Do you want your grandkids trying out things, dreaming of possibilities, poking at alternatives, inventing strategies, digging at problems or just sitting and watching television and shortening their lives with a bag of chips?
You are the leader. Often, your grandchild spends most of their time with you and looks up to you as her/his model. You take charge. They are like sponges drinking in everything you say. And no one else observes them closely as you do. So you know what they’re ready for and what gets their attention.
Grandkids’ First 7 Magic Year
But more importantly, they watch you closely. How you respond to life’s challenges and demands are realities from which they learn. When they see your “go for it” attitude, they will drink it in. If you seem to enjoy trying new things and looking for new ways, the odds are they will, too. So free your spirit of adventure and let your creativity grow.
You have their first seven years to set lifetime values and attitudes. So, go for maximum impact. They are watching. Here are some tips:
1. Be creative yourself
Develop your creativity first. Your grandchildren will even watch you do that and learn. Do what I do is always more powerful than do what I say. Once you’ve cranked your creative engine, it becomes spontaneous in you.
Occasions come up suddenly in children’s lives as they do not live with action plans nor organize their day within the 9-5 schedule. Kids love to be with someone who can think out fun things with them. It is the best investment you have for your children.
Creativity kits are so helpful because they offer everything you need for an activity. It is the easiest to open and engage the kids when you don’t have the time or run out of ideas.
2. Spark their imagination
“I can because I can imagine.” Young minds wander and love to dress when they go to parties or even when they play at home. “I am a teacher.” “I am a model.” “I am a doctor.” “I am Superman.” You often hear them declare these. Encourage these, and don’t make fun of little guys acting out roles. Please give them the resources to act the part and be their cheerleader.
Enter into what fascinates them. See what they look at in books and magazines. Start providing the environment and resources they need: books, paints, colours, paper, pens and things they can make something out of.
Forget made-up toys. Or entertainment toys. We all have seen how many fun kids have over a cardboard box. The cardboard box has challenged kids’ creativity in all cultures, more than any toy ever made!
They will also start rummaging into your things and trying out your clothes. Allow them the joy and show them some things have to be cared for more than others but encourage them to try out and look different.
3. Let them do something for you
When kids know you appreciate whatever little things they do for you, they’ll keep doing this. Ask them to do something special for you or someone close to them. They can make cards or provide them with tools and a challenge, and you’ll be amazed at what these kids will come up with from their imagination.
Once, our two granddaughters organized a birthday party for me and made things I might enjoy.
4. Engage them in stimulating events
Please bring them to craft shows, plays and other stimulating events.You can bring them to trade fairs, musical events, stage plays, dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, science centers, art shows and art galleries. Let them see you asking questions, and they will learn. Let them see you helping others, treating merchants well, being happy in public – you are their model.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on these events. There are many free ones right in your community. Is there a Chinatown/Greek town/whatever town? Get moving! A little research on your part is all you need. Suppose there is nothing much in your vicinity, time to move before it’s too late. You cannot put your child’s growth on hold or remedy it later. Seven magical years to make a difference!
5. Keep them playing with other kids
Kids love to play. They can always find ways to play with, and they love to play being in school. They love to play home. They love to play store. These plays do not only help them learn but also nurture their capacity to build relationships. Organize a playgroup so your child will learn new skills and relate with other kids.
When kids are at play, they make various kinds of decisions. They make compromises. They make for win-win situations. They make sacrifices. They get and offer attention. They help. They think. They become strategic. Play is just a wealth of experiences for kids. Ration the TV. Ration the computer. Don’t ration your attention.
6. Provide them with the tools
Get them a camera. You will be surprised at how creative kids are at taking pictures. Their angles are different, and they love to experiment and try out things in their cameras. Taking good photos is a skill they can use in life, and learning how to do this early will give them an edge. Having their camera, they can play with is very important.
Often, many of us find them using our cameras and oh boy, the crap they’ll get when this happens. Encourage your grandkids by getting them an excellent camera. What would even be better is to display in your house the pictures they have taken. Beautifully framed, most pictures look good. More importantly, this builds their confidence. Consider this as an investment in their future.
It doesn’t have to be a camera. It depends on what your grandkids are interested in. Maybe, a fishing kit or art kit. Provide several so you’ll get a sense of what gets their interest.
7. Provide your grandchild with a giant vision board
They can express what they want to be, how they see themselves in the future, their favourite things. They can pin or paste pictures on it and change the images as often as possible. You can both enjoy looking at the changes. A special moment you both could enjoy.
