Christine here: My guest today is the wonderful author and Christian speaker Grace Fox. Here is an excerpt from her book of conversation-starting questions to use with children ages 3-8. Tuck-Me-In Talks With Your Little Ones: Creating Happy Bedtime Memories: A Bedtime Tradition with Long-Lasting Results by Grace Fox
Our five-year-old daughter Kim could hardly wait for bedtime. Each evening, she donned pajamas, brushed teeth, and went to the potty without a parental nag or threat. The moment she jumped into bed, she reached under her pillow. Then, wearing a wide grin, she retrieved and opened a zip-locked bag stuffed with little cards. Each card featured one question. “What does it say?” she’d ask, handing the card of her choice to her dad.
One evening the question read, What’s the best way to eat spaghetti? “With my hands,” Kim answered. She cupped her hands, put them to her mouth, and slurped make-believe noodles.
“Why not chopsticks?” asked her dad.
“No, not chopsticks,” said Kim. “The noodles would fall off!”
“Maybe an ice-cream scoop,” my husband suggested.
“No, Silly. Scoops are only for ice-cream,” said Kim. “Ice-cream is cold but spaghetti is hot, so a scoop won’t work.” Her dad chuckled at the preschool logic.
The banter continued for a several minutes. Finally, convinced a fork was the best option, Kim slipped the card back into the bag and hid it once again under her pillow. Then she crawled under her covers, said her bedtime prayer, and kissed her daddy goodnight.
That bedtime tradition, simple as it was, still carries fond memories nearly two decades later.
“I looked forward to bedtime because answering the questions was fun,” says Kim, now 26. “It was like a winding-down play time with my parents.”
Her dad and I remember it fondly, too. We adopted it when Kim’s kindergarten teacher suggested that parents ask their youngsters simple questions when tucking them into bed. Doing so would provide a positive end-of-the-day routine, she said. It would also build imagination and language skills and encourage an intentional connection between parents and kids. It sounded like fun, but truth be told, at first we wondered whether or not it was worth it.
Like most parents of young children, we felt exhausted at day’s end. Striking up a conversation with Kim at bedtime seemed counterproductive if we hoped to relax and enjoy a few quiet moments alone. Then again, we longed to connect with our daughter in a meaningful way, so we gave it a try. We discovered that it, like any other method of spending intentional time with one’s children, was a small investment with huge returns.
Kim’s imagination was stimulated by questions such as, Pretend you’re a fish swimming in the ocean. What do you see underwater? Storytelling skills developed with questions like, Tell me about your day. What was the best part? Emotions were explored with questions such as, Show me a sad face. What makes you feel sad? And letter and sound recognition developed with questions such as, List five words that begin with the letter “b.”
Kim’s cognitive growth proved to be a positive return on our investment, but there were other benefits, too. These became more obvious throughout our daughter’s growing up years.
An online Focus on the Family article titled “Family Time and Relationships” encourages families to eat, play, and build traditions together. The result, says writer Jim Burns, is a strong family identity, which in turn results in the children possessing a strong sense of self-identity. This enables them to develop “a clear starting point for discovering their own place in the world.” He also suggests that these children are more likely to embrace their family’s values, therefore less likely to engage in promiscuity, or drug and alcohol abuse later in life. He adds that children regard a parent’s presence as a sign of care and connectedness.
Youngsters whose parents spend quality time with them usually perform better in school and exhibit less negative behavior than those whose moms and dads do otherwise.
I’m grateful that my personal experience as a parent reflects Burns’ insights. I believe that connecting with Kim on a regular basis helped establish her self-identity that enabled her to make wise decisions later in life. If I could replay this aspect of her early childhood, I’d make only one change: I’d start this tradition sooner.
Another FOTF article, quoting from The Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care, says that parents play a huge influential role in their children’s lives especially between the ages of three and five. It calls those years “a unique and critical period” because youngsters possess an insatiable curiosity about the world around them and a growing ability to communicate with others about those things that intrigue them. Parents who take time to listen and respond to their children’s questions can “shape the entire gamut of their child’s attitudes and understanding.”
The author writes, “More important, he will also want to understand how you see things both great and small and what is important to you. Whether the topic is animals, trucks, the color of the sky, or the attributes of God, he will be all ears…and deeply concerned about what you think.
“This wide-eyed openness will not last forever. While you will greatly influence his thinking throughout childhood, during the coming months you will have an important window of opportunity to lay foundations that will affect the rest of his life.”
Today, as a mother of three young adults, I recall with joy those preschool years. Moms with older kids or empty nests told me to enjoy my offspring because they’d be grown and gone before I could blink. Some days I doubted that wisdom, but now I pass along the same advice. The window of wide-eyed openness and opportunity to lay healthy, lasting foundations closes far too soon. The more engaged we are with our youngsters now, the stronger our influence will be. And the stronger our influence is, the less likely culture, media, and peers will sway them later.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to encourage our kids’ spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The tuck-me-in bedtime tradition proved to be a valuable resource to help accomplish that goal in our family. Give it try. You might find it helpful, too.
WHERE YOU CAN PURCHASE TUCK-ME-IN-TIME
Let’s Snuggle and Talk!
Trade in a few of your bedtime stories for memory-making moments with this collection of fun conversation starters for kids ages three to eight.
· If you could write a book, what would it be about? Tell me the story!
· If you could be king of the world, what rules would you have everyone obey?
· Pretend you’re in the circus. What’s your job?Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, or a childcare provider, you’ll love this valuable tool for helping kids end their day on a happy, loving note.
Amazon -- http://tinyurl.com/keyxk6f
Deeper Shopping -- http://tinyurl.com/mbcp4hh
Barnes and Noble -- http://tinyurl.com/lq9g99z
Grace’s website – www.gracefox.com/books
ABOUT GRACE FOX:
Grace Fox is an international speaker at women’s events and the author of seven books including 10-Minute Time Outs for Moms, 10-Minute Time Outs for You and Your Kids, and her latest release—Tuck-Me-In Talks With Your Little Ones: Creating Happy Bedtime Memories. Her books are available at bookstores nationwide, online, and on her website. www.gracefox.com/books. Read her devotional blog at www.gracefox.com/blog.