It’s common for families to gather over the holidays. Younger relatives get to meet the oldest members of the family, hear old tales about family members, laugh over silly anecdotes and in general spend time bonding. These activities might sound trivial, but this is the foundation on which family memories and a sense of belonging are built. A sense of rootedness is built into the psyche of children as they grow and interact with family members. As children increase their interaction with the outside world, a sense of belongingness helps them feel cared for and safe, which in turn helps them understand the support systems they have. All this helps a child become more confident about coming into their own among their peers, which is crucial in their teenage years.
Here are three activities which are good for both kids and grownups to establish relationships:
Stepping out into the outdoors and enjoying all that nature has on offer is possibly the oldest ways to establish a relationship between the older and younger members of a family. It’s very common for kids to spend time with their grandparents from a young age. Walking around and teaching grandkids all that they know about the ecosystem they live in is very natural for grandparents. Nature offers rich sensory engagement and good physical activity for both the young and the old. Kids learn to identify flora and fauna from their surroundings, they learn to count while skipping rocks or collecting twigs, and most importantly they learn the interconnectedness of systems in nature. Without really knowing it, kids are influenced by the older members of the family in innumerable ways. Like Jeff Bezos the man behind Amazon says, he saw his grandfather be self-reliant on the farm and learnt the value of resourcefulness. He didn’t know he was learning this while he spent time on the farm; he understood and appreciated it many decades later.
Play is the most natural way for children to learn about the world around them. Kids learn a lot in the first few years of their life, and much of it is without us teaching them anything. They are learning all the time to negotiate their way around the world. When there is an emphasis on ‘getting kids to start learning’ really early, it does not make complete sense, because younger kids are always learning, it’s just that they don’t need any structured learning that early. The brain’s plasticity allows for abundant information from the outside world to enter a child’s conscious world.
As kids grow, parents can introduce board games, participate in their imaginary games, play active games with them, even play some online games on bad weather days, try out Mensa kids puzzle games, learn about animals and geographies through Nat Geo games etc.
This is one life skill kids need to spend some time on. After all food is core to all human activity. By getting kids involved in all aspects of food, we help them get familiar with a variety of overlapping areas like the environment, production of food, the chemistry of cooking, transporting food, packaging etc. All this familiarization and exploration opens up many interesting avenues of thought, which helps kids understand their interests as they grow.
What starts small as a family activity for fun in childhood, opens up the mind and eventually gets kids interested in streams that they might like to explore. This upcoming summer, make sure you line up some interesting activities. Don’t forget to take pictures. Even sorting digital pictures is something many kids enjoy. Not only do they have fun, they can look at pictures to reemphasize memories. Enjoy the summer!