Our two oldest are taking ski and snowboarding lessons this winter respectively. Every Saturday, we journey to the local ski hill for lessons; this year, both ski for five weeks coached by a trained instructor.
Organizationally, if I were really on top of things, both kids would have lessons at the same time. However, due to my lack of early planning, the lessons do not happen at the same time–I have an hour lag in between each lessons to spend time with the waiting sibling. First, I treated this as a negative, but with each visit, I get one on one time with each child: we talk, we laugh, we colour, we watch Sponge Bob on the lodge TV. As a result, this has led to a preparation routine, the night before, that has enabled quality time together in the lodge. In the evening, before a ski hill outing, I prepare a set of snacks for my son and daughter. Having quick snacks on hand makes preparation a breeze. I shoot for cheese strings, waxed cheese, granola bar, yoghurt drinks, and fishy crackers. Don’t be fooled, I’m a fan of an occasional hot dog and poutine cozied up to the raging inferno lodge fireplace, however, food prices at ski resorts are often over-priced. Why? Because where else are you goin’ to eat. Snack preparation keeps costs down. In addition to preparing snacks, I like to bring colouring, blank paper, and one electronic device. Colouring gives my daughter quiet time waiting; I can ask her questions about preschool, her favourite activities, and her friends. On the other hand, my son enjoys time playing his 3DS or a game from my phone. Do I let him play the whole hour? No. Set time limits. In our family, set timelines have created a balance of screen time with other daily activities.
Lastly, I throw it all in a backpack and lay out gear (snow suits, helmets, gloves) for the activity. As they come downstairs in the morning, our transition to the vehicle is seamless, quick, and enjoyable (most times).
As one child is set up with an activity in the lodge, large lodge windows allow easy viewing of the lessons. I try to spend a few moments, every ten to fifteen minutes watching them learn a new skill. As I watch, I observe specific skills they do well so that I can talk to them about it after. Specific feedback goes a long way. Children prefer a “I loved the turns you made with your teacher” compared to “nice job today on the hill”; feedback shows them I love them, gives an opportunity for praise ( it takes seven positives to cure one negative), and enables us to have a conversation on the forty minute drive home. In addition to praise, when I’m speaking with my kids, I love to talk in plural. Rather than “what was your favourite part of today?”, I ask “what were your favourite parts of today?”. Giving plural questions reduces anxiety: there is more than one right answer. Kids can list a few parts of the lesson, or their day, that they enjoyed without freezing up, trying to pick a favourite. Most often they describe selecting the treat from the convenience store, post-lesson, as their most enjoyable moment. C’est la vie.
When we get home, sharing about their day gives children a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with mom or grandma and grandpa. My daughter loves to share her accomplishments of the day; often, I will say the opposite of what happened so that she can correct me. For example “she stayed at the bottom of the hill all day”– “No dad, I went to the top and I won the race with my teacher”. Some call it teasing. I call it “correcting Daddy”. Learning new skills has given my children great confidence. We encourage it through a balanced lifestyle. By that I mean, each child is only registered in one program at a time: last year our daughter did dance and no other activities coincided with it. By practicing this type of scheduling, it enables our family to have time together while the kids are still able to do what they think is fun.
Our children’s activities do not have to run our lives. With planning, we can make adventures fun, less stressful, and enjoyable. Bonding with our children on the drive, at the hill, and in our homes gives great opportunities for relationship building while the kids can learn a new activity. Make it fun, come prepared, and cherish and promote life long learning.