The summer and autumn months are a beautiful time in central Pennsylvania, offering gorgeous weather and plenty of opportunities for children and families to engage in outdoor activities. Families are busier than ever with children taking part in organized practices, games and recitals.
While everyone wants their children to gain experience and be involved in a variety of activities, it is often difficult for families to balance their schedules during this very busy time of year. It is especially challenging for families with multiple children. Parents are often left to figure out how to balance transportation schedules or entertain a younger child while the older sibling is at practice. Depending on how you look at it, this can be a very stressful time or great opportunity to make a huge impact by spending some very valuable one-on-one time with your child.
Simple things like going for a walk around the area can be a great learning opportunity. Parents can point out small animals, different types of trees, letters on a sign, numbers on a house or bugs in the grass. Children will soak up the information and will value the time they get to spend with their parent.
Sidewalk chalk, crayons or markers offer opportunities to develop creativity. After your walk, the child could draw pictures of what they've seen. This is a great time for the child and a wonderful keepsake for you!
Practices can also be great times for small children to experience what their older sibling is learning. Allow the younger child to participate on the sidelines at their level while watching the others practice.
For example, if the older sibling is playing soccer, bring a small soccer ball for the younger child to play with and kick around in their own space. They will feel as though they are participating with their older sibling while getting exercise and learning new skills. This can be done with almost any activity, whether it's sporting events, school plays or dance classes.
Understandably, at times it may not be possible to attend all of your child's practices. It is a wonderful goal to have, but it just may not be practical to make each practice a learning opportunity for the younger child.
Sometimes it is necessary to find other families who are in a similar situation and organize a car pool or play date for younger children. Parents can sometimes feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, and this allows busy parents to share the burden of getting their children to and from practices every day. Connecting to other families not only lightens everyone's load but can develop friendships that encourage parents and children to get together on other occasions.
Participating in organized teams are excellent opportunities for children to learn skills, sportsmanship, cooperation and teamwork. Although it can be stressful, these times with your children are fleeting. Whatever happens, please don't take any moment with your child for granted!