You know what they say; money makes the world go round! It’s an interesting thing when kids get to the age where they realize the importance of money in their lives and what money can get for them. Depending of how well you are off financially and how you were raised teaching kids about money can be a very different experience and often difficult to know the lines of how much is too much and how little is too little. Should your kids be made to get by with the bare minimum? Or should they be indulged and not have to think about the troublesome thing money can be? In my opinion teaching kids the value of the dollar is a worthwhile exercise. When kids learn the value of money and that it does not just grow on trees to be handed to them whenever they want something, they learn to respect it a lot more. Likewise when it is opened up to kids that they have an opportunity to make their own money they learn to treasure it and you will often find they are can be great savers, saving their coins up for that perfect thing. So teaching kids how they can make their own money, how to save it and how to spend it can help them in their future and in budgeting as adults also.
How To Make Money
Showing kids ways they can make their own money instead of just asking for a handout every time they want something, or not daring to ask and going without that special something they’ve had their eye on, can be an extremely liberating thing for them. Learning how earn by exchanging goods or services for money as a kid can lead to entrepreneurial adults.
The first and most simple step to helping kids earn is the ‘pocket money’ system. This can work a few ways; it can be a set amount each week a child receives for having helped around the home or it can be small amounts of money per job they do, the more they do the more they can earn.
Starting in the home is a safe place for kids to test out their new money making abilities. You can write a list of all the chores you want done, now this can be a different list from the regular chores they do as part of their contribution to the house, and you can put a price on each chore, the kids can tick off a chore once they have done it and collect their money when the whole list is complete or as they go, depending on what works best for them and you.
Be careful when you do set your prices on home hold and garden chores that you are not setting them too high or too low. Too low and kids will soon loose interest as their goal of saving enough seems unachievable. Set it too high and they are not really learning how you need to work hard for your money. Once you have come up with your prices stick with them. As the kids grow older and their tasks become harder, then change the prices to suit.
Supporting kids to run their own small businesses is a great way to teach them how to make and save money and a range of other skills. Running a little business can teach them people skills, how to handle money and customer service it can also help them get better at a hobby and is a great after school and weekend activity hat will keep their inventive brains working and best of all it’s fun!!
Small business for kids don’t have to be an intense production. It can be little one off lemonade stalls, or an in season orange stall that they may pick from your backyard and sell them. Some projects can be ongoing ones however. So if your child is interested in making some extra money, go through with them what they are good at, the skills they have and how they could turn any of them into a way to make money. If you kid loves animals but doesn’t have a pet they may like to start a dog walking service. You could help them print out fliers or go door to door with them while they ask the neighbors.
Or if your child is very crafty they could consider making their crafts and selling them. This could be between family and friends or if there is a certain quality about their products you could help them set up a stall at some local markets.
The important thing with helping a kid with their small business is giving them confidence while helping them maintain some grounding. If some of their ideas are a bit far fetched or out of reach financially or ever skill wise, it’s important not to shut them down and tell them it’s a bad idea, but more help then think of ways they could make the idea a little simpler and more in reach. That way they will be able to achieve their goals without getting downhearted when a huge idea doesn’t work.
If these ideas so far aren’t quite the right fit for your child you could consider perhaps helping them acquire a paper round or pamphlet run or even ask any friends or neighbors if there is any regular jobs they need done. It could be that a neighbor wants their lawn mowed once a week or help with some house hold tasks at a regular time. This can be great with kids with a busy schedule that prefer to have everything pre planned for their week so they know when they can fit their ‘work’ time in.
How To Save Money
Now they have their money, the next step is to save! Now some kids will want to save big for that one toy or game they have been dreaming of, they will be willing to not spend any of their hard earned cash until they have enough for it but other kids the minute they get a dollar they are down to the store to buy candy! Showing kids what they can achieve with there money can be a useful tool in helping them save further. If your child does not have a specific goal in mind, sit with them and talk about the things they want, it may not even be a thing it could be a particular outing to a theme park or an exhibition. Go through with them how much what ever they want will cost and break it down. For example you could say, well if you do X amount chores a week for X amount of weeks, then you will have enough to buy this. Breaking it down will help kids understand how much work is needed to get what they want, and if they want it sooner they will work harder.
