Keeping Up With Your Kids

06 Oct

What do kids do for fun? Or perhaps more specifically, what do your kids like to do for fun? And most important of all — how can you be involved as a parent or guardian, without coming off as cringy, over-protective, or annoying?

Kids today are more complicated than ever before. They aren’t just playing with dolls and action figures now — countless TV shows, video games, apps, and gadgets constantly compete for young people’s attention. Never mind the more traditional pastimes like school activities, organized sports, teen hangout spots, and young adult books. When you ask yourself, what do kids do for fun? Chances are the answers you come up with seem a bit bewildering.

What Do Kids Do for Fun?

Being an involved parent can be legitimately confusing. But it doesn’t have to be: with patience and the right approach, you can develop bonds with your children by having fun with them that will last a lifetime. Whether your kids are using vape pens or not yet old enough to drive, keep reading to discover what do kids do for fun — and how you can be involved.

Learn to Communicate Effectively

Good relationships are built on a foundation of good communication, and that applies whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, relationships at work, or relationships with your kids. Before you can effectively discover what do kids do for fun, the first important step is to learn effective communication.

Don’t worry: you don’t have to take a class on psychology or read a bunch of heavy books. Although there’s an endless amount of information you can learn about how kids think, feel, and communicate, effective communication with anyone generally comes down to the following steps:

  1. Be patient. Some parents want a sort of “fast food” relationship with their kids: touch base, move on, and still feel like they have a good connection with their kids. That’s not how good communication works with anyone. To follow any of the other steps here — never mind the other tips in this article — you must approach your kids with the intention of taking time to get to know them, and on their terms.
  2. Don’t judge anything. Let’s face it: kids are silly. Sometimes the things they think and do are downright outrageous, and it’s tempting to tell them so. But to build a good relationship with them, you must resist this temptation. Relationships are built on trust, and if you regularly contradict or make fun of your child, they won’t feel like they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings. Approach every conversation from a place of total openness, and only offer advice once you’ve heard them out.
  3. Listen first. You may have to talk to get the conversation started, but try to avoid talking the whole time. If they don’t seem interested in replying, maybe now isn’t a good time for them, or maybe there’s something bothering them at the moment. Either way, carrying on one-sided small talk won’t likely get you anywhere, and neither will hogging the conversation in general. Deep listening is essential to meaningful conversation.
  4. Validate their feelings. This follows what we said about not judging. As parents, we see the world from a different point of view than our kids, and it’s easy to downplay things that, to them, seem like serious problems. You don’t have to pretend something trivial is actually as serious as they think it is, of course. But remember to honor their feelings, and avoid implying that their concern is unwarranted about things they get upset about.
  5. Give genuine praise. Last on our list, it’s important to praise your kids on jobs well done, and valuable qualities they possess. You don’t have to wait for them to do something great in school to praise them: simply acknowledging that they have a big heart or that they’re really skilled at something they enjoy will make their day. Just make sure your praise is genuine. Children are really good at recognizing flattery, and they won’t be inclined to respect you if they feel like your praise is halfhearted or inauthentic.

Of course, these tips barely scratch the surface when it comes to communicating and interacting with children. But if you keep these things in mind as you learn what do kids do for fun, you’ll be miles ahead of most parents.

Find Hobbies to Enjoy Together

What do kids do for fun? Just about anything that interests them, and you’d be surprised how diverse and varied kids’ interests can be. From learning about the different breeds of dogs and how to train them to fashion and jewelry design, children and teenagers can show impressive talent in unexpected areas.

Of course, when it comes to interests and hobbies, kids don’t often take after their parents. In fact, children might specifically approach hobbies and pastimes that you can’t understand or wouldn’t appreciate, just to differentiate themselves from you. If your kids seem interested in everything except things you find interesting, keep in mind that this is almost definitely not something they do to spite you. They probably don’t even do it on purpose. Subconsciously, children feel the need to differentiate themselves from their parents. It’s just a matter of finding their own identity, and it isn’t personal. So if your child is obsessed with some techy, modern pastime like video gaming or social media curating, try not to dismiss it as something unimportant. If it brings them joy, it’s just as legitimate as playing tennis or chess. Many people even develop lucrative careers that started as a fascination with computers, software, and games.

Of course, you’ll still want to be able to connect with your children over activities. If you just can’t seem to wrap your head around activities your kids already enjoy, or if having you around seems to spoil the fun for them, you might want to take up a new hobby to pursue yourself that you can involve them in. Depending on your child’s age and existing interests, you should be able to come up with something to do that they might display a passing interest in, and they might join in the fun when invited.

