Time spent with your kids creates lasting memories for both of you. Years later, you won't remember the daily grind. What holds value are the moments you purposely stopped and made time for - making a snowman, drawing a picture, or playing a game. It's easier than you think. Simply be present. Be available. Be involved.
Not only does time spent with your children create rich experiences for them; it's also a way for you to release tension and recharge your energy. And, like adults, kids carry their own stresses. By taking a break from routine, and having fun simply for the sake of having fun, you are providing a healthy outlet for stress while building strong relationships.
With young kids, you're not just their caretaker- you are also their first friend. When kids are little, it is easier. Their lives haven't been overly scheduled yet with school, sports, clubs, and outside friends. Once in school, their world gets a little bigger. And when they are older still, and can come and go more independently, you have to be more creative with how to interject special times into busy schedules. Below are just a few ideas to help you take advantage of the moments you spend together. You'll both be grateful you did and who knows, you may start a family tradition that they will not only remember, but fondly continue with their own children one day.
In the House
- Baking and crafts. The end result isn't as important as the process. Cookies don't have to be perfectly round or perfectly spaced on the cookie sheet; they'll taste just as a good and offer a sense of accomplishment to boot. And crafts are a form of art - beauty is in the eyes of the beholder! The beauty from the time spent together radiates out from those pinned up pictures on your wall or refrigerator!
- Game night is always a good option for time set aside for family fun. Be sure to find games that can engage the whole family - ones that are easy to understand yet still test your skill (check out some great options here). No matter what you play, when you bond over family game nights, everyone wins!
- Grab a book from your shelves or from a trip to the library. Let that story come to life by helping your kids recreate it. Have fun using silly voices and/or puppets. Making homemade sock or stick puppets can add another layer of memory-making. Create the characters from play dough and embellish them with things like plastic water bottle cap hats, pipe cleaner arms, and dental floss hair. Have little budding thespians? Each of you can take a role (or two or three) from the book and act it out in dramatic theater fashion - dressing the part, of course!
- Planning a picnic or camping is especially convenient if you do it in your own back yard. When it's so close to home, you can enjoy it without having to remember to bring everything. If something is missing, just run inside to get it. Going to the washroom isn't the major ordeal hiking to the nearest public restroom is. And, walking in bare feet in your yard may be easier than other venues. Experience the different senses - how does the grass feel on your feet? What do the flowers smell like? Close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? All these sensations give you something to discuss. As you talk about what you hear, feel, taste, smell, and see, you help kids develop their senses, become aware of their surroundings, and learn how to use words to describe it all. And bonus, the same part of your brain that processes sensory stimulation is also responsible for storing emotional memories!
- Create a hide and seek game in your backyard. Hide animal figurines (check out some great options here) throughout the yard. Then have kids race to find them. When they get close to one, rather than telling them they are "getting warmer," make the sound the animal makes!
On the Go
- Learn to treasure the time you're in the car! Rather than driving in silence, plugged in and plugged up with earbuds, fill that time with singing, joking, and having fun. This time is especially valuable when you are running older kids to and from various activities. It may be the only time you have alone. Get them talking. Those talks are a time to give advice, and take advice too; it's a two-way street. You might be surprised if you try to learn from them as much as you teach them.
- Sitting at restaurants or waiting rooms is another tidbit of time that can be spent playing a quick game. Take 5 things from your purse, the table, or waiting room and put them in a row in front of your kids. Have them look and then close their eyes. When their eyes are closed, rearrange the order or take a piece away. Let them figure out what's been changed. This is a quick, fun game that kids like playing over and over. And soon enough, your dinner has arrived or your name has been called. Need additional ideas? Carry along games like Take10! or even our Story Starter Cubes for times like this. Roll the cubes and create stories based on the characters, settings, and situations rolled. Go around the table and keep adding to the story.
Every day has 24 hours. Spending even a small amount of it together really can make a big difference!
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