If it’s a bigger item your child is saving for, something they have their heart set on but would take them years to save for you may also consider meeting them part of the way with money. If you can see a child is saving so hard but it will take them a long time to get what they are after you may suggest that when they have raised a certain amount of money then you will pay the rest. This will encourage them to keep working and saving and not having them loose heart when what they want seems out of their reach.
How To Spend Money
Teaching kids how to spend their money is also a very important part. Some kids will want to buy junk with their hard-earned cash cheap toys or sweets. You can show kids how to budget and save some of their money for those little immediate things and then the rest for more important items. Teaching kids how much things are worth is also worthwhile, tell them that while something may be cheaper so they could buy them quicker the quality may not be as good so the chances are they will not work as well as they want or will break sooner and they will get to enjoy them for a shorter time. If kids are buying the things they really desire that are good quality with their own money they will build more of a respect for those items and in general for things, understanding the hard work it took to get certain things. Once they have their items it’s important to show them how to care for them properly, if for example they buy a skateboard, leaving it out in the yard at night will damage it. Show them they need to respect it by putting it away in its correct place. The same goes for sports equipment or electronics. How much care they treat an item with will determine its lifespan.
Life Time Skills
By teaching kids the importance of working for their money you are teaching them to understand how work equates to money, which equates to the things they get to enjoy. This can show them to have more respect for their own possessions and for you as parents by making them realize that no, money doesn’t grow on trees and you too have to work hard to provide for them. Kids that are taught these skills young will find it easier in the future as they grow and have to start budgeting while in collage and even when getting their first jobs and having to support themselves. They will know how to save and what is worth spending their money on.
In this day and age of Social Media and online living kids are being drawn more and more into virtual worlds and often words that are based on a fair bit of narcissism. Kids are caring more and more about outward appearance not just of themselves but oft heir lives as a whole. Often you will find tweens and teens engrossed in their phones or tablets looking at the lives of others and seeing how theirs compares. So many young people are falling into the trap of believing they are not enough as is and as a result are spending far too much time and energy trying to make themselves look better, their lives look more exciting all for some likes from strangers. With increasing energy going into themselves and an inward look at their own lives our children and teens are being drawn into a more narcissistic culture that is making for higher numbers of depression as they are constantly being made to feel inadequate. There are many ways to try and combat this growing trend in superficial and self-absorbed behavior and one of my favourite ways is to get kids looking outwards not inwards is volunteering. Volunteering can bring such much needed perspective into the lives of our teenagers and even younger kids giving them a greater sense of purpose in helping others and it is something that will be more inwardly satisfying than the amount of ‘likes’ on a picture.
What Does Volunteering Look Like?
Now Volunteering sums up a lot of images, from the extremely glamorous building houses in Africa to the totally unglamorous sweeping the floor of a home for the elderly. Volunteering can often seem like it takes to much work to organize, finding the right organization, often having to pay for your privilege. This is not the kind of volunteering we are talking about here. Especially not for young kids and teens. Lets think of Volunteering more as giving acts of service within your local community and even family and now all of a sudden it doesn’t sound so daunting or hard, but a little more interesting and fun. These acts of service that you can enroll your kids in can have such a positive impact, to your children’s and to the community and to the person or people they are helpings lives.
Where To Begin?
There are a few different ways to go about making volunteering a part of your kids lives. It can be an incidental thing, something that happens when the moment arises or a more thought out process. If you are a bit stumped yourself as to where to start on this journey of service giving then it may be good to firstly sit down yourself and make a list, starting close to home then branching out, of any family members, Aunties, Uncles, Grandmothers or Grandfathers that may need some extra help in some areas. Even Cousins or Siblings can be included. For example a Grandparent may need help with some gardening or a cousin may need some help with a school project in a subject your child excels in. When you’ve done with family you can start thinking about the wider community. Organizations you may be a part of, other people you know that may be in a less fortunate position that your own kids or be going through some personal issues and may need a bit of extra help around the home, in the yard or in another aspect of life. Once you’ve gone through that take a look on the internet and see if there are any community organizations that do run volunteering programs, soup kitchens, making care packs for the homeless, tutoring or mentoring programs (This for the older kids) for disadvantaged kids. You will be surprised at what is out there and how many different ways there are of providing acts of service.