This experience will help the child learn to have direction in life. As they track the changes, they see paths and patterns. They can change if they want to add new things.
8. Tease their imagination
Treasure boxes or other special boxes
Special boxes where they put their tools, costumes, wands, armour, egg crates and accessories are extraordinary in encouraging kids to be creative. Their tools are on the ready, and their resources are accessible. What else do they need?
More so, when these are in pretty boxes that engage their imagination. Fashion jewelry, pieces of wood and plastic, paper, cloth and string-all these work. As they explore possibilities, they start to make the most unlikely reorganization of their box treasures.
Kids love tinkering into boxes, especially treasure boxes. Allow them to do so with your packages. This moment is your chance to talk with them about caring for things and value the things you keep. You might even inspire them to start their collection. They need to develop their imagination on how they can create some of the things they like. They will also develop some craft skills, drawing and painting abilities and organizing skills. They will also see these moments as their particular time with you.
9. Garden with your kids
It is fun, and you both will learn
When you work on your garden, encourage the child to help you. Give them their special nook. They choose their plants and how to arrange these.
You can encourage them to look at the more extensive garden and how their patch can enhance it. You will be surprised at how well your grandkids can match your design. And if they don’t, your grandchild is more valuable than your garden. Right?
10. Ask them to organize plays on special occasions
Or when the family gathers
At a certain age, kids love to present shows to adults in which they sing, dance and wear costumes and do whatever they fancy. And you know what? There are always parents to watch these shows. And they are thoroughly biased. They undoubtedly will enjoy these. Or cast them in plays in church or school. But there is nothing more fun for them than their shows. What entertainment you will have! You will be surprised at what they can come up with with their creativity.
There are drama schools that offer courses for kids, especially in the summer. You can send them there, so they learn the skills. However, there is no substitute for a supportive and appreciative family always ready to watch whatever shows they present. These shows are where multigeneration times like holidays in the cottage or Christmas are handy. There is a crowd to encourage their creative juices.
11. Encourage them to express themselves
In the song, dance, art, or whatever form of expression is their chance to express themselves. They will always think you are a great figure skater, prima ballerina or coloratura.
You can encourage them to invent songs or makeup words. Let them explore things in their minds freely. Yes, when they feel safe to explore with their minds, they will use their mental capacity to the full.
When the grandchildren are around, my husband and the kids talk to each other through songs in our home. They become very creative with their words to make them rhyme. It is sometimes outrageous what they would sing. Be prepared for it!
12. Help them spin stories – Start them at making their storybooks
Telling a story is a valuable skill to develop. When you start them doing it, they will tell their own stories before you know it. Start. When you read a bedtime story, start your grandchild’s imagination by asking how she can make the character more interesting. Or you can create an account and let your child add to it.
They can also make storybooks that will encourage their artistic bent as well. They can create the favourite character and make them their costumes, give them a personality and build their name.
13. Involve them in choosing and preparing not just their activities but that of the family
Let them plan and organize these. They can do some outdoor sports or go for a picnic in the woods. Our grandchildren used to have a favourite rock we can go to, and when there, they just freely give way to their creative expressions.
You can have a campfire. Let them build a fire, roast marshmallows and make s’mores (melted marshmallows and a piece of a chocolate bar tucked between two graham crackers). When the family is at the cottage, kids love to have campfires. What makes it unique is that guests come and enthrall them with their guitars or other instruments. And the kids start thinking, desiring to learn these same skills.
14. Engage them to share
Kids love to create, especially when they are doing this for someone. As you encourage them to give way to their creative imagination, you also provide this direction by creating something for someone. Even as simple as choosing a book to read for someone is a creative process. More so, when they have to read these to someone whose interest they have to sustain. This moment is a joy to watch.
Kids also love to play “teacher.” Encourage this as this develops so many skills in them.
15. Let your child lead – You are their cheerleader
Let them pick the path for a walk or a bike ride or the game to play. I have one grandchild who changes the rules in the game each time she gets bored or thinks she is at a disadvantage. Remember Calvinball from Calvin and Hobbes? There is no way she can bulldoze her way through this. She has to learn how to persuade others and have them buy the new rule book. And maybe negotiate a few changes. You encourage. You are the cheerleader, not the boss.
But you have to be firm around the values you want them to learn. Just remember: Whose skills are you developing? Whose self-confidence? Whose creativity? Yours or theirs? Maybe a bit of each? If something goes amiss, don’t blow them away. Ask questions. Does that seem fair? Are there alternatives?
Creativity is one of the most valued assets a youngster can have as they grow up. You can help by being creative yourself and building the model.