Collections of any kind can be fun hobbies to pursue. If your child is down-to-earth, takes life slow, and enjoys aesthetic experiences or design, they might enjoy helping you collect things like stamps, old books, or certain toys. If your child is a little too hyper to be entertained by such simple things, collecting things of value, like rare coins, could still be exciting to them.

If you have older children who like activity and always have energy to burn, taking them with you to the gym would be a fun and healthy habit to form together. Your kids might also be interested in watching or playing a specific sport with you. At the other end of the spectrum, cooking creative dishes and delicious pastries can grab just about anyone’s interest, especially if they have a sweet tooth.

Whatever their hobbies, there’s bound to be a great way to connect with your kids over shared interests. They may be a long way away from needing professional art collection management, but everything impressive and significant has to start somewhere. The hobby you start with your kids today could turn into a lifelong interest for them, or even a family business.

Take Everyone Outside

If you’re a progressive parent, you know there’s nothing wrong with being a serious computer gamer or a master of specific software programs. Technology is an integral part of our evolving world, and it’s perfectly acceptable for your kids to gravitate towards this space of new and exciting developments.

However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that too much technology for too long can have negative side-effects. From screens causing eye strain to anxiety-inducing social media to literal internet addictions, technology can be a curse as well as a blessing. For a holistically-healthy, balanced lifestyle, it’s more important than ever to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Of course, when it comes to the question “what do kids do for fun?” going hiking or camping probably doesn’t seem like an obvious answer. But that’s actually a common misconception. According to the 2017 North American Camping Report, children ages 13 to 17 show significant interest in camping. In fact, 71% of children said they’d still want to go camping, even if they weren’t allowed to have their phone or computer with them to stay in touch with anyone. So much for the idea that kids only care about their devices!

But not all outdoor activities are created equal, even if they are equally healthy. After all, getting your kids to help you with a dock building project might seem obvious if you’re good at building things, but to them, it might be the most boring thing imaginable. To really kindle an interest in the outdoors, it’s important to come up with activities that they’ll actually want to do. Hopefully, they’ll take these activities, and the memories they developed with you, well on into their adulthood.

One way to help build a habit of going outside every year is to establish a family tradition. Say, going camping in the Smoky Mountains or some other wilderness every summer. Because it’s something you’ve decided to do every year, your child will know to expect it and prepare for it, even if only subconsciously, so they might experience less resistance to it when it comes time for your adventure.

Once again, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what do kids do for fun. What do your children already show an interest in that you could take outdoors? Chances are they’re already passionate about soccer or swimming, which are both incredibly fun and very health-promoting activities. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply buying a few pairs of running shoes online and going jogging each morning would be a great way to spend time together while you get some fresh air.

Take an Interest in Your Kids’ Skills and Pastimes

Throughout this article, we’ve touched on the importance of taking an interest in what your kids already like and enjoy. Supporting your child’s interests is critical for their self-esteem and healthy development. When they grow up, you’ll want them to choose jobs and career paths that are right for them. That starts while they’re still young, when they get to explore different hobbies and career ideas. A teenager who falls in love with something like web development in high school shouldn’t have much difficulty finding a job as an adult.

That doesn’t mean your children have to be interested in something that could become a job or business. For one thing, no one can definitively say what skills can truly be used to earn money. You wouldn’t think of surfing or operating pontoon boats as being lucrative skills, but if you apply that knowledge to a field like tourism, you can make more money than you ever would behind a desk. However, and more importantly, your focus, for now, should still be on having fun with your children. As long as they’re performing reasonably well in school, they shouldn’t have to worry about things like money and a career just yet. As we said, now is a time for exploring what they like and learning about different options.

Whatever your child’s interests are, a good way to start taking an interest in them is to pay attention to your child during day to day conversation. Notice what topics of conversation really seem to light up their eyes; what things make them laugh or smile; and what they can’t seem to stop talking about once they start. As you pick up on visual cues like this, you can ask them to tell you more about what they think about specific subjects and ideas. They will be thrilled that you want to know how they feel about something that’s significant to them.

Next, find ways to help your child experience things they take an interest in. If your child suddenly becomes fascinating by the art of floral arrangement, consider getting a bunch of flowers at a floral shop and let them experiment with different placements, patterns, and combinations. Having direct experience with things that interest them like this is important for helping them discover what they really like, and it also keeps their minds stimulated and engaged. If they lose interest after trying out something new, that’s okay — the idea is to experience different things, anyway. Eventually, something will stick, and later they’ll be incredibly grateful to you for supporting them through their crazy discovery phase.

Finally, to answer the question, what do kids do for fun? It’s best to just ask them. It’s great to make suggestions about things to do too, but the first step to developing a real connection with anyone is to actively listen. Whether your kids are really into sports or social media or something else entirely, the next time you find yourself wondering what do kids do for fun, come back to this article for inspiration. Then go out and have some quality fun with your family!

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