On a recent summer vacation, our son grew by leaps and bounds in a single week.
We were vacationing with two other families, and my son the youngest child. Last year when we spent a week with these families, my son mostly played by himself and with us. He was four months into his third year, and was still steeped in parallel play.
This year my son was three months into his fourth year, and has become engrossed in fantasy play. He also loves to play with other kids this year, and it really made a difference.
As doting parents we brought some of his favorite books, binoculars, a magnifying glass, night vision goggles, and art supplies. But the hit for all the kids—Magnetiles.
They all played with them—a lot. And we even had to explain to my son that even though these were his toys, he needed to share.
At the beginning of our trip my son rocked an all day trip in the car, looking at his Star Wars encyclopedias and playing with the Magnetiles in the back seat. We told him he was a “good traveler”, and he repeated this to everyone all week. We have not bought him an iPad, and don’t need to. That kid can really self entertain and play well without it.
There were a few major highlights for him—and for us. My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment each time we saw him mastering a new skill.
1. He fell in love with swimming.
After the first night in a hotel, we went in the pool swimming to kill time and stretch out the next morning. My son didn’t want to swim, go under water, or do much. He had been in lessons when he was little but it had been a long winter with only one day at a water park for water fun.
By the end of the week, and with the mojo given to him by his “big kid” friends, my son was going down a water slide, going underwater when I plugged his nose, jumping off the side of the pool into our arms, and “surfing” on my legs while I sat on the pool stairs.
2. The three of us had our first experience with an alpine slide.
We stayed at a ski resort with two side-by-side alpine slides that went from the top of a small mountain down for about a 3-4 minute ride through turns and dips. It was awesome! My husband and I had never done this and we fell in love. We weren’t sure what my son would think, so we had forgone the all day pass for two passes.
We had to ride a chairlift to the top of the mountain, which was different than the gondola ride we had just taken, but it didn’t matter—my son was in love. He held on, looked around, and tilted his head back to feel the breeze on his face. Then he posed for selfies with mom, but wouldn’t let me hold on to him to keep him safe.
He went on the slide first with me, which was nerve wrecking because I was on a new sled with only a lever between my legs to stop us. It didn’t matter, we both laughed all the way down that mountain. His next trip with his dad he was laughing hysterically. He was sad when we couldn’t keep going.
3. He spent a morning on a kayak.
We recently went camping and he canoed for the first time, but as soon as he realized what kayaks were, he was obsessed. He would point them out all the way up to our vacation spot on Lake Superior. So, when it was his turn, he insisted on “helping” paddle for about five minutes, and then sat back and enjoyed the scenery.
That day we saw a bald eagle and it’s nest, this was really special to my husband and I. My son could have cared less—he had a new friend. A loon had been popping up in the water near him and then diving down and disappearing for a minute, only to pop up somewhere else, but still in my son’s line of sight. He fell in love with that loon and talked about it all the way home.
4. He hiked up a mountain to a lookout and back down again with almost no assistance.
This was an impromptu excursion, as we followed a cliff side up along a waterfall we decided to hike to the top of the mountain. No one was prepared with enough water or snacks, but we pulled six adults and five children up that mountain anyways. My son has been hiking before, but this three and a half mile trek was work for everyone. He held my hand a lot to keep pace, but I never had to carry him!
He also learned to boulder—using his hands and feet to climb up stuff. The confidence in his body that grew was amazing to watch, as it morphed into tenacity. He was going to get up those rocks, and he did.
5. He was invited to play with the big kids.
Within the first few hours, a fort popped up in the kid’s room. There were iPads to play with and other games they made up. But I could not believe how many times he was invited to play with big boys—four to five years his seniors!
He is fun to play with, smart, and not too bossy. When he turned them down to keep playing with Magnetiles, I knew that he had found a niche with these kids he had not seen in a year.
As an infant, your child grows up in front of you everyday-- quickly. When they are toddlers they continue to grow and assert their independence, but the growth isn’t as dramatic. The pace seems to slow down. By the time they are four you get used to them saying new things, but I was not prepared for how many new things he would try and master.
I watched my child grow smarter, wiser, more confident, and bolder in a week. I watched him learn, explore, and enjoy the company of others he doesn’t know very well. I also watched him play and have fun—lots of fun!