Being a parent comes with a constant struggle of being torn between the amount of time we spend with our kids and the quality of the experiences we provide for them. We are investing most of our hours to provide them the best toys, all the fancy clothes, the best extra curriculum activities… all the while what they really need is more quality time filled with love and devotion.
Nevertheless, apart from all the love and the devotion we can give them, they still need to eat and sleep in a safe and comfortable home. And that kind of home is made with money, therefore we are forced to divide our time between work and our kids. Hence, the never ending struggle of every parent on the face of Earth.
In order to make the time we spend with them really mean something, we should provide real quality time, not just physical presence. That time should be abundant with love and attention, but should be also used to implement and teach the values and the knowledge we want our children to gain. And last of all, or maybe first of all, it should be fun.
Therefore, parents should provide two types of quality time: play time and explore time.
Play time, as I assume, you already understand, is the time spent just playing outdoors or indoors, means running around, playing hide and seek, or ball, or whatever they enjoy the most.
Explore time should be the time we teach them something.
Teaching and learning can be boring, since children need to jump and run and move in general. Sitting still will make them impatient or even nervous in a really short time.
Kids need to have a part or a role in the learning process – an active role, where they learn through experiencing and discovering things directly.
Taking an example from the Finland educational system
Recently, I found an article on Finland educational system and the changes they implemented to make it more efficient. It made me realize that maybe this same approach can be used at home as well.
Practically, they decided to remove the classroom, by taking kids outside where the real world is and teaching them right there – on the exact place where real action is.
For example, one day they would go in a chocolate factory to see and learn how chocolate is made. Students see the whole process, ask the factory workers questions, and even try to make a chocolate bar on their own.
Since almost nobody can just make a random visit to a factory, we all have to improvise.
There are many things to be learned in the available outdoor world. Some ideas: the Zoo, a botanical garden or any home garden, the nearby forest or river, or lake, the green market, a local manufacturer of any kind, a car wash, and so many more. With a bit of imagination you can make almost every place a perfect classroom.
It sounds like quality time, right?
To make it even more exciting, we can involve them in the preparations for the explore time. You start by announcing that tomorrow you are doing “Project XXX” and you all sit down and plan and prepare – name it depending on the things they are about to learn or the place you are visiting.
If you decided on project ZOO, choose a specific animal you want them to learn about and build your whole project around it.
Make the project plan the day before. Let them participate in the brainstorming part – they should share any idea they have about, say – the monkeys. Make a list of questions on what your kid would like to know about the monkeys – where do they come from, what do they eat, what are their enemies and so on…
You can also add some photos to make it more fun, or even let them draw something.
In addition, you can also make a list of the people they can refer any questions to. Make a game out of it by adding a bit of competition flavor. For example, the one that will gather most information on monkeys will be the project leader for the next mission.
Finally, let them prepare their backpacks for the visit to spice it up a bit more and encourage independence.
This types of visits will also be more efficient for you as a parent. The whole visit will be more organized. They won’t be running everywhere, they will be paying more attention, and they will stay focused on learning something new.
When the project is over, you can sum up the day. Go through what they have learned, what was the most exciting part, who gathered the most of the information etc… This will ensure the needed repetition of what they learned.
Children are so eager to explore everything around them. This way you are giving them the right direction. Pretty soon they will be using this method of learning on everything. Moreover, they will remember these projects as a fun time spent with their parents.
In the botanical garden or any home garden they can learn the process of growing one specific plant or vegetable. Afterwards, you can take the project to a new level by organizing a green market project day. Kid can learn how that same vegetable help its owner to earn some money, by becoming a part of our healthy diet. Further more you can teach them how to prepare an easy meal of the same vegetable, explaining its nutritional values and so on…
This was they learn a lot of new things even though it feels like a game.
In order to prepare our children for the world we live in, we must let them explore it on their own. Our part is teaching them how to interact with their environment and helping them understand it.
Aside of spending quality time together, they will gain so many other benefits.
Every new piece of knowledge we learn helps us build our confidence and self value. Being able to draw conclusions on your own is the most important skill we can teach our children. They are born explorers, their childhood is consisted of getting to know the world. The process of growing up itself is exploring turned into knowledge. It is up to us to let them be involved. To help them grow in adult explorers so they never stop learning.
My Quiet Spot
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