How to have FUN as well as peace in the home

2008-03-15 00:00

Saddened by people who describe parenting by such words as “too challenging”, “difficult”, “boring” and “sacrificial”, creative parenting expert Nikki Bush encourages families to play and have fun.

Calling her business The Bright Ideas Outfit, Bush says that today’s busy parents are hungry for creative ideas to help them connect with their children.

“Because play is the language of children, it is the perfect tool to use — and it is free. Play teaches, builds, heals and loves. It does everything,” she says.

Bush, who recently completed co-authoring a book on 21st-century parenting with author and futurist Dr Graeme Codrington, says that when parents are busy they often forget to play.

“Somewhere between our childhood and having children, we find that everything we do becomes focused on working and being productive. I want to inspire people to rediscover their passion for play — it is an essential part of being fully human, even for adults. I want parents to really connect when they play with their children and to enjoy it.”

Bush has many ideas, but emphasises that parents need to find what works for their family.

“It’s not about playing 24/7, but it is important to do something every day to connect emotionally with your children and to teach them something too,” says Bush, whose talk is entitled “Parenting on the Run”, or, as she puts it, “flying by the seat of your pants and doing a good job of it”.

To connect with their children, parents need to give “face-to face” time during which they are 100% present and accessible — a serious challenge in a multi-tasking world, says Bush. Even if this time lasts just 10 or 15 minutes, it makes a strong impression on children.

Parents need to be a source of magic, wonder and surprise to their children because they are competing with many outside influences, including technology, television and the pull of consumerism, says Bush.

“Children are bombarded by about 5 000 marketing messages a week. We cannot wait for them to grow up into teens. We must build bridges to our children so that they can walk back over to us.”

Bush, who has two sons aged 12 and eight, suggests parents convert “wasted” time while travelling or doing the chores into play time. She suggests games such as spotting shapes, versions of “I spy”, word association games, car cricket and storytelling games. Dice can be used by older children to play adding and subtracting games. Parents can fill a small box with different activities for travelling long distances.

Bush says that being proactive and thinking one step ahead enabled her to take her young children to restaurants that did not have entertainment for children. She suggests using various kinds of dice and play dough that can be carried in a small container and card games such as snap and happy families.

“If parents are in a rush while cooking supper, they may tell their children to sit in front of the TV. Rather incorporate children into the experience — it’s a perfect connection opportunity and it can be a lot of fun too. Young children can top and tail green beans with blunt scissors, slice vegetables with a blunt knife, or grate cheese. They love the challenge of sorting

cutlery and threading on to a cutlery holder,” Bush says.

“Children just want to be with you, be like you and master what you do.”

Things to do with your children

Some of Bush’s other suggestions for cheating time and being effective parents on the run include:

•Teach your children to lay place settings for dinner, including having candles on the table to use the opportunity to learn about fire safety.

•Eat meals together.

•Let each person in the family talk about something negative and something positive that happened to them that day.

•Create special family celebrations and rituals.

•Never go anywhere without something for your child to play with or do.

•Remember that much of what children learn, or need to learn, is caught and not taught from you.

•Let children help around the house from a young age. It conveys the feeling that you believe they are capable and that you want to spend time with them.

•Be fun to be with.

•Choose to be a hero in your child’s life.

For more information see www.brightideasoutfit.com

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