The struggle to connect with kids is real. From smart TVs, to gaming consoles, tablets, computers and cellphones, our kids are integrating into the world around them in smart new ways. In fact, our schools facilitate the integration of these skills. We are have arrived. We are now a tech-based culture resulting in fewer opportunities to really engage in that old-fashioned hand-holding kind of a way.

For all of the wonderful things tech can bring us, it’s important to protect the human-only skills, too. Tacoma has a plethora of outlets for physical activity, special interest workshops and camps, but not as many parent-child experiences that specifically nurture conversation, imagination and cognitive development.

Here’s a list of some ideas for engaging with your kids in real time, in real life and in real space, right here in Tacoma.

Go Treasure Hunting

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? Treasure hunts offer opportunities for delayed gratification, wonder, developing situational awareness and exercise. Plus, you can take a bag and pick up trash along the journey. Winter is the perfect time to get out in the parks and search for treasure, whether that treasure is one of the Monkeyshines set out over Lunar New Year weekend, painted rocks or unique bits of nature. If you are enthralled by the possibility of finding that one-in-a-million treasure right here in our city, you can even up your game with a metal detector. Metro Parks Tacoma has lots of great places to hunt. Click here for a list of parks.

Learn About the Old Ways with an Antique Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunt
Two-for-one Antique Scavenger Hunting. Aven Champion, age 9, found a blue and white bell and something with Arizona on it. Photo credit: Aimee Champion

Kids of all ages enjoy thinking of random weirdness and making lists. Why not make a list of things to find and hit Antique Row for a couple of hours? Stop and say hi to the shopkeepers. Tell them you’re on a photo scavenger hunt and ask if they have anything on your list. They love to help and talk about their wares. You get to know your neighbors, and your kids get intriguing glimpses into history. Best of all, when you’re lucky, you can share in the process of learning with your child. If you’re super ambitious, create a memory book of photos for your trips. You can make a day of it at 7th and Broadway at shops like Brandy’s Attic,  Sanford & Son’s Antiques, Luluz & Co., Savoy Special Vintage and Vessel Vintage Collective.

Upcycle and Reinvent

Pinterest is great for ideas and Tacoma has got you covered on where to get your pieces and parts.

Tacoma is a mecca for creators, and you and your kids can join in the fun. Make a plan for what to create and head to the UW campus and check out our very own tinkering shop, Tinkertopia. Local thrift shops are an awesome place to find random pieces and parts. Upcycle old puzzles with paint, create room décor and dioramas with old board game parts, or make funky bird houses for the yard.

Get Creative in the Kitchen

The kitchen is a great place to learn or refresh practical skills like planning, measuring and experimenting. It requires conversation and generates lots of questions and ideas. Plus, learning to make the things you put into your body from scratch sets kids up for self-care later in life. Get your kitchen skills rolling with cooking classes with Molly’s Tamale’s  She offers them throughout the year for parents and kids, alike. You can also use the kitchen for more than food! Or take some workshops to learn about plants, foraging and wildcrafting at Hawthorne & Honey.

Make Music

Science tells us that music offers huge benefits not only for the developing brain, but for the old ones set in their ways, too. If music is your gig, check out the events calendars at Shakabrah Java for all ages karaoke – Saturdays starting at 4:00 p.m. and Ted Brown Music in Tacoma that offers “Bombooshay” drum circle on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and “Uke an’ Jam” Ukulele jam session on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.

Enjoy a Story at Drag Queen Story Hour

Drag Queen Story Hour
Drag Queen Story Hour at Fern & Foster, LLC. Photo credit: Danielle Schell

Finally, if you want to sit, relax and not have to drive the conversation, there’s Drag Queen Story Hour. One of several activities on the community schedule at Tacoma’s own Fern & Foster Family Wellness Center, it’s conveniently located at 1402 S. 11th Street, Tacoma, WA. Drag Queen Story Hour is a collaboration with the Imperial Sovereign Court of Tacoma, where storytime gets a dose of pageantry and intrigue. Check it out on the first Saturdays of each month at 3:00 p.m. 

Just Sit

Sitting together seems to be a thing of the past without fast-paced world, but its virtues are plentiful. Taking the time to sit and share experience creates connections, develops intuitive skills and offers a wide variety of perspective shifting opportunities.

Take the bus. This builds navigation and allows you time to engage. Make a transfer to your favorite spot. You can find your routes at the Pierce Transit website.

If you want more private space, go back-seat driving. Let your kids tell you which way to go and explore the city through your child’s eyes.

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