisler, Camp Fire Heartland’s program manager, says it’s important to have sparks conversations in the context of a solid relationship.

 Adam Kisler leading kids in an activity at Camp Maple Woods summer day camp on July 13, 2017.
Adam Kisler leading kids in an activity at Camp Maple Woods summer day camp on July 13, 2017.

“We want kids to know we’re not just one more person in their life who is going to tell them what to do.” Kisler says. “We want them to know people care about them and we’re not going anywhere.”

Building trust takes time, and good conversations take attention. Kisler says adults need to be careful not to talk too much. We can easily drown out a kid’s own passion by talking too much about our own! Remember to get down on their level—literally sit, bend or crouch down—and make good eye contact.

Once you’ve built up a solid foundation of trust, you’ve earned the right to start talking about sparks.

“Sparks questions are only as good as the atmosphere and trust we build around these kids,” Kisler says.

But sometimes we just don’t know what to say to spark the spark, you know?

Kisler likes to get kids started with questions that are really easy for kids to answer. Over time, Kisler and his Camp Fire staff build on those initial conversations by exposing kids to all kinds of possible sparks…and see what clicks.

  • What are your hobbies?
  • What do you like to watch on TV?
  • What’s been the most exciting part of your summer so far?
  • What did you do this weekend?
  • What do you enjoy about that [hobby, show, thing you did]?
  • Why do you think you enjoyed it?


If you have a close relationship with a kid who digs deep conversations, try Thrive Foundation for Youth’s suggestions. These questions start simple and get more complex:

Once sparks have become a common conversation topic, you can ask kids how you can help with their spark development. Try these questions from Dr. Peter L. Benson’s influential TED talk on sparks.

  • What gives you joy when you do it?
  • What interests or subjects are you really passionate about?
  • What difference does what you do make to the world around you?
  • Why is who you are and what you do important to you and the world beyond you?

Don’t forget: We’re in these sparks conversations together! Kids need more than just family members invested in their sparks. In Dr. Benson’s TEDx talk, he reminds us that kids with at least three grown-up Spark Champions just do better than those without adult support.

  • What is your spark?
  • Who knows it?
  • How can I help?
  • Where do you express it?
  • What gets in the way?

That’s where Camp Fire comes in. We train our staff and volunteers to support kids’ passions. And our programs are designed connect kids and teens to their next Spark Champion. Find your Camp Fire, find your spark!