According to Forbes the millennial generation is the most educated in our history with 33% holding 4-year degrees and 90% having graduated high school. Meanwhile, from that same population, one out three can’t boil an egg and seven out of ten can’t sew on a button!
With the emphasis on college prep, standardized tests, and academics, we’re losing sight of basic life skills not taught in the classroom. People even started a hashtag, #adulting, to highlight the discrete instances when an adolescent exhibits adult like behavior!
How do we change that? How do we as parents make sure our kids grow up not just book smart but life smart?
Our son is young, but it is amazing for me to see that at every turn, his first and most natural reaction is curiosity! Here are a few things we’ve learned to best feed his curiosity.
A child’s thirst for knowledge and curiosity starts to really develop around their first birthday. This is when kiddo’s get in to everything. The hardest thing for parents is to safely include young children and toddlers in daily activities. The sooner you can naturally include your kids in your activities, the faster you’ll be able to stop telling them what to do.
In my own experience, I have found that I limit my son more than he limits himself. He was 2 ½ when he asked to help me make muffins. My first reaction was, “no I’m using an electric mixer and I don’t want him to get hurt”.
But he was interested in what I was doing, and I knew this would not be the case forever. How could I expect him to engage when he got older if I constantly turned him down from day one? So, with a raised eyebrow I asked, “will you do what I tell you the first time, I don’t want you getting hurt?” “Yes mom,” he shouted.
The next sounds were of the screeching stepstool being pushed across the kitchen with him a grinning from ear to ear. We made muffins. They were great, and yes, I mopped the floor afterwards because there was more flour on the floor than in the batter. But none of that mattered. What mattered is I didn’t say no. And now he is 4 and making muffins is still in the top 10 thing he loves to do with mom.
I accept the fact that I might have to mop the floor or that his bed won’t be perfectly made, but he is four! The accomplishment is: he is trying, he is doing, and it is critical to encourage that at an early age. If instead at two and four years old, I told him “don’t worry I’ll do it”. It would be an uphill battle to get the future five-year-old to even try. It’s only natural that if you get told “no, I’ll do it” repeatedly, the message heard will eventually be “I should not bother, I can’t do it as well, mom/dad will do it for me”.
Now, I’ve had instances where I can’t let Owen help me because its either not safe or I need to get “it done”. When the “not now, I need to get this done” becomes a pattern it’s a good trigger for me to refocus and find way to incorporate instead of sidelining.
How many times have you heard “we bought him this toy but all he wants to play with is the box”? That is because kids want to make stuff! Take a cue from the kids and try to make something. Anything! If you are not a crafty type then check out some DIY kits or pick an easy recipe (did you miss my story about the muffins?).
Here is the greatest thing, it’s not the product you make that matters. It is that you are making! I love it when Owen cooks with me. He gets to pick out a recipe, he grabs the book looks at pictures and picks one. Often the results do not look like the picture, but having a good laugh together was still worth it. The worst thing that can happen is you have a flop, teach your kid that making is still fun, and that a flop is a step towards success! In my opinion, that is not a bad day in parenthood.
Discover the “Maker” Community
Parents are pulled in many directions. It is impossible to be the master of all things and it is difficult to be EVERYTHING for your child. But we want to expose our kids to a broad base of experiences since we never know what will resonate with them. That is where it’s important to reach out to other resources to help and expose your kids to things that you might not have direct knowledge of.
Enter the “Maker Movement”. This is a global organization and group of people who are making everything from cookies to robots! This is an organization, with conventions, faires, and classes that teach people how to be a “Maker”. It is a tech savvy DIY group of passionate people sharing their craft.
Many major cities have a Maker Faire or a Maker Community. Take your kids and tour what others are making. Some cities have maker spaces where you can pay a membership fee (like a gym) and use their equipment. You never know what will inspire your child. These “Maker” spaces are also wonderful places to meet likeminded Makers and potential mentors. Generally speaking, “Maker Movement” folks love their craft, and there is no better way to love your craft than to share it with someone.
The Bottom Line
Here is the deal: no parent wants to raise a kid who must purchase a new suite every time they lose a button. But these are skills that need to be taught.
The earlier we as parents start feeding a child’s curiosity the more it grows. The more you turn them down the less they will be engaged. That is why we need to incorporate them in what we are doing, and perhaps most importantly let them try and get their hands dirty. This way they learn without everything becoming a lesson.
Unfortunately, there is no DNA test we can do ahead of time to figure out what our kids will be inspired by, so the key is exposure. With daily responsibilities, parents can’t be all things, and quite frankly somethings are better left to professionals (our son’s swim coach can get him to do so much more than I can). But we can be a conduit, showcasing other’s talents, and sharing in our own success and failures as we make one recipe, one craft at a time.
With that I wish you happy making. Oh, and yes my kid has been #adulting since 2 ½ years old 😉 .
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Give us a clap or better yet share it with other parents whose kids are already adulting and let’s continue to raise Makers!
Comment below and share how your little one is #adulting and we can all learn from each other.