Friday, January 31, 2014

Family projects: or how to trick your kids into spending quality time with you

If you’re stuck in a rut where it seems all you do with your children is nag about homework and chores, chauffeur their personal limo, and torture them until they tell you how their day was, try breaking the cycle with a cool project you can do together.

Granted, this sounds like the setup of a lame sitcom where Dad and Jr. end up cheating in the go-cart race, or Mom over-helps Jr. with his science project, and hijinks ensue until everyone learns it’s easier just to watch TV together. But in real life, projects can be a fun, cooperative, learning experience for the whole family. (Don’t tell the kids that last part. Just say it will be cool, or, you know, whatever.)

So what does the library have to support you? Oodles of stuff, adaptable to either gender. Following are the first seven ideas from the top of my head, but there are many more possibilities.

1. The Obvious. You can still read together, even if your child has grown out of picture books and bedtime stories. You could takes turns reading chapters aloud, or you may both read the same book to yourselves, in your own time, and then talk about it over hot chocolate. We have lots of books with reading suggestions, like Book crush for kids and teens by Nancy Pearl and Some of my best friends are books by Judith Wynn Halsted.
We also offer Novelist, an online database full of reading suggestions which you can access from home with your library card.

2. Sewing. Yes, sewing. My cousin’s mom taught him to quilt when he was in middle school, and now he’s selling his own clothing line. No kidding. The boy is a genius. Newport Library has beginning quilting books, and also books about how to sew simpler items like curtains and pillows. Making a
quilt takes many hours, but other sewing projects might be just one or two.

3. Woodworking. We have a nearly infinite number of books about woodworking, some specifically for parents and kids working together. It’s not just birdhouses anymore, but if you want birdhouse, we got birdhouse. Personally, I can barely hammer a nail in straight, but I always thought it would be great to learn.

4. Explore Science! For kids who can’t get enough science experiments at school—we have SO MANY books. Excellent books, fun books, silly books, gross books. Some intended for science fairs, sure, but many intended for home, using household supplies. This stuff can be fascinating for a kid with the right frame of mind, and might be just the extra nudge they need to  
consider a career in science.
5. Cooking. Have you seen the TV program MasterChef Junior? Those kids are amazing. Each and
every one of them has me completely beat. And where did they get their start? At home! If you manage to instill an appreciation for the creative joys of cooking while your kid is young enough, you could be reaping the rewards until they’re old enough to win an appearance on reality TV!

6. Computers. You may think your child is a “digital native” and no doubt, they are—but there’s always more to learn. Kids who love computer games might be eager to learn some programming. There are great resources on the web, like MIT’s Scratch site , which teaches programming logic in a simple, fun, visual style, and a kid-friendly environment. We’re also getting a book for kids about Raspberry Pi, which is a $35 super-versatile bare-bones mini-computer. It’s intended to help kids get a grasp not only on programming but on hardware. The Siletz library system has a couple books on this, Raspberry Pi for the Evil Genius, and Raspberry Pi for Dummies, which we can borrow easily if you let us know you’re interested.  (The book we've ordered, Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Anne Philbin should be in soon!)

Our current computer programming books, like  Sams teach yourself HTML, CSS, and JavaScript all in one / Julie C. Meloni are more suitable for older children and adults.

7. Hiking. Not only do we have books to help people learn how to hike safely, and where to hike—we have the supercool OregonQuest book that contains local mini-adventures, short hikes complete with
clues to follow.

A stroll through our nonfiction stacks will yield even more possibilities. Come check it out, and leave the nagging behind—or at least put it off until later.

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