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A Moment Spent with a Child is Never Wasted

We all wish there were more hours in a day. When we reach the end of our to-do list, it always seems that the list ends up longer than what we actually accomplished. So, we either push items off onto tomorrow’s list, or we forget about it and give up on some of the items. Unfortunately, sometimes our kids are the one thing that gets overlooked. “We’ll go to the park another day,” “Next time, honey,” and “Tomorrow, I promise,” are all words we have uttered as parents. Promises made, promises broken.

We really do try, but Adulting is never a fun task. I am sure that you would rather be throwing a Frisbee at the park or sitting at the dining room table coloring. But time just slips away, and our “responsibilities” get in the way of one-on-one time with our children. This does not have to be. We can still have that quality time with our kids and accomplish the never-ending list of things to do. It starts with being purposeful in making those quality times happen. Then mix in a little creativeness. Together they will give you time spent with your children.

“Mom, I’m bored.”

We all hear this. It surfaces whenever a child is in a place or situation where you are preoccupied with a task, and they are sitting around not sure what to do. If you are at home, you will say one of two things. Either you tell your child, “Go play,” or give your child a task that they do not want to do, like clean your room or put away your laundry. On a side note, isn’t it funny how unbored a child becomes when we tell them to go clean something? They can immediately find something to do.

There are ways to get beyond this apathetic state. It becomes more about getting them involved rather than brushing them off. As parents, we need to be deliberate about spending time with our little ones. We can do that by finding something they can do within the parameters of what we are trying to accomplish. Yes, this will require us to be creative, but the benefits far outweigh the mental stress of finding something they can help with.

I have a few suggestions to you started. Remember, just as each child is different, each task you assign them will be different. But with a little trial and error, you will find what tasks each child is suited for and what tasks are better of left to an adult or an older sibling.

Turning Routine Tasks into Memories

The following are some of the things you and I must do every day. Some of us call it Adulting. Adulting has to do with the responsibility of accomplishing the things that only an adult does. Going to work is the big number one of Adulting. If we don’t work, we don’t get money to support our families. No, unfortunately, a child cannot go to work for you, but there are more common everyday things that a child can help you with that will not result in your employment termination.

It is important to note that to effectively get a child involved with what you are doing, your actions must be deliberate. It also requires a little bit of ingenuity. By being purposeful and creative, you can turn any mundane task into a memorable moment with your child. It all begins here:

Checking the Mail –Of course, this will depend on where your mailbox is located and the age of your child. You wouldn’t send a little child to a mailbox across a highway, but if your box is near the door or secured on your property, you can have them get the mail. Or if you have a P.O. Box you can let them turn the key.

Grocery Shopping -My daughter likes to go grocery shopping with me. She gets to push the cart. She will get behind it, and I will guide it from the front. She has been doing this for years. She was excited as she got taller and was able to do more. Little by little I would give her more responsibility with pushing the cart. Now that she’s 10, she does most of the work. Or until the cart gets too heavy.

Cooking -This is probably the most common area that a child can help. There will always be one aspect of cooking that any age can do. Yes, you will keep the younger ones away from the stove and knives, but that doesn’t mean they cannot do something useful. They can get items out of the cupboard or fridge, or they can help by stirring.

You can even get the older ones involved. They will someday live on their own and need to know how to cook, what better way than hands-on experience. I grew up in a single parent home. My mom worked hard to support my sister and me. So, after learning from her how to cook, I assumed the cooking responsibilities. I was twelve. To this day I do the majority of the cooking. It all began with the experience of learning from my mom.

Cleaning -No one wants to clean. Not a room for a child, not the bathroom for an adult. Cleaning is a chore. It is an ugly five letter word that becomes a curse word around a household. But it is one of those things that must get done. Since the alternative is pretty gross, we clean.

Some of you may already know this. I completely and utterly dislike Barney. To my despair, at least one of my kids adored him. I will have to say though; Barney did have his moments. The Clean Up Song helped our son get through some trying moments of picking up after himself. Although it usually came with either me or mom right behind him. Cleaning time can be shared moment time.

Laundry -The older a child is, the larger this responsibility becomes. A younger child can help you sort the laundry. Whether you are a separator or a “throw it all in, it will get clean,” a child can help. They can help you sort colors before or match socks after. As they age, they can put away their laundry, or as my older ones do now, do their own wash.

Paying Bills -No, you don’t need them to write out the check or log in to your online account. But if you mail your payments, you can have them affix the stamp. You can have them insert the check into the envelope. Or funner yet, have let them drop it into the mail slot at the post office.

Driving -Two of our four kids are licensed drivers. The third is already asking for his permit. Soon he will be driving. As parents, we can utilize this ability to help us out. They can run to the store for a forgotten item for dinner. They can run that water bill payment over to city hall. They can go pick up their younger sibling from school or practice. These little things can help reduce an adult’s to-do list.

Or you can also go with them, let them drive you to go and do some of these things. Windshield time is a great captive time for a parent. You can inquire about their day, their life, or whatever topic you are curious about.

Working -This can be beneficial when you work from home. My time is split from driving for a living to working the side gig of freelance writing. When I am home and writing, I can get in a zone and completely forget about what is going on around me. This has more than once caused me to look at the clock at 12:30 one minute, then look up fifteen minutes later, and it is 3:00. Time to get the kids from school. Or if the kids are home looking up and it’s 5:30 and I have not started supper.

This home time usually has involved more than one “I’m bored” moment from my children. I could easily brush them off and have in many cases. But I am seeking to get creative. How can I, as a writer, involve my children in the process; I mean other than using them as examples. I can make up things; ask them their opinion, ask them to read over something, or maybe ask my youngest to help me spell something. I know I have the little squiggly red line underneath a word to tell me these things, but I am trying to be creative here.

