You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762
By keeping in touch with your inner child and a sense of wonder you will make parenting more fun and enjoyable and will raise a happy child.
Children are perfect in their being. They experience true feelings and will express those feelings, whether good, bad or sad feelings. They rush to experience a new or curious activity
My advice to every parent is to play with your kids instead of just watching them play. You will be amazed at how much fun it is and how much more fun you have with your kids. You will truly enjoy them more when you realize parenting is about spending time with your kids, not just rearing children.
By getting into the activity and playing with your kids you are also showing your kids you care, that they are important, and you do have fun with them.
I know from experience how hard it can be to always jump in and just let go of your to-do list, schedule, and concerns, and just live in the moment with your family. Your kids will remember the times you played with them for years to come. They will not remember that you drove them to the pool fifty times, but they will remember the things you did with them. Be hands-on and strip away your adulthood by cutting loose and having some real fun.
Here are ways you can connect with your kids and make memories you and your children will cherish.
- Get Involved in Activities with your Kids In the summer, play games in the water with your kids. Play Sharks & Minnows, Marco Polo, and any other water game or even a swim race across the pool. It is simple, but lots of us moms sit on the side line. Hey, even take a lap through the sprinkler when your kids are cooling off. Believe me, the giggles you will hear will be worth the soggy flip flops.
- Get Out into Nature or to a Museum Take a hike through a state park, go to a local museum, or go dig in the sand with your kids. Look up at the sky, take in the wonder of nature or man-made art, and talk to your kids. Look for cool birds, or insects, or talk about the art. Or just dig in the dirt with them. Let your kids guide you.
- Play Games Do not underestimate the value of playing a board game or simple game like I Spy with your child. Besides teaching your child the rules of play, learning to take turns, and patience, you will demonstrate to your child that he is important because you are spending quality time with him. Another option is to read a book with your child. Even if they are an advanced reader, kids enjoy being read to, especially if you can read it with passion or be very animated in your telling.
- Try Something New Take your kids to do something fun that you have never done, or to a place you have never been. Don’t let your inexperience keep you from introducing something new to your kids. Go camping, fishing, crabbing, or canoeing. Go ahead, you can do it!
- Sing songs Sing classic or new songs in the car with your kids on a road trip or around a campfire.
- Let your Kids Participate Do you enjoy cooking or taking pictures or painting? Do you ever let your kids give it a try? If not, now is the time to do so. I let my kids help make muffins, pancakes, dinner meals and other dishes.
- Get Crafty or Artsy Whether you have a creative or crafty bone in your body or not, pull out the construction paper, glue, markers, tape and string and let your kids make something. But be the example of someone who gets in there and makes something. Have fun and be creative, you do have it in you.
- Take the Fun Plunge You can find tons of free printables and ideas for games or even recycling craft projects online. A great resource for fun plunge ideas is on ZiggityZoom.com.
At the end of the day, it is about getting down on your child’s level, putting your hands in the sand or dirt, and letting go. Let go of the parenting worries and housekeeping qualms for a little while and experience the joy of life. The other day my middle son said, “mom you never get in the pool at Grandma’s house, its been like a year.” I realized I was not connecting with my kids at the pool. I always had a reason. My mascara might smear or I wanted to relax beside the pool while my kids swam. I realized I was sending the wrong message, and I jumped right in with both feet.
- It’s okay to take a little parent time, but you have to have some fun time with your kids too. So put down that dish towel and take the Fun Plunge. The memories you and your child make will truly last a lifetime!
Sharon is an artist, designer and author of both "how-to" books and children's picture books. She is also co-founder of ZiggityZoom and the managing editor. The book "Parenting Without a Paddle:Navigating the Waters of Parenthood" was co-authored by McCullough, along with Kristin Fitch, the other co-founder of ZiggityZoom. She is passionate about family and family fun.