So How Do I Get My Kids Involved?
Now that you’ve done a bit of your own research it’s time to get your kids on board with it. If you feel like you need to start with a more subtle approach you can try casually mentioning there is a family member who needs a bit of extra help and you were going to go around and help out and would love it if they could join you. This method can work with particularly resistant teens. After going and doing these stealth acts of service a few times you may find your kids enjoying themselves and the feeling it gives them to get out of their own head and be helping others and they may naturally start looking for opportunities to help out themselves. This is of course the best case scenario and if it happens to your kids then great!! Well done. But it is not always going to be the case so may I suggest a more forward approach. Try sitting down with your kids and talking to them and saying how as a family you would love to start looking for more ways to help others. Make sure you are not pinning it all on them or they will start to get suspicious and instantly resistant. Try not to make them feel bad for not always doing service for others, instead think of the service activities they may have done in the past and remind them of how good it made them feel and how proud you were of them being able to give of themselves. Then put it back on them, ask your kids for suggestions of how they can give acts of service and whom they can give acts of service to. Make a list with them and share your own list with them also if they are having trouble. Talk to your kids about the importance of helping others and being grateful that they are in a position where they are able to help others.
Now if any of these options just flat out don’t or wont work for your children but you are still very keen on having them involved in some volunteering or service projects then may I suggest finding a volunteering program already set up in your community in which you can enroll your kids into. Youth groups and church groups quite often have programs going on which provide great help to the local community and even to countries abroad. You may find your kids resentful at first and not interested but with a bit of time and once they start to see the positive impact they are able to make I’m sure they will start to look at it in a different light and happily continue on with great volunteering work.
Volunteering And Service Ideas
If you are feeling a bit stumped for ideas on just how your kids can help contribute to the lives of others, I’ve outlined a few simple suggestions.
– Helping out the elderly
This can be with housework and gardening or just by simply spending time reading books, listening to their stories and being a companion. The elderly have a lifetime of experiences and stories that they often so happy to share. Your kids are sure to learn some amazing things and their elderly companions will have to joy of being able to share.
– Mentoring and Tutoring
If you have teenagers this can be a great one. There may be special needs kids at their school or kids that come from disadvantaged areas of town that need a little extra help with school work or just a friend to hang at the park, go for walks or even to play video games with! This can be a great way for them to be a positive influence and to realize how lucky they themselves have it.
– Activity Boxes
This is great for younger kids. Have them fill a small box with some fun games and activities they may have grown out of or even shop with them at charity stores for some things they can donate to children’s hospitals or children from disadvantaged homes. It’s a beautiful way for them to share and see the smiles it can light up on another kids face.
– Town Cleanups
Town cleanups are great ways of giving back to the community, affiliate your kids with an existing group or help them to start their own around beaches or parks or bush areas and help them hold clean up days to reduce litter. This helps them to respect the community they are a part of and a great way to help them with their Eco Journey.
– Walks and Fun Runs
Many schools and local groups put of a few ‘fun runs’ or walks for charities. Such as walks to raise awareness and donations for cancer. This can be a way of teaching them compassion and about the real things that effect peoples lives everyday. A lovely and fun way to show they care and to raise some money for good causes.
– Animal Care
If your child has an affinity or love for animals then maybe helping out at an animal shelter could be the right fit for them. Spending time with animals has been proved to be very therapeutic and being able to help them to have better lives is a very satisfying and worthwhile thing to do.
