Story by

Andrea Jacob

June 14th, 2016

I think many parents can relate when I say I want the best for my children. Because of that, I think a lot about what I do with them to inspire them, to prepare them for life, raise them to be independent people and to ensure they are happy and satisfied with what they do. I think about how to give them what they need to be happy and carefree children. I personally don't believe in showering them with toys and material gifts. I don't think taking them to fun parks is going to give them the foundations for contentment. I base this decision on my own experiences as a child.

When I think back to my childhood, the fondest memories are adventures and experiences with loved ones spent in nature or my grandparents' garden. Not toys or clothes that I got for my birthday or as a random act of kindness. I am not saying that I was not excited about presents, nor I am I suggesting that my children don't get their fair share, but I keep those presents limited to occasions like Christmas and Birthdays, to maintain a special feeling about receiving a material gift.

The gift that I give my children on a daily basis is showing them our world in the best possible way. I put a lot of thought and effort into involving them into everyday life, because I am aware that their experiences have a significant impact on what type of people they become. I take them to cultural places or into nature to let them experience the treasures our planet has to offer. I talk to them in order to better understand their wishes and desires. In most instances, they want to get out, explore and discover our world. Some days all they want to do is to go to the beach and build sandcastles. Other days they are happy to play in the garden, jump on the trampoline, draw with chalk on the ground or dig holes in the soil. On other occasions, they want to go on a big adventure and do something special. On some days though, I have to let the day evolve as it comes without any particular plans, in order to allow my children to implement experiences into their play.

When I am in a moment of worry or doubt about whether I'm giving them what they need, I tell myself to lean back and to observe their play. Play, I have learned, says so much about our children. It opens a door to their inner world and how they process all the impressions and stimulations that surround them. And in most instances, I get an answer that makes me feel good. For example, the other day the children decided to play doctor. One was the sick patient and the other was the doctor. The patient pretended to be scared and the doctor spoke softly and in a very caring manner to comfort the petrified patient.

Children copy and replay their experiences. If I were impatient and denying in a moment of sickness, they would reenact my behavior in their play. As I am empathetic and stop whatever I am doing to comfort them and take a bit of their pain away, they translate that into their play. That shows me that I am doing fine when I need to be there for them.

Another example, something I work very hard on, is to teaching them that there is no need to have the perfect tool at hand to solve a problem. Too often we get held back from resolving a difficult situation because we don't have a perfect answer or solution. I encourage my kids to use their imagination and creativity to address a situation with what they have available. They don't require an Elsa costume to re-enact Frozen. They can use their scarfs and cloths and create their own Frozen world. They don't need a pretend coffee machine in their toy kitchen. They have capable hands to craft a machine out of a card box or Legos. Interestingly, these types of toys, the ones they create themselves, get played with the most.

The other day, I got another affirmative answer through my son when we were out in the local bushlands. I felt like sitting down a bit and to soak in the sunset and to listen to the wind in the trees. The kids instantly looked for something to do, rather than asking to move on. In front of the bench I sat down on, there was a big patch of a dust. They grabbed sticks and started drawing and created a whole world of their own where they happily played. They were so involved that they asked to stay longer when I suggested we go home. There was no need for any toys, play equipment or exterior stimulation. The children looked for tools that were available and used those to delve into a meaningful and entertaining game.