Loads of childhood bucket lists exist. I know because I have Googled them, always with the intent of ensuring my kids have childhoods rich with idyllic moments. If our young are supposed to leave our homes not even two decades after their birth, then every day counts.
The lists I find invariably include items like “roll down a grassy hill” and “catch fireflies in a glass jar” – all the quintessential moments that become the fondest memories. Although I definitely want my kids to have these memories, I also want something deeper these lists typically leave off.
As I’ve scoured the bucket lists others have put together, I have noticed the lists tend to neglect great experiences that will shape character and stoke maturity in kids.
As much as I want my kids to be kids as long as possible, I also desire for them to be prepared for living in the world as both joyful, thankful and mature adults. It is from this perspective I add the following bucket list items:
- Learn to fish. So many life lessons rolled into one activity: patience, nature, circle of life, self-provision. It’s a breathing metaphor, as well as a practical skill.
- Have a pen pal, the old fashion way. There is something special about having handwritten mail to send and receive, and to learn someone’s heart before you know what they look like.
- Grow a vegetable. Working the land is an amazing connection to not only nature, but also our world’s common agrarian ancestors. Every culture ever started with cultivating the land. Even a single tomato plant in a patio container offers an element of this connection.
- Befriend an elderly neighbor. Watch The Sandlot and tell me I’m wrong on this one. Knowing how to navigate the generation gap will be a skill that will serve kids well for the remainder of their lives. More importantly, the lessons they learn from a wise, experienced older person will prove invaluable.
- Save up money – for someone else’s benefit. Ultimately, success will be determined not by how much wealth they accumulate, but by how much of themselves they give away.
- Build something with wood. Applicable to girls and boys alike. Being able to visualize and craft something from a hunk of wood is an incomparable accomplishment. Besides, birds cannot have too many feeders and some mom somewhere needs a new knife-holder.
- Write, illustrate and bind a paper “book.” Creative genius meets critical thinking skills all in one glorious task. No screen time required.
- Be responsible for a younger child. When age and situationally appropriate, of course. Nothing teaches maturity like the expectation of maturity. Plus, younger kids tend to look up to older kids. When the older kids realize they can be a hero in someone else’s eyes, their confidence will soar.
- Interview their grandparents about their lives. My kids have no idea just how special these stories will be to them one day.
- Care for an animal. Whether it is a pet of their own or someone else’s fur baby, learning to delicate task of caring for a creature that cannot speak will make them see the depth of the Creator’s brilliance and their own capacity for compassion.
- Give your time and talent to someone who cannot pay you back. This can take on many forms, whether working in a food pantry, raking up leaves for a disabled neighbor or some other form of service. Kids learn they can offer this world something it needs.
- Take on responsibilities around the house (aka “chores”). On a weekly if not daily basis. Family takes care of family, and that includes pitching in to make family life run smoothly.
You will find my kids regularly rolling down hills, frolicking in waterfalls and roasting marshmallows over a campfire. God willing, you will also find them sitting next to an elderly neighbor on his porch and see them with a dishtowel in their hands.
I am confident one day they will look back on all these experiences with fondness.