– Sharing Stories
Another great one for kids is sharing stories and visiting children in hospital. Helping to brighten their day and put a smile on the faces of sick children can be fulfilling for people of all ages. Bring some games along too and get involved!
Volunteering And Social Media
One of the most useful tips I have found in getting your children involved in volunteer work is to get them to leave their phones/devices behind. These can be very addictive and teens can particularly find it difficult to focus on other people and service when they have a link to the ‘glamorous’ world in their pocket. You may find them sneaking off on toilet breaks that last a little to long just to check in or stay connected.
Another peril of having a phone with them is the use of social media while they are working. In some cases social media can be a great tool for promoting a project they are working on that may need donations or more volunteers. The it would be appropriate for them to share what they are doing on social media. But there is a downside also, and that is by ‘sharing’ their ‘stories’ or photos of their volunteer work they are also feeding back into that self absorbed world and possibly using their volunteer work as a way of showing off how thoughtful they are, which in the end leads back to a very narcissistic way of thinking.
When involving your kids in volunteer and service projects It’s important to talk to discuss with them the ‘why’ of what they are doing. Explaining that acts of service should not be something to boast about or used for social status in anyway, acts of service are just that, acts of service and are done to help others. When they are volunteering it is for the benefit of others and their own personal growth.
They Can Do It!
Most importantly with doing acts of service with children and teens, make it an experience they can enjoy. It doesn’t mean it has to be ‘fun’ or ‘easy’ but more that it is something they can come out of at the end of seeing a positive result and how they were able to make a difference in the lives of others. Once they see this they will be far more inclined to want to do more and look for more opportunities in their day to day lives to provide acts of service to others and in looking outside themselves and into the needs of others you will find your kids growing more patience and compassion and having more gratitude for the life the do lead. Have faith in your kids and let them know that they have so much good to give and offer the world and you’ll see how this can lift them from self obsessed kids to respectful and compassionate young people.
Taking The Plunge
Going Green or heading into a sustainable future is something we should all aspire too. It can seem like an overwhelming challenge at first, and after seeing some mum blogs or pintrest posts of mums who have it all figured out and look like they are saving the planet one beeswax wrap at a time it can seem too out of reach and meant for those who have all the time in the world to do a million and one projects to cut down their footprint. But like all worthwhile projects, going green and heading towards a more sustainable future for your family takes times. When are you going to find time for this though? You may ask, well lucky enough there are plenty of things you can do to up your green game and involve your kids at the same time! Bellow are a list of different activities to help with living a greener life that you can involve your kids and have the opportunity to learn and grow with them teaching them about the importance of a sustainable future and spending some beautiful quality time with them.
In The Garden
One of the first things that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘green’ is of course trees!!
Staring with nature it’s self can be a beautiful way to start your and your children’s Eco journey. Talk to your children about how the earth needs trees to provide clean air for us. If you have a backyard you could consider planting a tree with your kids. Open a discussion about which trees are their favorites and which would be best suited to your yard and environment. Planting fruit trees can be a beautiful thing as kids can actually watch the fruit grow and sample it themselves, and you’ll save in your grocery bill!
If you live in a smaller space and planting a tree may not be possible for you, check in with your local council and see if there are any rehabilitation projects going on in the area in which you could be a part of. Often local councils will have tree-planting projects that they love to get the community involved in. It can also be a great social opportunity to expose your kids to people who have a great knowledge and love for the environment and they may just be inspired!
Another beautiful way to incorporate green into your home is by planting a garden, flowers can be beautiful and provide some lovey colour and excitement to your garden but veggie and herb patches can be really useful in helping to provide your family with fresh produce.
Now I know a huge veggie patch is almost a full time job, but it doesn’t have to be big, at least not to start with. It can be as small as a few pots of herbs by the windowsill that kids can help cut to go into lunches and dinners.
