When I think about children celebrations here in Dubai, it immediately comes to my mind those super-loud birthday parties with only treats and chicken nugget as nibbles, plus one host that turn the music on at maximum volume screaming into the microphone trying to cheer the children no matter what. It seems the louder the music and voice, they think the children will enjoy more. Almost all activities are guided and have a defined schedule, without leaving enough space for just BEING…
But what about children? Do they really enjoy these kind of birthday parties? If they have the option to choose. Would they choose this one?
I strongly believe that kids can enjoy the most in a place where they can nourish themselves. A place where they can feel more freedom. With less external stimulation to feel more the inspiration from within.
We need to create spaces for children that allow them to feel connected with their surroundings.
And I think this connection is more about free playing, softer music and real food. You will be asking why…
I mention real food not only for the “healthy food speech” that we have every time we take our children to fast food restaurants, but also because their little bodies are fed directly by nature that way. It is a good way to connect with colors, flavors and food diversity. A way to connect with the planet.
It is also a very good opportunity to create a “happy association / happy memories” with healthier options. All of us have a “happy memory” with certain type of food from our childhood. In fact, this is the main reason why we tend to associate children with treats.
I also mention soft music, to allow children to really LISTEN. To listen to other children and their parents. To listen to themselves.
As a music teacher I know how important music is for child development. How they can connect by exploring sounds with all their senses.
But there is a huge difference between “listening to music” and “listening to noise”.
Expose them to music from the moment they are babies, including the contact with musicians and real musical instruments, is a beautiful way to engage children to it.
Finally, I strongly believe that children need more free playing, more than anything else. Free playing allows children to develop confidence and to connect with their surroundings (their space, their friends, their family, themselves).
The key is to leave spaces for children to develop their curiosity and creativity without constantly depending on adults. Certainly, this does not exclude organizing and guiding some activities, but with a balance between both options.
We need to stop underestimating children, believing that we need to be constantly organizing activities for them, believing that they only want to eat junk food in a party or thinking they need to be overstimulated to have a good time.
If children have these beliefs it is because we are showing them the world in that way. It is our responsibility as adults to change paradigms. Are you willing to change them? How do you plan to celebrate the next birthday party of your child? What will you do next weekend? What are you doing today to entertain your children? Think about it and take it easy. The answer can be super simple and super fun!
Written by: Alejandra Aranda (Chilean living in Dubai, Mom of two, BSc in Project Management, Positive Discipline Parent Educator, Music teacher and founder of kidslabmusic program (www.kidslabmusic.com) and founder of @thekidlunchbox on Instagram).