Kid-friendly

What do you think of first when you hear the phrase, “kid-friendly”? A family restaurant or event? Movies?

Over the weekend, we asked the kids what they wanted to watch for family movie night. Our son (9) picked Gremlins. We didn’t think anything of it. Both of us remembered it as a family movie that we’ve watched dozens of times over the years.

And our kids – who love the Marvel movies and anything with superheroes – got scared of the Gremlins after they changed from furry and fuzzy to scaly and ornery. We turned the movie off shortly after that, the kids went to bed…and then we watched the rest of the show.

How many of your favorite movies from the 80’s have you watched again now? As much as we all worry about Screen Time, and making sure our kids watch age-appropriate shows and movies, do you ever think about how much the perception about what is “kid-friendly” changes over time?

Movies are the best kid-friendly spaces.

I asked our Team Juggling Normal group chat about the idea of what is “kid-friendly…” and I got a lot of negative feelings from our moms. Kid-friendly restaurants bring on the image of the Chuck E Cheese’s of the world. Very loud, bad food, and while it’s fun for the kids, not very fun for the parents.

Throughout my husband’s years in his previous profession, I had numerous conversations about my definition of “kid-friendly.” By necessity, because my husband was gone a lot and in order for our kids to see him as much as possible, we traveled with him more than most people would choose to do. We went to public events, dinners, and a lot of fundraisers. My kids spent a lot of time being the only kids at an event.

My definition of “kid-friendly” is this: any event that is not a boring meeting/business dinner, or a black tie event. My kids have been to a lot of different things and places. If we had an adults-only dinner (read: boring business dinner meeting), we would use the hotel-recommended babysitting service. Sometimes our teenager would join us for those dinners, sometimes she would choose to hang out with friends or babysit her siblings. We leave that decision up to her.

I do not take my kids everywhere. There are a lot of things to consider – how fun it would be for them, whether they have their own activities at home, whether they want to spend a weekend with grandma. With all that in mind, I have still chosen to take my kids along for weekend trips when the events or meetings had a “kid-friendly” element: a tour of a science museum, air field, or any event with the military; potlucks or picnics; any mix of meetings where I could take the kids off to a park or other fun place for an hour or two while my husband had a meeting, or hit the hotel pool for a few hours in a cool place.

Find the fun!

All that being said, why do we have negative feelings towards things that are “kid-friendly?”

As moms (and dads), we are all with our kids the most. And we do need breaks to recharge our batteries (see Take a Vacation!), absolutely. We do need date nights and kid-free time.

But we also love our kids and want them to be a part of the fun things we do!

I try to find the fun in life, and to live life to the fullest. And I want my kids to take that with them as they grow up, also. I want them to experience new things, be open to new ideas, and try lots of different things (including different foods, but I’ll tackle that in a future post).

Part of guiding them in that direction is taking them along while we try new things, and showing them by our example (We are the Examples).

One of the things we have noticed in our little town is that we don’t have a completely family-friendly place to take kids and just hang out anymore. There used to be a bowling alley, and years ago (before my time here), there was a roller rink.

Video arcades are a thing of the past, replaced by everyone having their own X-box or Playstation. And kids can play against each other over the internet. Which is cool, but not the same. Playing endless games of SkeeBall is still one of the best things.

Has your town lost it’s favorite hang out spaces?

What are your favorite memories from growing up? I loved going to the roller rink! We do have one about an hour away, our oldest had a birthday party there a few years ago – and it was great!

Have we – as a society – lost those family-friendly spaces where there were things for kids to do, as well as for adults to hang out? I hope not.

While we all get through what I hope are these last few months of the pandemic, think about things to do with your kids that make life fun. Take them with you on a work trip (take a helper with you if you need it while you’re in meetings), and add an extra day for exploring the area. Think about kid-friendly things you can add in between meetings if you need to fill time. The Denver Chamber has a site that lists lots of things to do with kids in the city, and I’m sure most other cities have something similar. Check them out!

Encourage your kids to try new things. Help teach them how to behave in a regular restaurant – you don’t have to go somewhere fancy, start with Applebees and be thankful they have crayons and placemats to draw on. Or take a notebook or two and carry pens in your purse for them to draw with. Work your way up to 5-star dining.

Special dinner out in December, with a Roy Rogers.

I tend to go analog and always keep drawing materials with me for the kids, to keep them busy when we need to. And I’m not above bribery with the promise of ice cream or handing over the phone or iPad when I really need it.

And a Shirley Temple.

“Kid-friendly” is whatever we make it. Take your kids everywhere, and show them the fun. They’ll (hopefully) thank you for it later.

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