Parent Skills: “Edutainment”
You know that scene in Mary Poppins when she sings “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” as she whips the kids’ messy bedroom into ship shape?
I mean, we all wish that we could snap our fingers and have a magically clean house, but I think the real magic is the message of the song she sings – sometimes all it takes to get children to do something unpleasant or dull is to present it as just the opposite – fun and entertaining!
This is what EDUTAINMENT is all about! (Get it? “Education” and “entertainment”? It’s a smoosh!)
Here are 3 ways that you could basically be a modern Mary Poppins by using edutainment with your child!
Practice Healthy Competition
Children’s brains LOVE novelty. That is why healthy competition and games get them so excited! You can help your child accomplish their less-than-pleasant daily tasks by adding a fun edutainment component. One way would be to incorporate a game or competition into their nighttime routine to prompt them to get ready for bed, to pick up their toys, or to brush their teeth.
For example, when it’s time for bed, you might challenge them with a race against you! “Okay! It’s time to get ready for bed! Let’s see who can race to the bathroom the fastest!” Once you get to the bathroom, follow it up with the next challenge, “Who can get their toothbrush out & put the toothpaste on the fastest?” And then, the pièce de résistance! “Who can brush their teeth the longest?” Make a big show of how you’re brushing your teeth; your child is likely to imitate what you do. Then, once you think it’s been enough time, stop brushing your teeth, allowing them to be the big winner!
Be Playful with Your Child
Your child is not going to behave all the time. They’re just not. If they did, we’d all be suspicious, and life would honestly be pretty boring. When your child throws a fit, or is stubborn, or is acting like a big ol’ grump-a-lump about something, try adding something playful into the mix that diverts their attention to something more positive. Kids love when adults get into the spirit of playfulness themselves!
“If my son throws a temper tantrum, sometimes I pretend in a silly way that I am falling and hurt my foot and he laughs. Or, if he sits in a chair that I specifically told him that I am going to sit in, I playfully act like I am going to sit on him. He likes the silliness, and it detracts and redirects him away from his original temper tantrum or negative behavior.”-Melody Johnson
Think Outside the Box
Playful silliness works a lot of the time, but sometimes it just doesn’t. Sometimes, they are adamant. In these moments, creative solutions might be the key to helping your child accomplish their tasks and chores. For example, it might be a nightmare to try to get your child to do his or her homework every night. Maybe there’s a way to make the experience more pleasant but still doesn’t get in the way of them accomplishing this task?
Here’s one example – Children LOVE tents. If your child loves being outdoors, set up a homework tent for them in the backyard! A special place specifically for accomplishing this task. If your child isn’t very outdoorsy, try building a fort in the living room together where they can go to do their homework. It’s even better if you can get in the fort with them and work on it together as a way to spend some quality time with each other!
What about older kids though? Coffee shops are favorite hangouts among teens and college students, so perhaps going to one where your pre-teen can have their favorite hot drink and do their homework can be a treat that they can look forward to.
In both of these scenarios, you are focusing on what can change (the environmental variables) instead of going head-to-head with your child because the task itself cannot change (the homework). In both cases, the result is that you’re helping your child to adjust his or her negative outlook on a task, and to start coding it in his or her mind as a positive experience instead of something he or she dreads doing every day.
Healthy competition, being silly and playful, and taking creative approaches are just a few tools that you can keep in your toolkit that could help you to motivate your child. When you embrace “edutainment,” you’re giving your child that spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. You’re making their whole life more pleasant! Could anyone give their child a more loving gift than that?