If you run a home-based business, you can be creative as well. Think of the small things that can be done. Fetching paper for the printer, getting a stack of invoices, sorting a stack of invoices, or like paying bills inserting checks or documents into envelopes.

Final Thoughts

If you are like me, the exhaustion of each day can be overwhelming. Whether it is spending eight hours in an office with piles of paperwork, in a retail establishment with lines of eager customers, or ten to fourteen hours in the field battling traffic or the heat of a Texas summer, you can still hit the house and spend time with your little ones. It does not have to be much. What is considered little to us who have to Adult, can be a memory burn to a child?

You can have quality time with your kids. You can still get that to-do list completed. It begins with being deliberate about making those times happen. Then mix it with some creativity. Together they can make any time, quality time.

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What a Child Can Learn Through Reading

Through books, a child is taken from the confines of their reading area and into the world of a writer’s imagination. They can walk through a land far away, fly through a cloudy sky, or experience life that is different from their own. I have often written that we read as an escape from our ordinary lives. But for a moment I want to revisit one of readings fundamental aspects; reading is a teaching tool. And for children’s reading, the teaching is often under the surface or in the background. Without a child realizing it, they are learning.

How to Do Things

Reading can be a great way for our children to learn things. Or at the least, it can give them a springboard to ask questions about learning to do things. Through a character they read about, a child is introduced to the experiences and abilities in which they may have an interest. The day to day lives of a storybook character can cause a young reader to want to live that life. So, they try to act out what they read. Through this process, they learn valuable lessons about what they can do, and what they cannot do; at least yet.

Books like Harold and the Purple Crayon give a child eager anticipation to draw. Unfortunately, your hallway may need to be wiped down a few times before they learn drawing goes on paper. This eagerness to experiment can lead to bigger things like in All By Myself. The main character of this story is learning about growing up. It’s about his adventure of trying to brush his hair and pour a glass of juice on his own.

Growing up is going to happen, and reading is a great avenue for children to explore and ask questions about life in general. When they see characters doing things that they haven’t learned yet, it gives them a desire to attempt to do those things. And the opportunity for us to guide them in doing them properly.

How to Interact with Others

This attitude of curiosity is not only applicable to trying new things; it can attribute to a child’s behavior. If a character in a story is using good manners, then those behaviors can be picked up by a young reader. You as a parent can also use that character’s actions to bring about a change of behavior in a child, especially when the child admires the character. For instance, Olivia is very respectful in how she communicates with adults. She is also friendly with others and likes to share. These examples can be pointed out to your child to emulate, which will help them as they get older and move into the schooling years and have to deal with other people.

Interaction with others is one of the most significant issues when it comes to making the transition from being at home all day and starting school. Stories about sharing and helping others can help that awkward transition a bit easier. There are many children’s books out there that tackle the first day of school and all the emotions that surround it; the anxiety of meeting new people, fear of not being liked, the sadness of being away from a parent, and the nervousness of having to learn. Reading a good book can prepare a child for human interaction outside of the family circle they have grown accustomed to.

How to View the World

It is all about perspective. Books give a glimpse into a character’s life. We are introduced to someone and given their characteristics. Those details can tell us about how they view the world around them. Books will often take a character through a series of events that will cause a change in the character that will affect their worldview. Often it is from a negative outlook of life to a positive view through a certain event that occurs. An unhappy character finds joy. A mean character finds the ability to be nice.

Bullying is a terrible thing for a child to face. Especially at a young age. But it is inevitable, at some point your child will face a bullying situation. The question is, what side will the child be on? Will they be the one who is being bullied, a witness to someone being pushed around and made fun of, or will they be the instigator? In each instance, believe it or not, reading can teach a child how to deal with these situations. Again, there are a plethora of children’s books that deal with this subject and how to handle it. Allow a child to be prepared by reading some of them.

How to View Themselves

How a child views the world and how they see themselves often go hand in hand. A child with a poor worldview can often feel isolated and afraid. A positive view of the external can leave their head lifted high and more confident about themselves. However, a personal view goes beyond the covers of a book. If a child’s self-esteem is crushed by a parent or someone close to them, then no book in print can overcome such obstacles. But that is another blog entirely. Just understand that in a positive environment, a good book will reinforce positive teaching.

Stories like The Ugly Duckling and The Ugly Five all teach about uniqueness and loving yourself for who you are. Tacky the Penguin and Giraffes Can’t Dance show a child they can be who they are in spite of what others say; that being different has its advantages. Through a book, a child can learn that it’s okay to be smart, silly, or own an imaginary dragon. They can see a variety of characters with what some would see as disadvantages and how they view themselves in a positive light.

We have used the example of The Little Engine that Could before. After other engines find excuses for not wanting to pull a load of toys up a difficult hill, one small engine takes on the challenge. She believed that even though she was small that she could do what she sets her heart out to do. That confidence allows her to succeed at the immense task in front of her. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.” Stories like this, with proper adult guidance, will challenge a child into believing they can do anything if they have the determination to do it.

Final Thoughts

As a child travels through the adventures of a book, lessons are learned. Every book has a premise or an expected outcome after reading it. Teaching a child about making friends, tying one’s shoes, and believing they can be whatever they choose to be, are important life lessons in their progression to becoming an adult. It is a great thing that literature helps reinforce the lessons we are verbally teaching our children. We can use the stories our kids read as examples of good behavior and the consequences of poor decisions. As you open the pages of the story you read to your child tonight, or the book they read to you, ask yourself, “What is the lesson this book is teaching, and how can I use it to help my child grow?”