Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Fine Art of Entertaining a Child

It was exciting!  3 yr. old Sydney and her baby sister, Jordynn were coming over to spend the afternoon with me.  Everything was ready for our pre-Christmas play date.  With years of experience teaching and entertaining children, this would be a piece of cake.  Right?  Well, there are things you need to pay attention to when you are going to entertain a child.  The following list can make a big difference in your success with children. 

1. Establish Rapport

Do you have a good relationship with the child? Sydney and I certainly have rapport!  She is my granddaughter and she has lived near us most of her life. We spend lots of time together.  As for Jordynn, she is very easy to entertain.  I sing her to sleep with my lullabies, or she sits contentedly on the floor tasting her delicious toys.  

2. Discover the child's Interests

Sydney knows by heart many of the songs I have written.  She has been the inspiration for some of those songs and she is in several of the music videos I've produced. Now, it is the week before Christmas and she loves to sing "Jingle Bells" and "Away in the Manger."  Jordynn will take her nap.

3.  Set Aside Quality Time:

Knowing the girls were coming to visit, I blocked off the afternoon and eliminated interruptions.  There would be no phone calls and no work on  the computer.  There would just be quality time with the girls.

4.  Plan Ahead:  Have Creative Ideas and Needed Materials Ready

Sydney was bringing her new set of musical instruments.  We would

sing "Jingle Bells" and "Away in a Manger", two of her favorite 
Christmas songs.  Jordynn had toys to play with and a place to take
a nap.

5.  Listen for Feedback:

Feedback is very important, and I began getting some the minute Sydney walked in the door.   She looked a little pale, like the whirlwind of Christmas excitement had hit her full blast.  She was quieter than usual.  Jordynn, on the other hand had eyes that were alert and a pixie smile on her little round face.  

Sydney began to pull the instruments out of her bag.  She pulled them out slowly, without saying a word.  Meanwhile, Jordynn sat on the floor with a rubber ducky in her mouth and quietly eyed her big sister.

Well, I just knew I could inject enough enthusiasm to get this music time off the ground.  I sat on the floor near Jordynn as Sydney put all of her attention on the cute Christmas canisters sitting on the coffee table.  Pulling out the jingle bells, I expected to see her jump over and grab her set of bells.  She didn’t move.  She just quietly rearranged the canisters with great care. 

Smiling, I didn’t say anything and I began singing “Jingle Bells” by myself.  Then I heard a little jingle nearby.  Looking up at me, Jordynn was gently shaking some bells. Her little face was lit up with joy and her black eyes looked deep into mine as if to say, "I want to have music time!"  And so we did!  

And Sydney?  Her little head leaned in our direction as she listened to the music she always loved.  But, she continued to peacefully decorate my family room with beautiful canisters that fit into one another.

What powerful feedback these little girls were giving me, without ever speaking a word!

6.  Be Spontaneous

         This brings me to the sixth and perhaps the most important item on my list.  Be spontaneous!  You see, children change minute to minute.  If you watch them carefully, you will see everything you need to see to entertain them.  Maybe, they would enjoy sitting on your lap listening to a story instead of dancing to the Wiggles.  Maybe, like Sydney, they have had so much Christmas joy that they simply need to rearrange canisters for the afternoon.

When entertaining a child, get to know the child, find out his or her interests and set aside uninterrupted time to spend together.
Have a plan that takes into account the child’s interests.  Then, listen and observe the feedback you are getting.  If your plan isn’t a fit, be spontaneous and join into the child’s world.  Decorate with canisters
if that is what the interest is that day.  And watch all of the children.
Maybe  another child is watching and would love to explore some new interests with you.

-Linda Kay Burk,

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