When I was just starting out as a mom, I sought out a friend who had older children, and was the kind of mom I hoped to be one day. I asked her for advice and I will never forget it: fill your house with books and give them lots of experiences. Let these become your top priorities as a parent! What you won’t expect, what will delight you, is that by enriching your children’s lives with experiences, you will also be enriching your own.
Make it a priority as a parent that your children be cultured. Take them on annual vacations to the beach and to different parts of the country. Make sure they are knowledgable about arts, music, the theater and food – not just to know about them but to experience them! Find and follow other parents who share experiences that their families were privileged to do. This will help keep you aware and informed about the many experiences available to kids that are possible for you as well.
Dream and imagine how your children will have this kind of life! Daydream, create bucket lists and vision boards. Encourage your children to do the same. They will have all of these experiences! They will travel and explore. They will be knowledgable about foods and arts because they experienced them first-hand.
Unpopular outlook: Creating an enriched childhood for your children, does require a more open and flexible schedule. You should avoid over-scheduling them if you want to provide a rich life full of culture and variety. Consider choosing one extracurricular per season. If your children want to play sports, they can. If it turns out it’s not for them and you KNOW it, let them try something else next time. If they wanted to learn musical instruments they can, but if they decide it isn’t for them, they can move on.
Most parents would agree that art is extremely important element in a child’s life. Expose them often and in a variety of ways. Take advantage and participate in opportunities locally, such as pottery classes and as well as painting pottery and canvases. If you live near a big city, or have a chance to travel to one, be sure to experience art museums, the symphony and the ballet. Some art museums allow you to purchase a membership which is a wonderful resource, especially if a children’s program is offered. When we travel, I try to make a point to book at least one artistic experience related to our artistic interests – this could be anything from a concert to a tie-dye experience! Investigate what is available and think outside the box.
Some of the most memorable experiences for your family involve animals. If your children are animal lovers, zoos, farms and other animal encounters should be high on your list. Whether you’re horseback riding, swimming with dolphins or volunteering at an animal shelter, these are bucket list items that your family will never forget. We are members at Nashville Zoo and love visiting the veterinary center to see what cute babies they have on a given day. Many of the books I’ve checked out for them have been related to the animals they are interested in currently.
Many cities have amazing public libraries, and they are often an under-used resource. If it has a children’s library, you are especially fortunate. Often, the librarians are kind and knowledgable. Some libraries offer a program for children in the summer, with story time, fun themes, songs and dance.
If you have never been, you will need to start by signing up for a library card, typically best done in person. Every couple of weeks, get your children books that they request, or choose them based on their interests. They are never too young for the library. If you have a baby, they will love being read to. It’s such a special place!
When you are thinking about what books to check out, try to choose between 5 and 10 books per child each time you visit. When they are with me, they choose, but sometimes I pop in and choose books thinking about any one of the following criteria: chapter book series they like, characters they like, non-fiction books based on their interests or things they want to learn about, things they are learning about in school.
Another way we have provided rich experiences for our children is through food. My husband is a classically trained chef, so the girls are naturally immersed in much richer food experience than I ever was. But surprisingly, one of them is an extremely picky eater!
However, that is where I feel I’m able to offer the most help. Most moms I talk to share that they also have a picky eater in the family. If you would like to know more and read about ideas for broadening your picky eaters culinary horizons, check out the blog post I wrote on this very topic.
Experiences Instead of Gifts
One of the greatest shifts I have made was deciding to gift experiences and items the children can use for these experiences, instead of toys which often end up being discarded after a week or so. When birthdays or Christmases roll around, consider your child’s interests and enroll them in a cooking class, basketball camp, or horseback riding lessons. Use the money you would have spent on unneeded gifts and use that money for a family trip or experience.
The Big Idea
The memories that you create from giving your child rich life experiences are priceless. Things come and go, but what children really want is your time: presence instead of presents. In this modern day and age where we are led to believe we need a certain gadget or brand of clothing to make us happy, what hasn’t changed over time is that those items lose value the moment we finally possess them, but the family adventures we experience together are treasured for a lifetime.