How To Plan Better Activities For Kids: Focus On The Experience, Not the End Result

OK, take 30 seconds to look at your Pinterest boards full of amazing ideas, crafts, and activities. Only 30 seconds; set a timer to get yourself out of that black hole. 

Now, how many of those things will you never do? Too much prep work? Looks messy? Time-consuming? Afraid of it turning into a Pinterest fail?

There are countless ideas for keeping kids busy, but few resources to tell you which are good. While everything may look like a ton of fun, there are some important things to know when choosing what to do with your little one. 

 Pick Experiences, Not End Results

An end result is anything you want to match the example when finished. This is where Pinterest fails comes in.

An experience is an interactive, often unpredictable thing that happens, which is the best way for young children to learn. From art to water play to museum trips, there are so many ways for children to learn through experiences. 

This is hard because experiences are usually loud, messy, seem unorganized, and/or more fun for the kids than adults. That means you’re doing it right!

Think of taking a pumpkin home. Maybe the first experience was going to the farm to pick the pumpkin. Your kid will remember the fields, the hayride, and choosing their own pumpkin. We will not forget the 57  images we had to delete off our phones before we got that one perfect fall picture. 

Now that pumpkin could be carved following a pattern to create a face, or it could become an experience your kids will never forget. Cut open the top and let them pull out all of the gooey insides. Have them find all of the seeds before you roast them together. Give them a marker to draw shapes outside the pumpkin before you help them carve those shapes out. When that final pumpkin gets lit up, you’ll see their face light up too!

Not all experiences have to be loud and messy. Let’s think about a trip to a museum. 

  • One of the best ways to experience the museum with kids is how to plan for this trip. Talk to them about the exhibits before you go. Maybe look at a map on the website so they can map out what they want to see. 
  • Let them take pictures with your phone of what they want to remember (not the posed pictures we want to take!) 
  • Bring blank paper and a pencil. Give them time to draw or write what they see. Remember (link to post about discussing artwork) how talking to them about what they are writing/drawing is super important.
  • On the way home, ask them specific questions: “What was your favorite part of the trip? What was something you learned? What would you want to go back to do again?”

The most important difference between experience and end result is how much you don’t know how it will end.

Let them make decisions, explore, and try new things.

Maybe they’re creating a new favorite family recipe, or maybe you’ll taste the worst thing ever cooked.

Either way, they won’t forget the experience of cooking with you!

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