Once you’ve stepped on plastic building bricks for the umpteenth time, and you’ve had to replace another set of batteries on a noisy contraption, and kept the dog from eating glitter slime, you might start to think that your kids don’t really need another batch of toys this holiday season. You might begin to wonder if there are other things that will produce memories, instead of dents in the wood flooring or a mess in a kids’ room.
Well, we agree. Experiences outrank simple stuff any day of the week (or any time of the year). They tend to stick better than the latest toy trends, and they have more widespread, lasting benefits to a child. We’d like to humbly suggest that this year, you give your child something that really will keep on giving: philosophical dialogue.
Is philosophical dialogue even something a child is capable of, you ask? Is it any better than giving socks and underwear? Am I qualified to do this with my little thinker?
Definitely yes to all.
True, we don’t get it all at once with kids, and it doesn’t happen without some effort, but we’ve seen, time and time again, that even very young children are capable of expressing and explaining some pretty deep thoughts. They really, really want to talk, and they want to be taken seriously, even when they’re small. It’s really never too early to encourage your child to ponder things like human nature, beauty, truth, and the universe in general.
So, what kinds of experiential gifts can spark philosophical dialogue? Well…
- Take your child to an art exhibit. Chat about why they love some pieces, and turn up their noses at others. Ask them about what the artist was trying to say, and if there is more than one way to look at a work of art.
- Make a trip to a zoo or an aquarium and ask your child if they think animals think and feel the way humans do. Talk about what humans and other animals have in common, and what makes humans unique.
- Catch a game at a local arena, and turn it into a discussion of what’s fair in sports (and in life in general).
- Go out on a photo excursion, and think about whether everyone sees the same thing, or whether we all have different perspectives.
- Visit a museum of science, and learn about how ancient thinkers saw the universe. Explore the ideas of truth and fact as they are presented by science.
- Get tickets to a concert, and get your child’s take on the difference between music and noise.
Even if (and when) you do find yourself wrapping up actual physical toys and gifts, keep the conversation going. Ponder together which gifts make people happy for just a little while, and which ones bring lasting joy. Have a dialogue on whether it really is better to give than to receive, and why.
Perhaps the best gift you can give your wee philosopher, this year and every year, is your ears. Set the tone for the coming year by being truly open to what they have to say, and willing to share your own viewpoints as a fellow explorer of ideas. The experiential gift of wisdom is one-size-fits-all, will never need to be returned, and requires no batteries.
Happy holidays, little (and big) thinkers!