Most of us, whether we realise it or not, are part of a community. It might be our neighbourhood, our work community, or a sports team.
As much as we as parents might want to always be everything to our kids, the fact is that they will need to rely on other people and systems in their life to live that life fully.
By introducing your children to a community, children will have access to a variety of help and insight, more than we as parents might be able to give them, and teaching kids how to be a part of community will create connections and a support system that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
The Benefits Of Community
Being a part of a community teaches children many things. Communities can generate a feeling of belonging to a time, place, and culture. It can also provide an opportunity to learn how to communicate and get along with a variety of different people, not just their peers.
Communities can also teach children how to rely on and ask others for assistance. This may be a coach or a local librarian or even the parent of a friend. Asking for and receiving help from others will in turn better prepare your child for school, lifelong networks, and even help them later in life as they start out on a career path.
These community and social connections will also assist in boosting your child’s confidence while interacting with others who differ from them in age, belief, occupation, and a myriad of other ways.
Examples of Community
Outside of your close group of friends and family, there are many ways that your child can find and engage with a community at an early age.
Some examples of communities that you may be interested in starting a connection with include:
- A structured play group
- A reading group at the local library
- Other children and families in your neighbourhood
- A school or daycare centre related group
- Cousins and other extended family
- Members of a sports team, dance class, or other similar group
- Church or Bible Study
- Recreational Centre Groups
- Groups based around activities, like gardening or other forms of study or play
- Service related communities which might congregate around an activity such as visiting a retirement home or cleaning up a local playground.
Creative Ways To Make Community Connections With Your Child
- Join or start a program visiting retirement or assisted living facilities in your area. Help your children to engage with the elderly by setting up a craft or story station that everyone can enjoy
- Volunteer together. Even young children can assist with volunteer projects by tagging along with their caregiver
- Start or be part of a community garden. You can even share or donate your food to people to increase the community connection
- Organise a toy swap or other fun community activity in your neighbourhood
- Scan your local museums and libraries for community programs such as reading programs, group play, and other offerings
- Consider becoming a member of a local children’s museum
- For both parents and children, consider one of the many meet-up groups available
- Become a member of a local recreational centre
- Join a local charity and take part in activities and fundraisers
- Visit your local grocery store, coffee shop, deli, or other local favourite and assist and encourage your child in ordering and paying as a weekly ritual.
Tips For Making The Most Out Of Community Engagement
- Use your new (or old!) community relationships to practice valuable social cues and lessons, including saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ conversational basics, and encourage them to participate in these interactions with others
- Encourage your child to ask questions of others, including questions about where they come from, what they like, and their family
- Make opportunities for your child to spend one on one time with others who you both feel comfortable and safe with. This may encourage them to go outside their comfort zone and experience the world in a new way
- When visiting the local playground or community centre, encourage your child to share their toys or playground equipment with others as an exercise in sharing
- Use your new experiences meeting new people to discuss how others can be different from us, including discussing disabilities and different ethnicities and origins. Top it off by reading a book about it!
- Allow your child to make choices about what types of places and activities that they enjoy most (for example, playing soccer at the park). This can help empower your child to think about the world around them and help hone their future passions and hobbies
- Encourage your child to be alert and make observations about the world around them and people surrounding them. This will help them actively engage in their community and become more aware in general of social situations.
In addition to giving your child a sense of place within their world, being a part of community can help your child build strong relationships with others.
Through relationships, children can also discover more about who they are. It’s important, however, to not force relationships or connections upon your child and to respect their feelings.
There may be certain people or situations that they feel uncomfortable with, particularly if your child is going through a particular stage. Toddlers can especially feel scared or wary around new people and situations.
As with most new activities, much patience is required of the caregiver. They will eventually get the urge to connect on their own and may lead you to the perfect community building activities themselves.