Aleteia

11 Things to do with your children before they grow up

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Some great ideas to give them unforgettable experiences while you still can!

My wife and I have two children. The oldest is 11 and the youngest is one and a half. We both do our best to play active roles in raising them, and obviously, this includes rest and recreation. We’ve always tried to come up with activities we could do together as a family—things that would leave a positive mark on their lives, and that they would remember forever.

With our oldest son, for example, we’ve done a bit of everything: trips, adventures, cultural activities, and so on. We’re getting ready to fulfill one of his dreams: going to a soccer game to see a famous team play in a traditional soccer stadium. It’s going to be an incredible experience, I’m sure! With the youngest, we’re following the same path, to the extent his age allows.

In the meantime, I’m getting the sense that since time passes so fast it’s not going to be possible to do everything we’d like to do with them. Busyness and work also can get in the way of spending quality time with our children (although it shouldn’t).

However, there are simple things we can do together that don’t require a lot of time. They’re activities that will make our kids very happy, and will strengthen the parent-child bond.

I’m not very creative so I’ve been drawing inspiration from the book 101 Things to Do With Your Children Before They Grow Up (101 coisas para fazer com as crianças antes que elas cresçam, published in Portuguese), by Roberta Faria. Here are some of the suggestions I’ve found particularly useful:

1
Plant a flower or vegetable garden, or a forest!

Besides being a very fun activity, it helps awaken in children an awareness of the need to preserve the environment.

2
Work on a large and difficult puzzle together.

Dedicate however much time is necessary to finishing it. Some advice: try to set aside an hour a day to put the puzzle together. This way, you’ll keep your commitment to spend quality time with your family, and it will be easy and fun.

3
Record videos interviewing each other, as if it were a TV program.

You can ask each other questions about your family’s day-to-day life, make up a game show about the parents or kids, or just record questions and answers such as, “Why do you love your dad?” The fun thing is to keep these videos so you can re-watch them in the future. It’ll be a great way to remember your children’s early years.

4
Play in the rain.

Getting soaked by the rain cleans your body and your soul. Plus, it will make you feel like a kid again, and give you a level of closeness with your children that few other activities provide.

5
Create large-scale art.

How about setting aside a wall of your house so that everyone in the family can create a unique work of art there? It’ll be a creative activity that will give a highly personalized touch to your home. Oh, and you’re not allowed to paint the wall afterwards (unless it’s so that everyone can create new works of art).

6
Bring your kids to your hometown where you grew up.

Show them the schools you attended and the church where you were baptized. It’s going to be a walk down memory lane for you, and an exercise of imagination for them. They’ll be excited by the stories you tell them about each location.

7
Create a family tradition.

For example, you can designate every Tuesday night as hamburger-and-boardgame night. If you forget this commitment on some occasions, your kids will remind you.

8
Learn to play an instrument, and compose a song together.

It can be your family theme song, and a sign of love and cooperation among all the family members.

9
Surprise each other.

It would be very neat if on each family member’s birthday, everyone (minus the person whose birthday is being celebrated, of course) created a surprise for the person being celebrated. For example, they could organize a party (whether it be a small, simple affair or a big deal), a video-recorded message from the rest of the family, a delicious breakfast in bed, or a birthday gift treasure hunt throughout the house.

10
Come up with your own way of saying “I love you” with a unique superlative.

It could be something like, “I love you as much as the whole wide world,” or “I love you to infinity and back,” or, “I love you as much as the distance between the heavens and the earth and back again.”

11
Cook together.

It can be a lot of work, and it can be messy, but it’s an unforgettable family culinary experience. Try out new recipes and flavors, and divvy up the mealtime tasks: decide who’s going to cook, who’s going to set the table, and who’s going to wash the dishes.

Lastly, here’s some advice that’s not in the book, but which is fundamental: pray together, and pick a patron saint for the family. Create a schedule so that everyone can pray at the same time. When you run into difficulties, remember your family patron saint! And don’t forget to thank him or her always for your beautiful family.

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