When your kids are out of school, things can feel a little haphazard. A lot of parents I know are racing to cram the April school break with Family Days Out. But the assumption that you, the mum or dad, are solely responsible for planning activities doesn’t really help anyone.
It puts the pressure on you, and it plops your children into the proverbial backseat. They shrug and assume that someone else is responsible for the joys and disappointments of their lives.
On the Getting Things Done podcast, a show for people who use the GTD work-life management system, coaches Meg Edwards and Mike Williams talk about a technique for getting your kids involved in the planning process. (I’d say it’s worth trying even if you don’t regularly practice GTD.) The activity uses the Make It Up and Make It Happen principle. It’s fun, it gets everyone thinking, and it teaches kids that they can bring the wild ideas in their heads to life.
Here’s how it works:
1) Make it up. Get a stack of blank 3×5 index cards. Have your kids sit at a table and ask them: What would you like to have true by the end of holiday break? What are some things you want to do, see, eat or make? (You can also do this for weekends and free days in general.) With his own children, Williams says he always wants to know “what kind of wild, crazy, interesting ideas are locked up between their ears.”
Tell them to write or draw each idea on an index card. Put on a 15 minute timer, and say, “On your mark, get set, go!”
2) Marvel. When the time’s up, put all the cards up on a cork board and marvel with them at the fact that everything that was stored in their brains is now on paper. It’s a good practice to write our ideas down, even the ridiculous-sounding ones. Edwards says so many adults fear writing things down because they believe that once it’s on paper, they must commit to it. But that’s not true, she says. We simply write things down so we can see what’s in our heads.
3) Make it happen. On a day of break when you don’t have anything planned, have your kids choose a card off the board. Maybe they wish to set up a lemonade stand or look for seashells at the beach. In the morning, ask them: At the end of the day, what do you want to have experienced? What does the day look like and feel like to you? After they have answered those questions, ask them: What do we need to do today to make this happen? Williams recommends that parents step out of the way as much as they can to let the kids figure it out.
Some ideas, of course, won’t work out in the moment – you can move those cards to a Someday/Maybe list. But many will, and you’ll probably find yourself on adventures you never would have imagined.
Edwards and Williams say that things won’t always run smoothly, but the process puts everyone on the same page, and gives children more control over their days – and therefore, their lives.
“It teaches them that they created something,” Edwards says. “They brought it to fruition. It wasn’t just luck. It didn’t just happen by osmosis. They realise, ‘I made that happen by thinking it through.'”