Whatever your tradition, the past couple of weeks have probably involved at least some gift-giving to children, and with all the consumerist hype around holidays, the aftermath inevitably feels like a letdown to many adults and children.
Your interested child may be one of the happy few curled up with a new book or rapturously engaged with a new game, toy, or piece of sporting equipment. Odds are, however, that a certain restlessness is making itself apparent. Vacation days are suddenly devoid of exciting events or surprises and stretch into idle hours to fill with—what?
It’s a challenge for families around the world. How do you engage kids who are in a post-holiday stupor?
If ever there were a time to hop in the car or onto public transportation to visit a museum, a historic site, a gallery, or attend a musical or theatrical event—even a sporting event—this is it. Many such things are low-cost or free; a concert can be at a local church or concert hall, a game can involve college or high school teams; this is tournament time in many places. The idea is to get out of the house and engage.
When taking a child to an event or a cultural or historical destination, make the journey a time of conversation; make attendance interactive. Come up with questions or observations that stimulate the mind and the heart, whether they’re about impressions of what is being viewed, statistical queries, or speculation about other perspectives. Post-event reflection is also a great thing.
At a time when intellectual curiosity needs a bit of an external spark, there are no better questions than
- What do you think of that?
- Why do you think they did it that way?
- What does this remind you of?
- What do you think your great-grandfather or grandmother would think of this?
- What would you differently if you were running this?
- Do you like this?
- or even: What don’t you enjoy or like about that? How would you fix it to make it more appealing?
The trick, as every parent or guardian knows, is how and when to pose questions without pestering or annoying. The point is not to demand answers but to get the child’s mind in gear; conversation and cogitation are the ultimate objectives, not a running interrogation.
If getting out and going is not in the cards, try finding sources of stimulation around the home: a thought-provoking film (and it doesn’t have to be an un-entertaining movie—but something set in an unfamiliar era or place can get extra synapses firing) or even a show on television, some time with a good radio show. (We’re fans of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, Car Talk, and A Prairie Home Companion. This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour can also be great, but sometimes their subject matter may not be appropriate, as they say, for all ages. All of these are available as podcasts, so you can listen on demand if you have internet access.)
Remember, the interested child doesn’t need to be kept away from popular media or force-fed only educational programming. Our kids were turned on, for example, by the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and the old comedy film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; good stories offer perspective as well as entertainment.
Soon enough even kids claiming to be “bored” will find ways to pick themselves up as the holiday break goes on, but it won’t hurt to jump start the process.
And of course, the interested child’s adult caregivers should make sure that they find things to keep themselves active and engaged, too.
Happy holidays! The fun is far from over.