These are the things that I remember from my childhood that made it so amazing (thanks Mum and Dad). Now that I know about child emotional and social development through my research and clinical work, I know the true value of the incredible gift my parents gave me by having fun with me.Explore with your kids! Forests, rock pools, farmland, bush. Go on adventures with maps burnt at the edges and dipped in coffee to give that ancient treasure look. Have tea parties and create fairy lands with glitter and crushed up chalk as fairy dust. Make food art, real art, music art! Dance. Dance a lot! Sing in the shower so you role model love for life to your littlies. Find bugs and teach your smallies that bugs are fascinating not icky! Put aside your fear of creepy crawlies because kids will mirror your reactions. Be polite to others and they will too. Blow bubbles and laugh at your children laughing. Have water fights. Don’t be grumpy about dirt on their clothes, in your house, in your car. Is it more important to have a house that is clean that your friends and your mother-in-law can be impressed about or is it more important to have happy, healthy kids? Yes, mud is healthy!
Play “what do you think they are feeling?” when you go out to a café or park, surreptitiously pointing out other groups of people to help your child grow emotional awareness and empathy. Talk about injustices around your children so they know right from wrong. Try to recognise examples of injustice in the world even if you don’t care, you don’t want your child also growing up not caring. If you bring a child into your community I believe you have a responsibility to that community to create an accepting and justice-driven person, whether or not you value these things.
Don’t have all of your child’s toys accessible at all times, have a few out each week and rotate so that they appreciate what they have. Even better, use things around the house instead! Turn empty toilet rolls into butterflies, caterpillars, trains, using simple craft tools. When I was little I would round up my sister and my two younger brothers and we’d create a ghost train using a big box and an obstacle course around the house, no expensive toys or fancy technology needed. Simple, pure fun. We would also get together with the neighbour’s three girls and perform a circus event when the neighbourhood had a BBQ. The adults would humour us and join in. Encourage this kind of fun with your little family. And it doesn’t stop with childhood! I have dance-offs with my proxy teens. There is three of them so we go in teams of two and plan the most ridiculous and outrageous dance combo we can imagine then hubby will judge the winners.
Make sure you go camping with them even if you hate camping, make sure you visit the beach even if you hate sand, make sure you provide a range of foods from different cultures even if you know you don’t like them, provide equipment for a range of different sports so they can test them out. Just because you hate footy doesn’t mean they will too! Give your child the opportunity at least once to experience everything for themselves, do not limit their experiences based on what you already know you like and don’t like.