Monday, March 28, 2011

Integrating Culture into Family Life



Throughout the spring, we have invited select friends and colleagues to guest blog for The New Victory. Look for guest posts about circus, Times Square for families and more! Today’s guest post is by Holly Rosen Fink (www.culturemom.com).

It has always been important to me to make culture a real part of our family life. When my kids were babies, I realized that I had to take a brief hiatus from most spectator activities. So I turned to the kinds of art projects and activities they could enjoy in the comfort of our own home: music classes, dance parties, art projects and watching classics like Parent Trap and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on TV. Whenever possible, we would attend outdoor art festivals where the kids could sample and participate to the extent they were able. I looked forward to the day when we could venture into theaters and museums, but we took baby steps. I knew the big day would come.

And indeed it did. Over the past few years, since my kids have ever so slightly matured, I have been bringing them to cultural events in New York City - all over the boroughs. Now that they are ages six and seven, we go into the city often. Here are a few strategies for integrating culture into your family life, based on my own experiences:

Less can be more
  • Choose a hand full of theaters and museums that you know and trust, and focus on their offerings. The more you try to do, the less you’ll actually do.
Plan ahead to save
  • Join a group like PBS Kids Club 13. It takes you all over the city to landmarks and museums at the low cost of $75 a year.
  • Become a member of the organizations that you believe in so that you can schedule events in your calendar well in advance, as well as save money. At the New Vic, by ordering tickets for three or more productions at one time, you become a member and save 30% off your tickets.
Tap into what your children like
  • When my daughter was young, she was into the Disney princesses, so I took her to see The Little Mermaid on Broadway. This year she is into fairies and witches, so we went to see Wicked.
  • Go to museums that offer kids’ tours or scavenger hunts, kids’ sections or activities. It will make the art much more appealing to your children, and you’ll have a better chance of being able to take in some of the exhibit yourself.
Introduce new things
  • We are actually regulars at The New Victory Theater, where we are amongst many moms, dads and kids eager for the special performances they present from around the world. Last year, we went to see The Enchanted Pig, which was one of those “Aha!” moments for me about living near New York City and being able to introduce my children to the finest theatrical experiences in existence. My daughter was literally enchanted by the production. Plus, she went to an opera and did not for one minute lean over and ask me what was going on OR tell me she wanted to leave!

Olivia, age 6, at The Enchanted Pig
Encourage their budding interests
  • When your kids are ready, start them on musical instruments - even toy instruments, until you feel they are old enough to start taking lessons. Going to a classical concert will take on a whole new meaning. We recently took our kids to Jazz at Lincoln Center - Jazz for Young People. Now that my son is interested in playing the guitar and is taking piano lessons, his interest in these types of concerts is far greater than before.
  • The same goes for drama lessons! If your child seems to have a knack for acting, don’t shy away from it. Nurture the passion and energy.
Know your family’s limits
  • Space your events out. I know that my kids need to play too, so I never plan too much in a weekend. Going to one event and making it special goes a lot further than overwhelming your children and wearing them out.
  • Make sure your kids are well fed before the curtain rises to avoid any issues during the show.
  • If your child has a meltdown or can’t make it through a show, take a step back and stop going until you see a change in behavior. Instead, read books, talk about plays and encourage music and theater at home.
Culture is important to my kids because it’s important to their mom. I make it a part of our daily life, and using the tactics I mention above, they want it just as much as I do. Living in New York City, there are so many choices for a culture-loving family. It’s important to take advantage of what we have on our doorstep.

Holly with her children
Photo: culturemom.com

Holly Rosen Fink has a career that spans the world of television and publishing, including positions at Lifetime Television, Nickelodeon/MTV and John Wiley and Sons. She is now founder of Maxo Social Media and Marketing Consulting and SoMediaNY. Her current client list includes Ruckus Media Group, Myriad Marketing and CACHET Consulting. She is also a contributor to AChildGrows.com, TravelingMom.com, CBS New York and Kids Club 13.

3 comments:

  1. There's no place I'd rather take my kids than NYC for a healthy dose of culture! When we plan to attend a show, we always choose the afternoon matinee. They're not old enough yet to stay up late AND remain agreeable!

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  2. What a great article! Such awesome ideas! I know I want to start introducing my kids to theater and the arts more. I had so many opportunities when I was a child and have yet to pass those same ones on to my own children. Living in Long Island and so close to the city makes this easy and I really need to start doing so. Thank you so much for sharing these!

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  3. Fantastic tips - Love them! I especially think it's never too young to start, and am happy to see your ideas here for us to learn from!

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