If you’ve made the decision to become a “Big” with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA), you’re in for an experience that many other Bigs have described as life-changing. Watching your “Little” grow and discover new things about themselves and their abilities is immensely rewarding, and Bigs often report that spending time with their Little is one of the highlights of their schedule.
When it comes to choosing specific activities to do with your Little, there is no shortage of great ideas. JBBBSLA encourages you to stick with free or low-cost activities that you both enjoy doing, but beyond that, the sky is the limit. Activity categories you could explore include:
Sports and recreation
Physical activity-based outings are a great choice, especially if you’re spending time with a high-energy Little who loves to burn off steam! Activities can be as simple as playing some pick-up basketball at your local court, or as involved as training together for a 5K run/walk event. If you and your Little both enjoy routine, a regular activity like taking a community dance class together could fit the bill. It’s also fun for Bigs to help their Littles get out into nature and the outdoors; try taking your Little for a hike in summer or finding the perfect sledding hill in winter. Many of these ideas are also a great way for you to model a fit and active lifestyle (and perhaps to get some much-needed exercise yourself!) and to encourage your Little to develop healthy habits at an early age.
For most of us, life is so busy and scheduled that we often don’t have time to enjoy what’s right in our own backyard. If you and your Little are from the same neighborhood, spending time together there can help you get to know it (and each other) better. Challenge yourselves to a neighborhood scavenger hunt where you have to look for unique features in your community, like finding three houses that have red doors or counting how many trees there are on one block. Test drive local businesses to find out which coffee shop offers the best hot chocolate. Set up a lemonade stand in the summer and get to know your neighbors. You might find that your connection to your Little gets stronger if you both share a connection to the same place.
Arts and culture
In introducing your Little to your city or town’s arts and culture offerings, you’re helping them build an appreciation for the arts that will last a lifetime. And while you might think that arts-based outings are expensive, they certainly don’t have to be. Museums and galleries typically offer free or reduced admission for kids, and children’s ticket prices for concerts, plays, or dance performances are usually discounted, as well. Many universities or colleges with arts programs frequently offer free exhibitions and performances. Or why not try making some art with your Little? Try writing a story together or write a play to perform for your friends and families. If you both play a musical instrument, make your own band and record some songs.
You’re already giving back to your community by being a Big, but spending time with your Little is the perfect opportunity to show them that other forms of community engagement are just as rewarding and fun. Find out which community organizations could use basic volunteer help. For instance, you can spend an afternoon together walking dogs for your local animal shelter, reading stories to nursing home residents, or putting up posters for local fundraising events.
Education and life skills
Your Little is looking to you to help provide additional support and guidance in learning and building the important life skills they will need as they grow into independent young adults. This might sound serious, but don’t worry—it can be plenty of fun, too. Teach your Little how to cook by making your own pizza together or how to patch a flat bike tire before you go for a ride. Introduce your Little to financial planning by having them help you design a budget for your outings, or help your Little get comfortable using public transit by going on an exploratory bus ride. Fun activities almost always involve an opportunity for learning, so don’t be afraid to step into the role of teacher once in a while.
Learn from your Little
Of course, learning isn’t a one-way street, and your Little has plenty to teach you, too. Giving your Little the chance to instruct you in something they’re skilled at helps build their confidence and self-esteem, increases their social competence, and helps them feel empowered. Ask your Little to share their knowledge with you, whether that’s the lyrics to their favorite song, the rules of their favorite board game, or the best moves for a sport they love to play.