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How Do You Inspire Your Kids?

Want to inspire math and writing skills as well as compassion and a bit of entrepreneurial spirit? Host a bake sale! A good friend held one yesterday and kindly invited my son to join. In fact, the idea came from her five-year-old daughter and her girlfriend. So the night before her son and daughter helped bake the goodies. On the day of, someone had to write the cardboard sign that explained why they were holding the bake sale—to raise funds for a village in Thailand—a charity sponsored by our kids’ school. The sign also had to explain the prices of the cookies and cake as well as the lemonade. They propped a table at the gate of her driveway and sold their wares for approximately two hours after school.

My son relished making change for all the folks who popped by—mainly cabbies in central London. In the end, they raised £43.02—roughly $106.00 to be given to aid this struggling village. The children were so proud to present the money to their principal this morning. And I, of course, could only smile and thank my friend for including my son. William now wants to hold more sales and he’s thinking of what streets and neighborhoods would get more traffic. “I really think they should have sold the drinks for more than ten cents,” he says to me seriously this morning on the way to school. “I mean, if they sold them for twenty-five how much more could they have raised?”

I just smiled thinking of his future business days ahead. My six-year-old already wants to open Chick-fil-A restaurants and Target stores in London and discusses how well they’d do here and why. He even asked his entrepreneurial dad about how he should approach investors!

But seriously, yesterday’s bake sale inspired me a little too. There must be tons of ways to tap into our kids interests and expand upon them through fun activities. My son adores math and science, but isn’t terribly fond of reading out loud or writing exercises. Writing the sign for the bake sale was a perfect way to get him excited about writing.

During tutoring a month ago, our tutor took an interesting approach. Instead of the usual reading and math games, she and her three pupils learned how to make bread. She helped my son mix the flour and the water and baking soda. Instead of just baking it there—all the kids had to write their own recipe cards. William was so excited to show me his recipe for bread! That evening we baked the very plain dough that became rather bland bread, but only wonderful things were said and of course, my son had to have three pieces.

These events got me thinking. Clearly, there are many ways to inspire our children and I for one, am guilty of missed opportunities. While making cookies or brownies at home, how many times could I have encouraged my son to read the recipe to me? We own many popular science kits, such as an ant farm, triops tank, worm farm, and even a spy kit. We have pads of paper to write down our findings, but often I get too busy with fixing dinner or something else and forget to sit down with him and explore and encourage him to write down what he sees.

The one thing we do often is play Monopoly as William loves to play with mom and dad and he’s fabulous at making change. To learn about words, we bought a junior Scrabble, but I rarely get it out anymore. William really hates any sort of art project—always has. When he was in preschool, I bought a dinosaur model and paint kit and helped him make masterpieces. It’s been so long since we’ve done something similar, and he rarely even participates in art class anymore. I think it’s time to chat with his art teacher to find something he can do in art class—such as make dinosaurs or a Star Wars ship—to get excited about an art project.

I think the key to inspiring kids is having a bit of fun with them and including at least one passion in the mix—especially for the kindergarten through elementary school ages. I definitely need to make more of an effort. And when mom and/or dad get involved, it’s even more fun for kids.

How do you tap into your children’s interests and inspire them? What ideas do you have?

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