By Mary Dodd
Now that the holidays are over, the new toys have lost their novelty, and some New Year’s resolutions have already been broken, make a resolution that will last your kids (and our community) a lifetime.
It won’t cost any money, won’t wear out or be outgrown, doesn’t require anything but you, and will have unimaginable benefits for your family.
Make a New Year’s promise to give your kids your undivided attention for some time every day.
In our fast-paced, increasingly-digital daily lives, the relationship needs of infants and young children can easily get overlooked. You may promise yourself, “Tomorrow I’ll sit down and play/read/be with Johnny.” But tomorrow never comes, and each day lost will have a lasting impact on every aspect of your child’s life – happiness, friendships, development, and school and life success.
So slow down, turn off your digital devices, and share some time with your kids. Make memories, deepen your relationship, have fun, cherish the moments that add up to a lifetime. You probably have plenty of ideas about how to go about this, but we’ll share a few.
“Your never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”
Our favorite doctor, (Dr. Seuss) said it best, and we know from research that reading daily to babies beginning in infancy has lifelong impacts on their development in all areas. More important, it builds and deepens their relationship with you, and benefits your health, too, by causing your brain to make more of the feel-good hormones and less of the stress hormones.
Your child’s health-care provider probably prescribes books as part of Reach Out and Read; your local children’s librarian can make book recommendations, as can a local early childhood professional.
“Just play!” Let your inner child out to play with your kids every day. You don’t need expensive toys to have fun playing – as a matter of fact, finding every day items to use as props helps your kids be creative and imaginative.
The most important things to remember about play are to let your child be the leader, that play is not testing for knowledge (“Show me the square,”), and that play should be fun. Don’t forget to be silly.
Sing, dance, make music and art with your kids. Keep in mind that, although these activities will help kids develop skills in many areas like math, problem-solving, language, creativity, and movement, the primary goal is enjoyment for all.
Don’t worry about the mess – kids will be more helpful with clean up if they had fun first.
Go on a nature walk to find bugs, rocks, sticks, and other interesting natural objects. Make angels in the snow (if we get any this winter), splash in mud puddles, bundle up and go outside to admire our dark night skies.
Share family conversation during at least one meal a day (no TV) and talk about all the great things you’re doing together every day. This will cement the activities into their memories to last a lifetime, strengthen your family ties, build values, and help your kids grow into successful, happy, thoughtful, productive people.
And all this from one simple resolution.
For more ideas and suggestions, visit the Montelores Early Childhood Council’s website at www.monteloresecc.org; attend a MECC Family Night (click the Events button on the Home page); sign up for our e-newsletter; ask your child’s health care provider, early childhood teacher, and children’s librarian; and be creative.
Our best wishes for a fun New Year!
Mary Dodd is MECC’s Chief Knowledge Officer.