Cherry tomatoes are also great for small spaces and can really flourish; also kids adore picking them off and eating them as snacks. Find out what grows best in your area and spend time with your kids carefully selecting the plants that best suit the family, no point planting carrots if no one in the family likes them! Go through every step with the kids, teaching them about soil, earth worms and what makes our food nutritious and delicious. Children love to watch the process of things and love to watch things grow. This can also be a great idea if your kids aren’t huge fans of veggies to get them loving them. They will be too curious about what their snow peas taste like not to try them and food fresh of the vine or out of the soil is always so much more delicious. Growing a living thing can give kids such a sense of accompaniment. And gardening is always a great skill and step to being more sustainable.
This can also tie in really nicely to composting food scraps and recycling which we’ll talk about later.
One more idea for those with a bit more outdoor room is chickens! Kids love pets and some species of chickens can make beautiful pets. Also they great thing about chickens is you feed them and they feed you. Help the kids be involved in feeding the everyday and also collecting their eggs daily. This can make them very proud and help to teach them responsibility and to be mindful about where their food comes from and to respect animals.
Recycling With Intention
Recycling is another one of those obvious ones when it comes to going green. These days we are very lucky to have our towns doing a bit more to recycle and providing an assortment of bins to make recycling much easier. But the problem is many people are still not using them properly. The easiest way to start recycling is to set up smaller bins or boxes inside the home for this purpose. Get the kids to be creative and make signs for each bin, having them draw or cut from magazines the kid of things each bin is for. This way is make sit easier for them and you to remember which is which. Having your cardboard and plastics and food scraps and then your general waste separate in smaller bins makes it a lot easier when sorting it out into your bigger council collections bins. Take the time also with your kids to research into how things are recycled. There are videos on YouTube and documentaries also showing how the processes work. Knowing what good can come from their recycling can make them more eager to recycle properly and eventually cut down on waste when they see what things aren’t easily recyclable.
The Joys of Upcycling
The next step in Recycling is what is now referred to as Upcycling. Upcycling Is all about reusing things that have broken or are no longer needed as they are. There are so many creative projects that you can do with kids in reusing materials instead of going out and buying new. There projects can be grand scale like building go carts out of a too small kids bike and other scrap laying around in the garage, or tiny simple things like reusing an egg carton to grow seeds in. Teaching kids the importance of reusing things is vital when trying to move in a more sustainable direction. There are a range of fun projects to be had, sewing dolls clothes out of clothes they have outgrown, making their own shopping bags out of old clothes or scrap material. Upcycling is about teaching kids that just because it’s broken or doesn’t fit or they no longer want to use it doesn’t mean it has to be chucked in the junk, there are so many ways to reuse and if they truly don’t want something any longer, it doesn’t necessarily mean other wouldn’t. You know what they say, one mans trash is another mans treasure.
Teach kids the joy of donating. Old toys and games and clothes can go to charity shops. Teach your kids about how sharing their old things with others can really make someones day and add to the life of the product. An old teddy could turn into another child’s favourite new toy. There are also often other ways of donating goods whether it be to third world countries or disaster relief or just to charities that support the less fortunate. Talk about these with your kids and see what ideas they can come up with for things they would like to donate and special items that them may have out grown but would love to see given a second lease of life. You would be surprised at how many children would love the idea of sharing the things they don’t want or need and more with others that could really use it.
Taking Care Of Your Community
Doing community clean ups is a wonderful way to engage your kids with the community and their own ton. While litter is not a huge problem in Australia compared to some third world problems, chances are when you’re out for a walk along the beach other through the bush you will find some rubbish that has been dropped accidentally or blown in from somewhere.
Search on the internet for groups around your area that organize clean up days and if there are none, start your own!! Teaching kids to have pride in their own country can start with making them aware of what litter does to the environment. Many native animals are lost to accidentally eating or getting trapped in litter. Showing kids how easy it is to pick up that candy wrapper on the side of the road will make them firstly aware not to do it themselves and also to encourage other kids not to do it. By teaches them the negative effects littering can have on the environment you are setting them up with an understanding of the fragility of nature and why we need to protect it. If kids learn this from an early age they will be far more inclined to be a good role model for other kids around them and also to love and respect nature it’s self.
