How to spark wonder and imagination in a child
As a parent I am constantly asking myself "What is the best way to expose Jasper to all the interesting and wonderful things this world has to offer?" After a whole lot of pondering this is what I have come up.
1. Get outside of my comfort zone. If it were up to me I would not spend my time at certain playgrounds, parks or museums. However, the joy and mental stimulation Jasper finds at these places keeps me coming back for more. Sure I may never read a single plaque even though I have visited a museum numerous times, but that does not mean Jasper isn't absorbing loads of information on his own.
2. Take up new hobbies/interests. Before having children I never knew the correct name for each piece of construction equipment. Now I make a conscious effort to know exactly what he is talking about so when we pass a construction site I can help him spot all his favorites. Before Jasper I also never recognized how many fire trucks, ambulances or police cars are out in the world on a daily basis. Now I spot every one.
3. Make friends with everyone. Once I had Jasper strangers routinely started talking to me. Now we make it an effort to go out of our way to strike up conversations with everyone around us. My outgoing son has taught me I have much to learn about my environment and others.
4. Let his interests guide but not determine our activities. Jasper is a stereotypical boy in the sense he loves anythings that moves or has an engine. However, I have made a conscious effort to teach him how to do other things he has expressed interest in like baking, cleaning, and gardening as much as I have fostered playing with trucks and watching airplanes.
5. When in doubt go to the library or the book store. Even at three years old Jasper is already starting to ask me questions I do not know the answers to. If it is raining and we are feeling restless or we are looking to kill an hour before nap time a trip to the library is always a good idea. It is also a good reminder how I need to brush up on a few subjects myself so I can better teach him. Books have also been the gateway to exposing him to interesting subjects like science and space travel.
6. Mix it up. No two days are the same. If we spend the majority of the day at the park I try to fill the subsequent days with baking, errands, a hike and maybe a museum to keep things interesting. Although we like our routine I think it is paramount in teaching flexibility to experience a variety of activities at a young age.
7. Let them be in charge or at least give them options. Whenever we are at the zoo I let Jasper have the map and determine where we should go next. When we ride the ferry he likes to study the maps and ferry schedules and peruse the brochures and maps.
8. Include him whenever possible. I realize some people think a three year old is too young to be trusted with a hand mixer, empty a dishwasher or be put in charge of loading the dryer but Jasper has proven time and time again the only constraints he has are the ones I put on him. Gardening has been an activity we have loved doing for the past two Summers. Jasper is our head water boy and is fearless in his consumption of everything we grow.
8. Invest in adventures and not toys. We are fortunate to live close to grandparents who love to spoil him with toys. Instead, we like to spend our money taking him on little day or weekend adventures as often as possible. A car or truck can get tiring to play with, but a trip on the ferry or a bike ride on the beach is something he is going to talk about for a long time.