It seems in our society, “hurry up” signs are all around us. Just look in any bookstore and you’ll see it reflected in the titles: Five-minute Brain Teasers, 10-minute Math Facts, and Ways to Train the Brain in Just Seven Days.
In a culture that emphasizes and rewards quick results, there isn’t much time to learn the value of patience. How are we to teach children that good things come to those who wait, or that patience is a virtue, without our children asking why? Is it possible to encourage a child’s patience? To teach that delayed gratification can bring reward? Perhaps. Here are a few ideas:
Purchase a butterfly kit.
If you want to teach patience (and economics), find some Monarch caterpillars by the roadside. They can usually be found on the milkweed plant. If you don’t know what milkweed looks like, take your child to the local library. Teach her how to find books that describe plants like milkweed that attract butterflies. Then use screening and cover an old aquarium or critter tank; it can be the beginning of a butterfly habitat.
In doing this, you are teaching your child to be inventive, by finding items to make a habitat, and to be economical, by finding her own caterpillars. (You will need to do some research to discover when and what type of caterpillars emerge in the Mid-South.) If you need additional instructions, go online to educational websites. Once the butterflies emerge, release them into your own backyard. A couple of butterfly bushes are easy to plant and will then be ready for your fluttery friends.
Plant a garden.
A child at almost any age can enjoy a garden experience. Young children ages 2 to 4 can dig, spread mulch, or plant seedlings. They can also put on gardening gloves and use a trowel to search the soil for garden friends like worms. If they’re lucky, they might even find a toad or two. You will be amazed at the questions that swirl around the remainder of the day.
School-aged children ages 7 or 8 can learn how to design their own garden by using graph paper. Have your child pick out seed packets, determine the zone he lives in, and think about what plants will do well in your garden’s sun and soil. Try planting tomatoes. Then wait and watch as your garden grows.
As far as I’m concerned, the scent of a ripe tomato is unmatched as a summertime fragrance. Though it’s been 20 years since I walked in my father’s garden, tears still spring to my eyes when I smell a tomato. That scent transports me back to a time when my father’s tomato plants would be heavy with fruit, the sweet, red globes bursting with luscious flavor. Such memories are as sweet as the smell.
Bait a hook.
Does your child know how to fish? Take him to an area lake and teach him how to bait a hook and wait for a fish to nibble.
Create a piñata.
Have you ever made something from papier mâché? Just glue and water, it’s easy to make; look for instructions online and cover a balloon. Allow your child to add paint and watch the magic happens. He’ll be so proud that he actually made a birthday activity for his or a sibling’s party. Fill it with yummy treats. It can even be a fun decoration for the bedroom. The bonus is that it takes time and patience to construct.
Learn a musical instrument.
Have your child take lessons on the piano or violin. Studies have shown that playing a musical instrument stimulates multiple areas of the brain. Better, in order to progress your child must practice and learn patience to polish his skill.
The warm winds of June whisper the coming of summer. The days grow longer and present the perfect time to teach patience through nature. Don’t forget to also teach responsibility, by changing the nectar in hummingbird feeders, by watering the garden, by releasing back into the wild any frog that finds its way into the pool.
As we work to teach patience to our video-connected, gratification-laden generation, we may discover the value of patience ourselves.
Peggy Lux is a reading tutor and Memphis mom.