Creating a Litter Free Lunch
Single use plastic packaging is one of the major causes of pollution and accounts for so much of the litter you see around towns, on beaches and in the bush.
A lot of foods used in kids lunchboxes contain this single use plastic and also plastic wrap, to seal and keeps kids food fresh. Some of this plastic is not able to be recycled and as a result is damaging our environment. Trying out a Litter Free Lunch is a great way to cut down on your and your child’s use of plastic that may not be recycled correctly. Many foods, especially fruits and veggies come with their own natural casing and does actually need to be put into ziplock bags. There are a range of beautiful metal and BPA free lunchboxes out there not available that have great compartments in them which means that yogurt can be bought in a large tub and dolloped in every way instead of buying many little tubs. These compartments can help the raisins not to mix in with the carrot sticks and the dip not to mix with the sandwich, which is why we so often use pre packaged goods.
If getting a new lunchbox isn’t in the budget right now and you are still wanting to keep food sealed and fresher a great project to do with your kids is to create your own form of plastic wrap using just beeswax and cotton fabric.
This is another great project you can do at home with your kids. Have them pick out scraps of fabric form their old cotton clothes or bead spreads and cut them into squares then make a mix with beeswax to coat them in. There are plenty of wonderful recipes for this on the internet. This is a great way for the kids to add their own bit of style and special touch to their lunches and can make them excited to package their fruit or sandwiches in them themselves.
Burning Energy Not Fuel
Depending on where you live this may or may not work for you, but cycling instead of driving can help cut down on your families carbon emissions. If you are in riding distance for school then it’s the perfect start giving kids exercise and
Helping them save the planet is a winning combination. Even things like riding to the park or shops instead of driving can make a great difference and is a fun activity to do as a family.
Small Steps In The Right Direction
There are so many small ways you can teach your kids to make a sustainable difference in the world. Teach them these skills and you’ll see their appreciation for nature and their care for the world around them increase. By showing kids it can be fun and easy to choose more sustainable options you are helping them broaden their own horizons and be a better influence to those around them.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be a one month dramatic overhaul, but more small steps along the way to a greener future for your kids and their kids to enjoy.
In this busy day and age, having one parent at home is mostly a luxury and even if both parents are not working the stresses of modern live leave parents busy and often the house in a mess. Toys and clothes can be strewn everywhere, dishes stacked unwashed in kitchens, floors in desperate need of a sweep…Sound familiar? It’s hard to keep up with it all at the best of times, let alone if you’re the one having to clean up after a whole family. So what can you do short of paying for a house cleaner? And do most of us really have time for that? How about enlisting your own small army of kids. It makes sense as they are often the ones making a lot of the mess. But is it right to let your kids help around the home? And could it help or hinder their growth?
Is Getting Kids to Help Actually Better For Them?
There are some people that would argue that kids need to be kids and a parents role is to look after them. And while that is very true, a parents role is to also help them grow and guide them into becoming responsible adults themselves, so perhaps teaching kids some household skills could be doing them more favors than not. Now I’m not talking getting kids to cook every meal and scrub floors on the daily. The jobs they are given need to be suitable to their age. But I am suggesting letting them help in sharing the cleaning and clearing duties within the house. Kids that learn simple household tasks like sweeping, doing dishes and tidying up after themselves are often better equipped for adult life living away from home and life in the workforce. Learning these small skills and having them as a normal part of life can set them up with a good work ethic and a knowledge of pulling their own weight. Having kids help around the home can also give them more pride in their home and eventually lead to them packing away after themselves without having to be told.
Fun Ways To Involve Children in Cleaning up
Now if kids have not grown up with having to clean up around the home and you are trying to get them into the groove of things it can be fun at first to turn cleaning up into some games because as we all know kids love games. These games don’t need to be fully thought out things just simple games like, “okay who wants to race me and see who picks up the most blocks first?” Races are great ways to get kids into the spirit of picking things up. It works with taking off washing, picking up toys and putting away things, although I wouldn’t recommend it for things like putting away dishes! It may create even more mess! Another way to get kids involved is by doing things creatively and letting them have their own ideas about how it should be done. Things like asking kids creative ways they could make their beds! Still ensuring that they are neat but you could get all kinds of fun designs going and it allows them to be creative and have input not just being told what they HAVE to do because as we all know, kids can be stubborn when authority is thrown in their face.
