Shall We Take A Walk?
Whereas weekends used to provide the break families needed from the hectic Monday through Friday schedule, we now find ourselves just as busy on the weekends, or more so.
Parents often lament that Saturdays and Sundays are being taken up with birthday parties, soccer practice for their three-year-olds and events at the the local park. A packed weekend schedule means rushing, getting in and out of the car, shopping for presents and bring-alongs to events, and hurried meals. Though grateful to be a part of a community with a lot going on, the constantly packed schedule sometimes ends up being problematic rather than enriching.
More and more parents are concluding that they don't have to accept every single party invitation and that it's okay to miss that concert in the park that your friends are all attending. It's tough because we want to be supportive of each other, after all, your friends came to your child's party, and we want to support community events. But that said, it is important to step back and reflect on your family's priorities when schedules just become too packed.
So what do you do when you actually find that the family has some free time? A suggestion that doesn't involve the car, a screen, or even special toys or equipment for when you don't have something planned is very simple: take a walk around the block.
It involves observation and conversation, two activities that engage children in what they do best! And this simple activity can enrich our lives in ways that a trip to the latest commercial fun zone cannot.
There will be clues about the season (even most cityscapes have some plant material present), a discussion about the weather (walks can happen rain or shine) and any changes observed since the last stroll through the neighborhood.
You may encounter friends, or make some new ones. There may be sightings of furry or feathered friends, and there are always sounds to comment on like sirens, construction or demolition noises, busses and trucks that roll by. Whether you take the same route each time you venture out or take a new turn, there are lots of things to see and hear and talk about. When retracing steps from the last walk, kids love to anticipate and guess what's around the corner. Knowing what's next gives young children confidence.
Children are endlessly curious and love to share their observations about the world around them. They relish the opportunity to comment on what they see and are beginning to understand. And you should never underestimate the message that you send to your child when you just listen to what they have to say. Letting your child tell you about what they see around them shows them that they matter and that you appreciate their opinions. Do they like the new color the neighbor is painting their garage? Do they have a favorite flower along the way? What birdsong do they think is the prettiest. And be sure to share what you notice and appreciate as well. These conversations, like all shared experiences, create connections.
The old cliche about the importance of the journey and not the destination can be especially true in this case. Sometimes making the time and space for children to express themselves in a calm and relaxed setting is the most significant event to include in their schedule.
Happy Trails to you!