Acquainting young children with their community, both people wise and activity-wise, goes a long way in helping youngsters with positive social interactions and the appreciation of materials and events not usually found at home. In this final blog of the series exploring ways to provide healthy and fun activities for young children, we look at the part a community can play in a child’s life.
Libraries: Almost all communities have the advantage of a public library. Here young children can find age-appropriate books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. These items can be enjoyed on the premise or checked out and taken home for further pleasure. Exposing children of all ages to books, even in the electronic age, can open a world of opportunity and enjoyment. Children who only receive an introduction to books at school often see reading and learning as a negative, tedious, difficult activity. Even in the early grades failure in all subjects has been directly related to poor reading skills. Libraries also may provide learning activities such as computers, board games, puzzles, learning games, crafts, and storytimes for toddlers through teens.
Museums: While not every community hosts a museum, there is usually one within a decent driving distance. Some do require an admission fee, but often children are free, especially young children. Here the world of art, history, nature, science, and human accomplishments can educate and open young minds. Sometimes a museum has many diversified exhibits while other museums focus on one central theme, such as dinosaurs, ships, or paintings. Here is where most grownups can gain enjoyment and learning, too which can later be shared as a family.
Aquariums and the beach: the world of sand, water, and marine life is fun and fascinating for all ages. Again, sometimes, a drive will be needed to reach these activities, but often even small communities have a community pool or nearby lake or river. Especially in summer water activities, especially swimming, fishing and shell collecting are a popular and well-received event.
Parks: Probably the most popular community activity for young children is a visit to a park, especially one with a special play area designed with age-appropriate activities. Usually, even the smallest town will have a public space set aside as a park where all are welcome to enjoy the shade, play equipment, and picnic tables. Here is where young and old can interact while enjoying nature. Children can be encouraged to bring a bag to collect interesting rocks, leaves, and twigs to take home to talk about and to use in a variety of craft projects. A picnic in the park has long been a favorite pastime going back hundreds of years.
Special observation possibilities: All over America, there are zoos, farms, factories, and businesses that open their doors to adults and children to visit and observe together. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or google your location’s open-door opportunities. For example, you might be able to view and pet farm animals, see animals from around the world, watch how candy is made, see behind the front desk of a post office, or visit a fire station. Community concerts provide musical learning, while age-appropriate movies and restaurants provide other fun ways to learn and enjoy life.
Opportunities for interacting in your community are there for the taking; you need only do a little research and set aside some time. If you live in a very rural setting it may be difficult to find local community opportunities, but even then there are likely community resources such as county fairs, town parades, agriculture extension centers, and water opportunities available such as ponds, rivers, and lakes. Learning about and enjoying one’s community is an essential and hopefully enjoyable part of a young child’s life, which can and should continue into and through their adult years.