Monthly Theme: Honoring Children and Youth
When we think about the children and youth in our lives, likely many of the conversations we have with them are focused on the future. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “When you’re older you’ll be better at it.” “When you’re an adult you’ll understand.”
The pressure children and youth feel to hit certain developmental milestones, be mature, and grow up detracts from the most beautiful gift they have – their childhood. For this month’s Playful News, we invite you to slow down, savor this season of life, and treasure who your child is in this moment.
One way you can engage in the moment with your child is by asking a daily question!
You can record their responses on video or write them in a notebook to create a memento to look back on as a family over the years. Here are a few questions to ask children:
- What do you like most about yourself right now?
- Who are your best friends and why do you like each other?
- What do you know how to do that you could teach me?
Notice that these questions are open-ended and invite responses beyond “yes” or “no,” which provides space to better understand the mind and heart of your child. Take turns as a family responding to the questions; you could even explore an interview format with multiple questions. For more ideas, try this blog post on Mumlyfe.
When we cherish who our children and youth are in this moment, we begin to see our communities at large in a different light. We may even start to think, “What is our collective responsibility to the children and youth who live here, and how do we honor who they are right now?”
In a child- and youth-centered community, if you went into any business, you would see evidence that they are considering how children also come into their space and not just the grown-ups. You might see fewer ‘no skateboarding’ signs, and instead find safe areas to skate, scooter, or bike all over the city and not just confined to parks. Front desks and service counters would be at heights that are accessible to younger patrons. Materials that are intended for touching, playing with, and exploring would be more readily available. Children would know they can climb, run, and play on the things they find in their built environments. You would encounter playful elements in everyday places like bus stops and sidewalks. Spaces would feel safe for all children and youth, and they would feel welcome wherever they went.
If you’re interested in learning more about this idea, check out our blog on Child and Youth Centered Communities.
To better understand the perspectives of youth in the community, the University of Washington Tacoma started the Action Mapping Project to create Youth Maps. The map and indicators, produced using thousands of responses from middle- and high-school-aged youth, show where young people in Tacoma feel safe and where they prefer to spend their time during the day and at night. These maps are a visual reminder that the way we see our communities and the way children and youth see our communities looks different, and it’s important to know how and why.
Open Ended Play
Go on a Color Scavenger Hunt in your neighborhood!
All you’ll need for this activity is a paper bag, markers, crayons, or colored pencils in a variety of colors, an adventurous spirit, and an eye for detail. Choose the colors you’d like to search for on your scavenger hunt, and as you come across them on your neighborhood walk, add them to your bag!
By the end of this activity you’ll have a spectrum of colors filling your bag and a renewed sense of belonging in the neighborhood you call home.
If you have older children or youth, you can extend this activity so that everyone is engaged on your neighborhood walk! Invite older children to take photos to explore what’s important to them in their spaces. You can even post your photos and Use #MyPierceCounty #MyTacoma #Greentrike to share your adventures with us!
In The Community
Month of the Military Child
The month of April is designated as the Month of the Military Child to pay tribute to the resilience of military children and recognize the sacrifices and contributions military families make every day.
One of our favorite books to help children find strength and patience while waiting for a parent to return home from deployment is Brave Like Me by Barbara Kerley.
This book captures the many emotions that arise when parents are away on duty, and offers resources for helping children deal with transition, deployment, and separation.
Reading Age: 4 – 8 years
At the Children’s Museum at JBLM, we are working intentionally to ensure that all military children and families have a space to escape the stressors of military life, reconnect with loved ones, learn about resources on and off base, and build confidence through play.
This month at the Children’s Museum at JBLM we are hosting activity sessions every Saturday for our Resiliency Challenge, designed to help military children understand and navigate emotions related to military life.
We also have several prompts in the Studio at the Children’s Museum at JBLM to guide children in creative activities related to the strains of military life.
To learn more about the first six months of our time on JBLM and to hear from our JBLM program manager, check out our Military Family Month blog.
On April 22 we are called to celebrate our planet and raise awareness around the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations. Check out one of these events and activities to celebrate Earth Day in Pierce County with your family this April!
- Get 50% off donated items at Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity stores
- Head to the STAR Center on April 16 for a community event featuring Earth Day crafts and activities
- Visit the Kobetich branch of Tacoma Public Library on April 19 to pick up an Earth Day Program Kit
- Stop by Cross Park in Tacoma on April 22 to receive a free tree and pollinator seeds from Pitch In for Parks and Earth Day South Sound
- Visit the Tacoma Nature Center on April 23 for a free Earth Day Celebration, complete with educational crafts, a self-guided story walk, and a bird walk
Encourage a Young Writer Day
April 10 is National Encourage a Young Writer Day, when young people are encouraged to explore their skills, discover their talents and form healthy habits related to reading, writing, and spending time alone.
If you have an avid reader, you may have a storyteller on your hands! Take this day as an opportunity to gift your child or youth a journal, offer them resources like writing prompts or local workshops, and encourage them to continue on their reading and writing journey.
If you’re an adult who likes to read and work with youth, you might be interested in volunteering for Write253’s Remann Hall Book Club, a twice-monthly book club that serves youth in the Remann Hall Juvenile Detention Center.
Whether you interview your child, go on a neighborhood walk, or plan an Earth Day activity as a family, take time this month to honor who your child is at 2 months old, at 10 years old, at whatever age they’re at right now, with a mindset of where they’re at as opposed to where they’re going. Coming out of COVID, there is a general sense of fear and anxiety that children need to catch up, and that caregivers are supposed to be putting in extra amounts of effort to make sure that happens. But what if we put the brakes on that and instead treasure who they are in this moment?
What have you learned from your child? What have they taught you? Take a moment to listen and observe.