When I was growing up (admittedly a long time ago), kids had so much free time. Besides going to school, my parents had me enrolled in language lessons and swimming lessons. That was it! I realize that in comparison to today's kids, I was seriously deprived. Poor me! I remember spending most of my afternoons and evenings playing outside with friends, riding bikes on the street, swimming, running around...generally just being a KID. I miss those days!
When I had my kids I vowed to give them as much freedom as I had growing up. I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those parents that enrolls their kids in lots of activities under the pretense that it's good for them. When in reality, it's more for the parents. It's a way to put the responsibility of raising your children on someone else's shoulders. Yes, some activities are good for kids. I just don't want my kids to join the rat race at such a young age. I've noticed it is more about status "Little Johnny takes horse back riding lessons!" than it is about providing learning opportunities for the kids.
As a parent, how can I give my children plenty of opportunities to experience life and to learn interesting things without pushing them to have a full schedule leaving them no time to be free, to just be kids? I realized it's all about finding balance. Give your kids opportunities to try lots of things without too much pressure and they will naturally gravitate toward activities they enjoy. I let my children do just that and I follow their lead.
I am raising renaissance children. I have exposed them to sports, music, language, the arts, and many other pastimes/activities without forcing them to do any of them. My husband and I encourage our kids to try new things all of the time. But the one thing we don't do is put importance on how well they perform. I am not trying to raise an Olympic swimmer or the next American Idol. I really don't care about that. What matters is that they are becoming life long learners, explorers, adventurers. They are learning to take chances and delve into areas that might be out of their comfort zone. They might unintentionally find something they love.
My children have taken lessons in almost everything imaginable: piano, tennis, field hockey, ice skating, swimming, diving, gymnastics, ballet, tap, hip hop, guitar, cooking and yes, even horse back riding. 1D discovered swimming and has since stuck with it. We encouraged her. Buttercup loves gymnastics, but she is still young and will try other things before settling down on one.
Summer is the perfect time to get kids out there exploring everything life and our communities have to offer. To that end, here are some ideas to help you raise a renaissance kid. Just make sure to give them plenty of free time too, so they can catch fireflies, spend hours star gazing or picking shells on the beach. Find your own balance!
Cooking - Many towns offer cooking classes for kids as young as 5 years old.
Photography - What kid doesn't like to take pictures and what a great memory of their summer a photo collage would make!
Science/ Nature - Some parks offer classes on bird watching or learning about bugs. Check with the Audubon Society.
Museums - Museums offer short classes or craft days for kids of all ages.
Language - Summer is a perfect time to start learning a new language or to bone up on a second language your kids are already learning. If you're traveling, give your kids plenty of opportunities to practice the new language.
Art - Sculpture, painting, pottery and many other art forms allow children to explore their creative side.
Dance - Dance camps abound in the summer, why not try one.
Theater - Local theaters offer short courses throughout the summer and often hold auditions that kids can try out for.
Technology - Computer programming, video editing and web design are some great options to explore.
Sports - There is not shortage of sports related activities all summer long. Encourage your kids to try something different, like table tennis, golf or rock climbing.
Music - If they haven't picked up an instrument yet, short summer courses are a perfect opportunity to try an instrument without all of the financial investment.
Volunteerism - Every community has opportunities for volunteering. Encourage your kids to share their time with those less fortunate. It is a valuable lesson that will last a lifetime.
How are you raising renaissance kids? Share your stories here.
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