When I was a student, I remember there was some sort of children's program that ran on a college campus that took preschool-aged kids on walks together. They all walked in a line (sorta), following their teachers and holding onto a string together with brightly colored puffy coats and bewildered stares. Now that I'm a mom, I think there is a ton of value in taking your kid to college with you. There are so many things for kids to learn, see, and do on college campuses, even when they're a solid decade and a half away from being student-age (unless, of course, they are Doogie Howser, which is a conversation for another day. Not that I don't want to talk about Neil Patrick Harris, because I do, but it'll have to wait.)
When you think about it, college campuses are awesome places for kids. At least, during the day (no frat parties, little buddy), and as long as they're properly supervised. I don't mean to say that I think toddlers should, like, have the chance to wander into the Health Center or a science lab on their own. But with an adult? Universities can be hotbeds of learning, discussion, self-expression, self-discovery for not only students, but even for those too tiny to pronounce the names of most classes. Neither me nor my husband have been students since we became parents, but our son spends an average of 15-20 hours a week on a campus thanks to my husband's job. While he's still pretty young, I'm confident that there are a number of lessons there for him. For example:
Always Check The Weather
Ah, yes. Nothing teaches you to wear layers like going to college in the Pacific Northwest. Seriously though, any circumstances that require you to trek from building to building, at various times of day, in nearly all seasons of the year, teaches you to open your weather app every once in a while.
Watch Where You're Walking
Especially if it's five minutes before class in a busy part of campus, otherwise you will bump into people.
The World Is Your Oyster
There's something hopeful about being on a college campus. Everyone's still working toward a dream, wanting to learn, looking to better themselves and their future, and hoping to get to the cafeteria before all the pizza slices are gone. It's the land of opportunity. It's a crazy-inspiring environment to hang out in when you're a little kid.
Seeing students carrying their entire lives in their backpacks — and try to run across campus with them to take a calculus exam — is a good reminder to plan ahead, because if you don't have what you need with you, you might not always have the time to go back and get it.
Authority Figures Are People, Too
Especially when we're all stuck in a super slow line at the coffee stand for drip, or in my son's case, scones.
Libraries. All The Libraries.
Since my kiddo has been able to turn pages in his board books, the library has been one of our favorite field trips. And, even better, the campus he and I frequent has a more robust kids' section than you might expect from a place that typically caters to 18-25 year olds.
There Are More Careers Out There Than "Princess" And "Fireman"
It's too early to tell if college will be the right choice for my son, since he could easily pick a career (or careers) that don't require a university degree, but in the meantime, I'm glad for him to have the opportunity to be exposed to countless options.
...And More Things To Learn Than You Can Ever Imagine
And speaking of fields of study, if he does pursue higher education, I'm hoping he'll take the opportunity to explore things outside his major. Looking at you, "Sexuality in Scandinavia." (<-- actual class I took for credit in undergrad.)
Yay, School Spirit!
Is it too cold and rainy to play outside? Is your little one sick of the library, the cafeteria, and the rest of the student union building? Might I suggest a visit to the campus bookstore? Nothing like rows and rows and rows of mascot gear and apparel in school colors on well-lit shelves to bring some spirit to your day.
A Sense Of Community
As a retired camp counselor, I heartily believe that feeling like you belong somewhere is necessary for kids. Seeing the school colors, and mascot in random places around campus helps him recognize that he's part of something.
The Importance of Staying Hydrated
Like so many people, I learned this one in college. It will be many, many years until my son understands just why this is so, but in the meantime I think it's good that he sees water bottles attached to everyone's back. My toddler might not be trying to soothe a hangover, but it's still a good habit to pick up.
Indoor Voices Vs. Outdoor Voices
So yeah, we're still working on this one, but he always gives me good reason to reintroduce it when he starts shouting as we're walking past super quiet offices and classrooms. Thanks, little pal.
There's Value In Intelligence
OK, I love that smarties are getting more and more love in pop culture these days but I would still bet that in his lifetime, he will run into people who don't value book smarts. For the time being, I'm glad to bring him somewhere that celebrates it.
Express Yourself (Cliche Alert #1)
My son is not yet able to dress himself or uncap his own markers, but he has seen plenty of posters for student plays, so that counts for something.
Follow Your Passion (Cliche Alert #2)
If we say it to him (and show it to him) often enough, he will hopefully grow up believing it.
The Importance Of Hard Work
I hope to really emphasize this one when we take him to see a graduation ceremony.