Engaging our kids in activities that make them feel comfortable, creative, inspired and open encourages them - and makes them feel comfortable to have good, honest conversations with us.
Because celebrating the real voices of our kids, their insights, dreams, observations, and joy is so much a part of our mission as filmmakers, we have come up with some ideas for fun activities that create conversation. These are great things to do over summer vacation and throughout the year.
The outdoors is full of inspiration for kids and adults. As stimulating as the out of doors is, it is free of the distractions of home. You won't be tempted to try and put away all the toys in the playroom or check your email "just one more time" when you are outside, immersed in nature.
Playing a game of catch, going on a nature walk, collecting shells, or searching for the perfect shady spot in the park all provide opportunities to ask and answer questions about the world around us and to get insight into what is on our children's minds and in their hearts.
Go For a Walk
Again, you are limiting the distractions that try to steal attention away from our kids, and you are limiting the distractions that prevent kids from focusing on their thoughts and engaging in conversation with us (it's pretty difficult to answer a question fully when they are indulging in some screen time).
Walking together gives your child the chance to fill you in on his or her day. If possible, walk home from camp or from school. Ask a mixture of precise and open-ended questions to remind them of different moments in the day, and to get a sense of what they enjoyed, what they didn't, and what those moments made your child think about and feel.
Questions like "what was the best part of your day" or "who did you sit with at lunchtime" are easier for kids to answer than "how was your day."
Build Something Together
When we work on something together we need to communicate and to focus. All of this helps to create a comfortable environment for conversation and for sharing. We feel connected when we are working on a project together and kids gain confidence and feel proud when they are able to build something from start to finish.
Get out some puzzles, look through craft books and science experiments and find a project that is challenging but not intimidating, that is collaborative and fun. Talk with your kids first and let them help you choose what project you want to do together. Talk about why you are choosing that project and talk, as you go, about what comes next, how the steps connect, and who should do what to make your project work.
Learn Something Together
It's good for our kids to see that we can still learn something. Kids feel less shy when they see that we also need to go step by step and they feel excited, right along with us, as we make progress to learn something new.
Learn simple sign language, or try another new language (especially if your child is taking lessons in school or through an afterschool program). Discover facts about animals or regions of the world, try out some new dance steps, or go to a music class together. Learning something new together gives you a sense of shared accomplishment. You can practice together and discover together, all the while nurturing an environment of communication, trust and support.
Cook a Meal
Integrate conversation and special time with your kids into your daily life. Cook breakfast or dinner together. Let your child help you choose what to make and include him or her in the preparation process. Reading recipes and measuring ingredients helps younger kids build literacy and math skills and making a meal together sets the stage for good conversations.
If you are making breakfast, talk about your plans for the day. If you are making dinner, talk abut your favorite moments of the day. Talk about ingredients, flavors, and family traditions. Preparing and eating food is a time honored way of connecting and sharing with others. Using this time intentionally with our kids passes along traditions and infuses an everyday task with joy.