My youngest two children are now 13 and 14. When they were newborns, I always bemoaned the fact that they didn’t come with a manual.
And now that I look back, I think I could write a novel on “advice I wished I had listened too.” And why!
One of the most expensive failures was my desire for my children to have the latest and greatest, the most colorful, the most entertaining toys. Christmas and birthdays were insane!
Here are my top 10 tips for entertaining your children. These are not only important for your budget, but also for raising well-balanced (read, less spoiled children.)
1. They don’t need it. Don’t buy the toys or the fancy dressings for their rooms. They can’t focus on them. Instead, read to them, sing to them, dance with them. Seriously, clothe them, feed them and spend time with them. Nothing else necessary.
Toddler and Preschoolers
2. Wrap the box. Let them play with the box. No toys necessary. No bells or whistles. They will climb in it, scribble on it, even drum on it. Let their imagination go wild.
3. Play peak a boo, play hide and seek, roll the ball and even toss the ball into the box. Chase them, tickle them and let them learn to climb on the couch and up the stairs. Supervise them but let them start to branch out a bit.
4. Continue to read to them, sing to them and dance with them. While the picture books are great, you can read anything still. They will listen. They love to hear the sound of your voice, they will improve their language skills and there is nothing more bonding than sitting next to you or in your lap and knowing that they are the focus of your attention (even if you are reading your lawn mower’s manual or your textbook for school.)
5. This is when the “gimmees” will start. They will see a toy on a playdate or on an advertisement. It’s not to early to talk about costs. It’s not to early to let them earn money and save. It is not to early to teach them to wait. And it’s important that they learn to hear and respect “No.” 9 out of 10 times when you are ready to go purchase, they will have already changed their mind.
6. It’s time to start listening to them read. And even if they can’t read, encourage them to tell you a story. Use their imagination. Let them put on a play for you, let them dress up in your clothes, in your shoes. Put on your imagination hat and play along with them. This time will pass so fast.
Upper Elementary and Middle
7. Not only are they reading now, but they are writing. Read it. Encourage them to express themselves. Tell them to add pictures, write a novel. As a homeschool mom, I was taught to find one correction I would make and point it out. Don’t make a list. Just focus on one thing at a time…and also read it, laugh about it and ask for more.
8. Teach them about electronics. Be firm with the boundaries but empower them to find their own answers. Choose some educational experiences and games. Balance screen time with face time. You can’t keep them from it, so make sure they are prepared for it.
9. While the latest gadget is always in demand at this age, it’s the experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives. Give gifts of experience rather than stuff: art lessons, rock climbing, ice skating and bowling. Take their friends, play with them. Challenge them to try something new.
10. Your reading time might turn into documentaries or classic movies now. Your writing time may be replaced by study time. Electronics may have taken over their lives by now. But nothing will ever, ever replace a one-on-one face to face conversation with your child. Make time for it, even demand it. I promise you, you will not regret it and your child will not forget it.
Raising kids can be expensive. But the cost of “stuff” is not necessary to raise healthy, happy children. No toy in the world can replace the lessons learned from the time and attention of a parent. And no, it’s not too late, start today. Make a date! Grab a book. Call their name.
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