Creating new recipes together for dinner can be fun as well and helping them perfect a favourite, even if it is just scrambled eggs or pancakes, that they can eventually make on their own. If you put your mind to it you can make even the most boring of chores seem fun, and if when starting out you are working along side of your kids they will feel less like they are being ‘punished’ and accept it as something fun you do together.
Should Children Have Treats as Incentives?
So, should you give your kids treats or prizes for helping out? Well it’s really up to the individual parent, and they can work as great incentives but I would suggest not offering a treat for everything they do. Kids need to know that helping is a normal thing and doesn’t need to be highly praised as it is just part of daily life, like Brushing your teeth or eating breakfast.
It can help to explain to children the joy of contributing to the house, that mummy and daddy do a lot of work and they would love some help from the kids too. That them clearing away their mess leaves you with more free time to play with them!!
Kids love to make mum and dad happy and by explaining how their helping can do just that can have a big impact of them.
Having said that, I think that on some occasions offering rewards for some chores, like pocket money can be a great way also to show kids the value of the dollar. The best way to do this is by having regular chores, sweeping, dishes, packing up after themselves, as the normal every day occurrences and then having extra jobs they can do if they are trying to raise money for something special, even if it’s just an ice cream on the weekend.
Bigger jobs, or extra jobs around the house can be given to them as ‘work’ make sure to make a distinction however between what is ‘work’ and what is helping for the sake of contributing to the family and having a beautiful family home.
Can This Really Work For You?
Many people may read this and think ‘you don’t know my kids! It’s not that simple!’ But this isn’t a quick fix. Getting your kids to learn the importance of clearing up after themselves and helping around the house requires time and patience. Some parents like to implement a chart system to help them and the kids keep track of what has been done and other parents prefer to freestyle it. But the important thing is positive reinforcement and patience. You are literally training your child to be alone in the world. Keep that in mind and teach them that also. These are skills they will need one day and what better way to teach them but in their own home, with the example of their own parents.
Always remember one step at a time!
For most of us traveling any long distances (or even short) with kids can be a daunting thought. Images of screaming kids in the car or crying kids on a plane spring to mind and can put a lot of people off actually traveling with their children. If you are one of the brave ones though who have dared to go onto the open skies or road with children you’ll know that one of the easiest ways to distract them from the ever painful call of ‘are we there yet?’ is Tablets, Smart Phones, or Mini Movie Players. Sitting the kids in front of the screen or handing the phone to let them play a game and distract them seems like a relief and an easy way to get some peace and quiet to make your own journey more comfortable. But is taking the easy way and using screens as a way to distract and entertain while traveling really the best option in the long term for you and your children?
The Realities of Screen Time
For many parents the inventions of tablet devises, or portable DVD players that play movies, TV shows and games have seemed to be heaven sent and have often allowed parents to take a little more time to themselves and some much longed for peace and quiet. When traveling long distances either by car or plane they can often seem like the perfect option to keep kids occupied and busy while letting the parents relax and enjoy their flight. We know that there have been studies conducted about the amount of screen time that is suitable for children and that having them glued to devices isn’t obviously the best thing, but when we travel it seems like a different set of rules and often traveling with children can seem more like a ‘let’s just get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible’ scenario where the normal rules go out the window.
So while some of us may even hold out a little while and point out the sheep on the side of the road or try to play spotto it’s usually not long before kids get restless and our first instinct is to control the situation and hand over what ever screen you have before things escalate.
While for some this method may work well, giving in to handing over devices just to ‘keep the peace’ can actually be doing more damage than you realise.
