All of us parents know how active our children’s social and extracurricular lives get over the years. Between my two sons, our family participates in sports, music lessons, and so much more. Parents play such a significant role in determining what our kids try. But if you’re a new parent, how do you decide which activities to put your kids in? I have some simple parenting hacks that can help you determine what may work best for your children. Consider these tips as you work to develop well-rounded kids.
Parenting Hack #1: Find Influential Instructors
When I was younger, I remember having one of the coolest babysitters. Not only was she fun, but she had this edgy look that I fell in love with. It was her pierced tongue! I don’t know why it enthralled me so! I knew I was going to get one when I was old enough. And I did! Now, were my parents thrilled? Of course not. BUT, my relationship with that babysitter meant so much to me that I wanted to be just like her. Your kids are probably also extremely influenced by eccentric personalities. And when it comes to extracurricular activities, who your kids work with is just as important as what they do and learn. While it’s not a parenting hack that many think about, you definitely want to choose carefully the people that will be instructing your little ones. I consider this as I think about each of my son’s afterschool activities.
Take, for example, my kids’ singing coach. I realize my kids aren’t going to start out with perfect pitch. I also realize singing practice my be challenging to the ears. Neither of those is the point. They’re at an age when they’re trying something new, so I wanted them to have a coach that was upbeat and encouraging. I picked the perfect one! He’s a huge ray of sunshine every time he meets with the boys. The house just seems to get brighter when he comes in, and it makes such a difference in the boys’ attitudes and confidence. As such, they love their singing classes. The right teachers can definitely have a huge impact on what activities kids gravitate to.
Parenting Hack #2: Lean into Wants and Needs
This might be a “duh” parenting hack, but a simple question to your kids can help you find some interesting activities for your kids: What do YOU want to do? Of course, being an astronaut might not be something to say okay to at this stage of their lives. Generally speaking, though, they have an idea of things they want to do. I simply asked my sons about something they wanted to get better at. They picked basketball, so we came up with some goals to work on, and they were off to the races. Again, will they be Lebron and Steph? I don’t know. But again, that’s really not the point.
Along with considering their wants, I thought about things I felt like my sons needed in their personal development. An unorthodox activity I am currently trying is using character-based language learning and immersion to help one of my sons with reading issues. He loves drawing and is drawn more to words as symbols, not phonetics. So as weird as it sounds, I enrolled him in a course to learn Mandarin. My son enjoys writing the letters and characters of the language, and it helps him understand the importance of written communication.
I also feel it’s important for my boys to develop more determination and grit. I don’t want them to consider giving up on a task very easily because it’s hard or challenging. That’s where learning to play piano comes in for my crew. They’ve been at it for a while. Finally, after three years, my oldest can bang out a little tune now, and I know he will continue to get better. I’m glad he’s been able to see this activity through and see the fruit. This is a parenting hack that I know will continue to benefit your kids for years.
Parenting Hack #3: Find the FREE Stuff!
My final parenting hack should be music to your ears—and pockets. Investing in activities for kids can be a costly experiment, especially when you’re trying things they may not like after a few sessions. However, there are so many free activities that you can start with to test the waters of your kids’ interests.
Though they may not be as widely advertised as they should be, there are so many local and state-funded programs for kids and families that may interest your little ones. My youngest son heard about a coding center through a friend, and he’s totally into it now. And get this: the program is completely free! You can call or look into local museums, theaters, and youth centers to see if they offer any enrichment programs. Trust me: there’s so much out there. You just have to seek them out.
Another potentially free resource? Friends, family and neighbors. They may have some suggestions from their experiences trying activities with their kids. And experimenting with things can become “free” (or more cost-effective) if you can share or borrow equipment from them. We’ve been able to offer wetsuits and surfboards to friends whose kids want to try surfing. Also, many skating rinks allow you to rent skates so your kids can try that activity before purchasing their own pair. These are just a couple of examples, but chatting with your friends and family could open up some new and innovative ideas for your kid’s next hobby or passion with little to no money spent!
We all want children who enjoy a variety of pleasurable interests and diverse pastimes. Try some of these parenting hacks, and be open to something new and different that your kids may discover!