Meet Robert Sosin. Sosin is a visionary creative director living in New York City and raising two quirky and creative boys. He details his daily activities with them on social media under the hashtag #MorningFunManifesto and at his blog, “SoSincerely.com”
As a part of Early Choices’ continued efforts to support local parents in raising happy, confident kids, we are bringing you profiles of local parents and grandparents as well as inviting guest bloggers from across the country to write about their own experiences. Our goal? To arm parents in our area with tools to become more confident in their parenting skills by addressing common challenges that today’s moms, dads and grandparents face every day. (You can read more about our Triple P Positive Parenting Program here.)
We asked Robert to give us some expert advice on planning fun but educational things with your kids:
ON THE VIRTUES OF PLANNING: One hack to cut out distraction, have more fun, and give your kids what they really want
SITUATION: As a parent, you want to not only make sure you take care of your children’s needs, you also want to do everything in your power to make them happy. That’s universal. Heck, it’s biological. And the thing your child wants and needs, more than anything else in the world, is attention from their parents. That’s what kids crave up until the tween/teen years, when they reach a developmental stage of independence (which will be a whole new challenge, of course, but first let’s tackle this one).
OBSTACLE: Giving your kids attention is WAY HARDER than it sounds. They can be utterly exasperating. Kids don’t tire of repetition the same way adults do. Kids have a capacity for imaginative play adults don’t have: I always found myself to be too self-critical about my improv skills to really get down and play with the kids on their level for more than a few minutes (“was the narrative arc on that monster attacking the superheroes going anywhere?”). But I think the greatest obstacle in the way of giving your kids the attention they crave these days is distraction.
The temptation to look at your cell phone rather than your child is enormous. Sometimes it’s unavoidable (like when you have pressing obligations at work), but often times it’s just about something flashy grabbing your attention. Whether or not you have a rich and active online life, you almost certainly know dozens of websites and social networks you can check any time of day to find something new and all-consuming. The challenge of being a parent can’t compete with the ease of being a consumer of information. That’s a problem, because the more time and attention you give to your phone or computer, the less time you have to devote to your children.
That’s where I found myself a few years ago. I especially felt it in the mornings before the kids went to school. It was a time I was given to be in close contact with my kids, making them breakfast and getting them ready, and every day after I dropped them off at school I’d find myself looking back over the time we’d just spent together and marveling at how much of it I frittered away looking at Twitter, reading the news or checking work email even though I would be in the office within the next hour. I knew my kids wanted that time to have fun with their dad, and I knew I could use that time to play with them and teach them valuable lessons, but I didn’t know how to do it.
ACTION: So here’s what I did: I made a monthly schedule of activities we could do every morning. It only takes me about 30 minutes every month to prepare it, and each activity usually works out to about 15 minutes every (weekday) morning. It started out with simple activities: one day we’d do some drawing, another day we’d read a book together, another day we’d make something out of cardboard, etc. By planning in advance, I found the mornings more manageable, and it gave our time together a purpose and something to work towards. I didn’t have to worry about coming up with something to do with my kids through the fog of morning grogginess, and if I could devote just 15 minutes to a morning activity, that was enough time to teach my kids something and have a real moment with them. And in those moments I felt present with my kids, not distracted or like I was wasting time.
Over the next few months the activities started evolving and getting more defined. Drawing became “Superhero Drawing Studio” where we’d draw superheroes together and I’d try to show them fundamental techniques of drawing anatomy. I tried to make cleaning the house into a game we called “Mystery Elves” where they wore pointy hats and tried to surprise Mommy by having her discover a clean house, and then acting like Elves did it. Planning things beforehand let me do things I couldn’t do on the fly, like let me run a monthly treasure hunt for the kids, where they develop problem solving skills to figure out clues leading to a treasure chest with a small toy for them (which of course became their favorite morning activity).
RESULTS: My kids LOVE morning activities. They let me know how much they appreciate them all the time. Plus, I’ve been able to sneak little lessons and educational opportunities in all over the place, ranging from math skills I’ve worked into treasure hunt clues, to coding skills we learn together, to getting them to try new and exciting fruits and vegetables, to teaching them to recite poems (and old-school rap songs) in activity we call “Poetry for Prizes.” And most importantly, I feel present in my kids’ life when I do activities with them and like I’m giving them what they really want and need, and feeling good about yourself as a parent FEELS GREAT. And I owe it all to the simple act of planning.