Children need to be bored
Yes! That’s right, it’s actually GOOD for children to have time to just sit and be bored. By giving children time out from constant stimulation that screens present you are giving their minds much needed breathing space. Being bored is when children slip into a different level of thinking and it’s often when both in kids and adults their most creative ideas form. Think about, sitting and staring out the car window may seem like the worst way to pass time, and if you told a child to do that for a few hours I’m sure they would not last five minutes without screaming out for some kind of device to keep away the boredom. But if you are able to hold off from this then in that space of boredom imagination has time to come out and play.
Now I’m not suggesting you take your kids on a five hour road trip and tell them to stare out of the window the whole time, lets face it, that would quickly turn to a living hell! But what I am suggesting is working out a way to reset our kids and getting them to a place where then are able to spend even ten to twenty minutes at a time just in the wonder of their own minds and growing their special imaginations.
So What Are The Options?
Now doing a massive overhaul all at once can be daunting enough to not even want to start. So Depending on how dependent your kids already are on screens, and of course your own tolerance levels, you can work out a plan for your next trip that suits you.
Audio Books can also be a great option for car rides as they can get the whole family involved. They can be a great teaching tool for parents. By stopping the tape at some pivotal point and discussing the story line or why a character may be doing what they are doing you can further engage kids minds. It’s also a great way for the whole family to bond, talking about their favourite parts or characters, what they wish may have happened and having kids think of alternative endings. The possibility’s with stories are endless and allows kids to really use their imaginations and the great things about Audio Books is you wont get car sick reading them!
In a car or even on a plane or long journey train, it’s great to get some fun activities going with the kids where they can use their hands and imaginations at once. Some of my favourites are Pipe cleaners, an inexpensive craft item that is easily bendable and not messing like Plasticine makes for a great activity. Have competitions or have everyone take turns to make a suggestion of what to make so that there can be more interaction between (non driving) parents and siblings. You could even offer small prizes or treats to winners. An example could be that one child picks ‘birds’ then everyone else tries to shape birds out of the pipe cleaners they are given and the person with the best bird could win a prize for that round. Offering prizes can be a great way of getting kids really engaged in the task.
Twenty question cards or other quiz cards can also be a great way to pass some time. Depending on the ages of the children they could take it in turns to be the quiz master or if they are not at reading age then a parent can always call out the questions. Again there is opportunities for prizes and great laughs and fun. Try adding in some quizzes about the area you are going or the activities you will be doing once you arrive at your destination. This way the kids will be learning some great new facts and also building up their excitement for the adventure to come.
Colouring in books are always a winner. It allows kids to have some quiet time while using their fine motor skills and getting some of that anxious energy out by being able to create. At this time it’s really nice to be able to put on some soothing music to promote stillness if they are a bit buoyed up by the excitement of other activities. Have kids choose their own colouring books prior to departure so they are happy with their choices and there is no ‘but I wanted THAT one!
If it was a longer journey and you have exhausted your other options and the kids just need to take time to chill, then putting on a film can be a great option at some point. Studies have shown that full-length films can actually be beneficial for a child’s development, as they have to use their attention span to focus on the story line and understand what is happening. There are also a lot of kid’s films out there that have great morals and stories, also think about where you are going and it can be fun to find a film that will tell a story relating to the trip you are actually on. For example, say you are on a six-hour journey to the snow, choose a film like Snow Dogs to get the kids excited about their upcoming adventure.
It’s important that between each activity the children still have their time however to just stare out the window and have a bit of peace and quiet themselves. Who knows what they might see and what may inspire them to create new games or think up amazing stories or promote question asking which allows for learning and growing.
Making trips about the journey not just the destination
By making your trips more interactive you are helping your kids and yourself to actually enjoy the journey and look upon the travel time as part of the fun of traveling. Interacting with your kids on these journeys also creates further bonding and open up learning and growing opportunities for both of you. If you put in the bit of extra effort, the kids will end up thanking you for it and will be left with beautiful memories of the journey not just the holiday and eventually it will become part of the excitement that comes with going away. By pre planning activities for the trip you’re helping your children’s minds grow and expand and also creating a trip that you end up enjoying even more.