THIS MONTH’S JLIFE theme is arts and entertainment. We are blessed to live in an area that has a wide array of museums and formal events geared toward children of all ages. However, there are times we need to step back and think about what it means to “entertain” children. Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them and are natural investigators as to how things work. We have all experienced giving a child a gift only to have them cast it aside and play for hours with the box.
We need to allow our children time to find their own interests and to explore at their own pace. An adult trip to the zoo or museum will be different than those of a child. As adults we want to see everything, often afraid that we might miss something. Children will be happy seeing a few specific things and that will be enough. I once impatiently sat with my 3 -year-old grandson watching a komodo dragon. I finally told him that we had to leave if we wanted to see other animals and he patiently explained to me that we needed to wait as it hadn’t breathed fire yet. We spent most of our remaining time in the lizard area examining the various differences and why the komodo dragon might be called that even without the fire.
Cars are great places to explore the world around us. I know people who immediately get out the iPads or videos the minute they get into a car for more than 10 minutes. I understand the need to maintain sanity for all-day car trips, but don’t miss the opportunity to count fire hydrants, discuss different emergency vehicles, sing songs together, play the alphabet game with passing signs, look for out of state licenses, etc. Go on walks and explore the wonders of your neighborhood. The metro system is great fun for kids. Ride the rails discussing what you see from the windows.
Also, set aside time for your children to entertain you. Encourage them to share their stories, sing for you, read to you, put on plays for you, build block structures with you, etc. Block out time to just be together as a family, perhaps rotating who gets to choose the activity of the day. Also, block out alone time where each family member gets to do something they want to do on their own. Teaching your child that there are times when you are given the gift to read, draw, build or just examine a bug on the lawn on your own is one of the most important lessons we can give our children on what it means to be “entertained.”
Judy Callahan is director of B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool and a member of PJTC.