It’s tricky to be a kid. My Four-year-old wants to be an equal partner in all activities my wife and I are engaged in, and she’s not exactly the best sit-still person for longer car rides. One trick we’re finding is that if we give her a job to do, it’s helping her focus and it keeps her much more engaged. Here are some of the ways one might help a child by giving them purpose at an event or on vacation:

  • Buy a cheap digital camera before going on vacation and give them a list of things to photograph on the trip (if they’re young, give them a list of drawings or photos to try and match).
  • Give your children jobs at events you attend, be that to help people find their seats at a big wedding reception, or keeping fresh napkins on the table.
  • On the road, tell your kids which exit you’re looking for. It gives them a sense of the time involved, as well as a potential thing to count for some duration. (My daughter asks for this every time we get on the highway now).
  • Ask your older kids to help you collect material for a website. Have them take digital photos, draw and scan the drawings, make movies, even compose music or mashups to build into a collaborative web page (there’s plenty of easy-to-use website builders these days).
  • On airplane rides, give your kids small boxes with games in each one. You can buy them cheap at places like Wal-MART or at yard sales, or make your own games.

Simply, giving your kids something to focus on, something they can control, helps alleviate the anxiety brought about by not knowing their ultimate destination, their purpose for being in attendance. It alleviates stress by providing concrete things to manage. What are your add-ons to this idea?

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