A single day of parenting consists of loving cuddles, delightful interludes, humorous conversations, battles of will, tantrums and wobbly moments, tears and laughter, overwhelming tiredness and stories aplenty. There are lofty highs that fill us with pure joy and dastardly lows that can make us question why we ever embarked on this journey. For most of us, the wave of the day is manageable, balanced and healthy and we are encouraged and energised by the highs to struggle through the lows. But when the lows dominate, it can seem like we are stuck on a carousel at the fun park, unable to get off and feeling more nauseous by the minute.
I’m a big believer in saving pennies for a rainy day and building up our just-in-case funds ready for any emergency. This back up account gives us a sense of security and freedom. My experience with children over the years tells me we can do a similar thing with our parenting, tipping the balance in favour of the good times. Years ago, I heard it said that the more beauty one is exposed to in the young years, the stronger the child’s resilience to manage life beyond their teens. I’d suggest that a memory bank of fun, delightful everyday experiences at home with the family works in the same way, giving us all the strength to cope with whatever life throws at us. Fun experiences make us happy and fulfilled. Fun experiences encourage the children to engage and comply. Difficult behaviour is averted.
Here are my top five tips for making fun a daily experience, resulting in happy, well-behaved children.
In a daily rhythm, there are at least six opportunities to add a measure of fun as we move from activity to activity. As parents, we have an exciting opportunity to create artful enchantment that will invite, inspire and engage our children in the task at hand. Take hand washing before lunch for example. Children can wash their hands at the everyday sink, OR they can visit the ‘Hand-wash Shop’ complete with miniature bars of strawberry smelling soap, bubbly bowls of water, funky rainbow handtowels and a parent to lovingly dry their hands. We can encourage children to travel happily in the car when they know that a captivating bag of jolly activities has been prepared. The surprise bag can be filled with swap cards, a new book, a puzzle or game, a yummy snack and a refreshing drink. You can create a fun moment at every transition, or just one.
Sing your Heart Out
My years as a kindergarten teacher taught me plenty about raising young children but my favourite golden key of all is this: Sing every single day with gusto. Have you ever noticed that young children sing all day long? It is their natural language, and they will make up their own songs just as readily as singing a familiar favourite. When you sing to them, and around them, you tap into some kind of secret power that has the ability to capture their attention, make them laugh and move them on and through a challenging situation. Try this little trick. The next time you need to call your child, sing their name instead of saying it. In my kindergarten amidst the noise and bustle of a large group of children, using song to chant their name was the ONLY guaranteed way to catch their attention. My singing voice acted as a magic flute, and they walked to me as if under my spell. You can sing to call them in for dinner, you can sing their name in silly or funny songs to break through wilful moments or redirect them away from a potential crisis. Most of all, when you sing, regardless of your singing ability, you engage in a living art. Artistic experience is nurturing, replenishing and is a proven tonic for happiness. Sing, sing and sing some more.
The Power of Simplicity
The easiest way to happy children is to spend more time with them. Simplifying our lives makes this possible. With less stuff, there is less to clean, less to mend, less to store, less to manage and less to put away. When we simplify our lives, we need less money for toys or clothes or childcare, we reduce our bills by saving energy on cleaning, laundering and cooking, and we can pay off our home loans faster. Cutting back in some areas may also allow us more time at home with our children, and give us the time to create together. We gain time to make gifts, cards, stylish decorations for our homes, delicious meals, jams and preserves and baked delicacies. We are able to grow our own food together and rejoice in our family and friends. We can ride our bikes instead of driving our car, saving on petrol and exercising in the process, take a homemade picnic to the river, and delight in long walks in nature finding supplies for our artistic experiments. From my experience, spending MORE time (not just quality time) with our children is the single most important factor in lessening difficult behaviours at home.
Our children become independent and self-directed when they have been given the opportunity to play and entertain themselves. But for children to engage in imaginative play, they need stimulation and healthy ‘impressions’ from the world they live in. Real life experience beats virtual experience every single time. Every little thing we do with, or in front of, our children is fodder for their curiosity and inventiveness. Simple activities such as cooking, cleaning, drawing and caretaking are good examples for imitation but a dive into the world outside is just as important. Taking our children to art shows, museums, local festivities, cultural immersions, language schools, musical events, zoos and wildlife hospitals, aged care homes, libraries, restaurants, cafes and sporting events ensure they have a broad range of real life models and social interactions to create from. Social experiences in particular help them to manage and modify their potential outbursts as they develop their own code of conduct through example. Alongside our children in these public venues, we too continue to learn, grow, flex, and develop as people and as confident parents. Where will you take your children today?
A yearly rhythm of seasonal and commemorative events can stoke our creative fires and give our families purpose and meaning as we plan for, carry out and tidy up after our celebrations. In our family, we celebrate the familiar holidays of Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween, Advent, Christmas, New Year and birthdays. But we also celebrate the changing of the seasons, the turning points of the year and join in local festivities such as our town’s ‘Old and Gold’ yard sale extravaganza once a year, or the sand-castle building competition on our National Day. I’m also partial to celebrating random and rib-tickling holidays or events such as “Gummi Worm Day” on July 15th (my son loves this one) or “Lavender Ice-cream Making Day” or “Eat Around the World” week where for seven nights running, we try new recipes from different cultures. Life is a celebration, not to be saved for weekends or days off but embraced in some form for a little time every single day. The more fun celebrations we have, the more my children ask me what is coming up. They learn to live joyfully, planning their own fun events like pizza-making nights, movie screenings and ‘Welcome to my Restaurant’ family get-togethers. Motivation to create, even from a young age, keeps children happily occupied and non-confrontational and helps us all to fire up our creative sparks.
Positive and purposeful parenting can be full of fun and I like to think that our small efforts might just mean our children value the way we brought them up even more. They may even want to replicate our traditions and daily celebratory moments in their homes with their own families in the future. For me, and perhaps for you too, this might just be the most wonderful acknowledgement of parenting life. Enjoy your parenting journey.
Writer and Parenting Educator, Amber Greene (B. Ed, ADCC) is a mother of two. Her work provides a flash of insight and bright ideas for a variety of topics including Parenting in the Early Years, Sustainable Living and Artistry in Everyday Life. She writes daily on her blog, inspiring women and children (and men too) to ‘fire up their creative spark!’. Amber’s “Parenting Fun” website. Contact Amber via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.