This is part four of my seven part connecting with kids series. The posts do not have to be read in order, but if you have not read the first three, you can check them out here, here, and here. If you are not already a subscriber, sign up today in the sidebar to get the complete series sent to you in a nice, little ebook when the last post is published!
We know spending quality time with our kids is a great way to connect. But this idea offers a little twist – next time let your kids plan an outing. It sounds so simple but, honestly, when I tried this, I had no idea how amazing this would be!
Kids have such few choices – sometimes it may feel as if their whole life is planned for them. Giving your kids some choice in their daily lives is incredibly powerful. Their thoughts and feelings are validated. They feel heard and valued. They feel important and loved! The benefits just keep coming!
A huge plus for your relationship
Children have lots of good ideas but even the most well intentioned parents often aren’t listening. Kids are constantly being told, “Not now,” or “Maybe later.”
When you turn the reigns over to your child – even for a short amount of time – you are showing them you value their opinion. This idea is so simple and yet, something I have overlooked. Yes, my kids get to choose their after school activities, but so much of our day to day life involved shuffling them around on my agenda.
When you become intentional about letting your children plan an outing, your kids will feel seen and heard – probably the most important things you can do for them.
Before I started doing this on a regular basis, weekends at our house were filled with grumbles about errands and chores and yard work to be done. Things go much more smoothly when my kids can plan even just one small activity per weekend.(last weekend bathrooms were cleaned by 9 am!). Positive interactions outweigh the yucky ones. Everyone is happier. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
Showing your kids you want to spend time with them – on their terms – can have a a huge effect on your relationship. Let them guide you through the park or down the hiking trail. Have them pick the restaurant or the spot for your picnic lunch.
Parental Caveat: This is not about letting kids run the show all the time….it is about treating your kids like a member of the family, letting them share their voice and ideas, having meaningful conversations and then making choices together.
Whats the best way to do this?
Letting your kids plan an outing can be as simple as just asking: ” What do you want to do this week?” or “What have we not done in awhile that you’d like to do again soon?” Then sit down with them to create a list of all of the things they want to do — even the crazy ones.
It’s important to get their ideas down on paper. You can be the scribe for younger kiddos, if needed. All ideas are valid – remember this is about letting them have a voice and making them feel important.
The idea is not to focus on saying no to the wild and crazy ones(hey, maybe you can do Disney sometime!) but to figure out the simple ones you can do asap.
Obviously not all of their ideas can be acted on, but keeping the list close at hand can start some good conversations. “We can’t go to the amusement park this month, but let’s find something on the list we can do this week.”
Get ’em up on the calendar ASAP
Say YES!! to the simple ones right away – trip to a park, bike ride with friends, visit the pet store(one of my kids favorites!) – and get them up on a calendar ASAP.
It’s a plus if you have a family calendar for all to see and look forward to these events happening. We have a big wipe off calendar where my boys can write our plans down. But even a few post-it notes with your plans stuck near the front door will be a great reminder!
Everyone wants to do something different?
Your whole family does not have to participate in each activity for this to be a great connection opportunity. These ideas may be great for when you have one on one time with your kids. Larger families may have luck dividing by age group or interest.
This can be an important exercise in thinking about others.You’ll notice your kids will be more aware of your wants and needs. Kids benefit immensely from learning that others have wishes too. Taking part in an activity that was on someone else’s list can be a tremendous skill builder.
Keep it going
Remember to keep the original list out in full view. The list is ongoing and should be added to when a new idea strikes. In fact this list makes an awesome tool for family discussions and future planning opportunities. I find myself saying, “Let’s add it to our list!” on a regular basis.
To keep up the momentum, you may want to plan a standing date with your kids – make it part of your routine. Insititue the third weekend of the month as kid’s weekend or give them the third Sunday of the month. What ever fits into your schedule and works for your family. This way you won’t forget to give your kids the opportunity to plan.
More ways for connection and learning!
Having kids plan an outing can be a really practical way for older kids to do research on the computer. Sit side by side and help them navigate the web. This can be a great way to model proper use of a screen.
Get kids to ask questions about where they are going. When does it open? How far away is it? How much will it cost? How long will we stay? Have them do any leg work that is age appropriate – making phone calls, sending an email, etc. This is an amazing way to get them more aware of the world around them.
Having kids become more aware of time and place is a HUGE plus. As a teacher of 6 to 9 year olds, I see over and over that kids are not aware of what month it is, where they live or how to read a clock. So much is done for them, they have no reason to pick their heads up and look around.
Frankly this activity will just begin to snowball in front of your eyes! Be warned, you kids may start speaking up more, sharing ideas, noticing places to visit, and showing an interest in weekend plans that involve the whole family.
A word of about filling up schedules
This idea is not about filling up every hole in your families schedule. Everyone in the family needs downtime and time to be bored. Time for just being at home must be built into the schedule.
If you find that you have no time in your schedule to have your kids plan an outing, it may be a sign that you are doing too much. In this over scheduled, take every class available society it is so vital to say no to as much of it as is possible.
I love the question business owner and mama, Maureen Gainer Reilley, asks herself when she is deciding on something for her family. “Would you do it if you had 6 kids?”
Leave space in your life to let your kids plan a bit of it.
More ideas for fun with your kids!
Hunt for rocks and then paint them emoji style!
Print with all those fall leaves your kids have collected.
Build fun structures with Perler Beads and Dots.