Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a big part of my life for years. I was “matched” with my first “Little” right out of college, and we were matched for two years until her family moved out of state. A few years later, I decided to sign up again, and I’ve been a Big Sis to Lindalee for nearly two years. Spending time with her twice per month is definitely a highlight for me.
Together, we’re into dog walking, cupcake making, car singalongs and bowling; and of course, chatting about our lives, talking about school (Linda is very into Accelerated Reader and multiplication these days) and generally having a good time.
Big Brothers Big Sisters does a great job of hooking up volunteers with resources they need, and even gives tickets to events on occasion, but even so, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep our activities new and fresh (especially in bad weather when we can’t really go outside). Enter: the Library.
One of the easiest things to do when I’m not sure what to plan for an outing is to pull up the library website or app and check on which locations have something going on that my lil’ sis is interested in. We’ve visited a number of different libraries this way, and it’s great! Lego club, maker programs and sensory story time have all been favorites. After we’re done, we read some books and spend time playing games together on the computer (and we once spent nearly 45 minutes googling pictures of baby bats — surprisingly adorable). It’s been really convenient that Linda doesn’t need her own library card to use a computer, so we’re able to explore no matter where we go.
The library also helps out when we go on long drives. Because my Little Sis lives about 45 minutes away from me, it can be a haul to get to some of the activities we enjoy. When I know we’ll be in the car for a long time, I pick up some of her go-tos like Diary of Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, or even just some fun, short picture books to keep her (and I) amused while she reads out loud during the ride. (A recent favorite was I Love Dogs.)
As Linda has gotten more interested in baking and cooking with me, I’ll grab some cookbooks, and we’ll look through them together, read the recipes, shop for ingredients and make some delicious treats. (She also enjoys browsing cookbooks in the car, too.) Recent cookbooks we’ve chosen include The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, Smart Cookie and Baking with Kids.
Finally, although Big Brothers Big Sisters does check in with me to make sure everything is going okay, it’s also nice to know I can grab some books on mentoring, how to navigate conversations, or even how to come up with new activities. (I’ve found that browsing parenting books can be useful for mentors, too!) Here are a few titles that look good to me — I’d love to hear any recommendations anyone has!
- 303 Tween-Approved Exercises and Active Games
- A Guide to Youth Mentoring
- Big Impact: Big Brothers Making a Difference
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk
- Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them
- The Miracles of Mentoring: The Joy of Investing in Our Future
- Talking to Tweens
- Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World
p.s. if you live in Pittsburgh and you’re interested in getting involved, Big Brothers Big Sisters is always looking for new mentors. You can get started here.