It’s so important to spend uninterrupted time with our kids, get down on the floor with them and play, be interested in their interests, but we’re also all busy. We don’t always have the time to set up elaborate train tracks for Thomas and his pals, or we just don’t have the imagination nor the patience needed to play “puppies go to the grocery store” for the 80th time this week.
Kids need quality time though, so what is there to do? Buck up and drink tepid tap water “tea” while pretending to scarf down some plastic food? Yeah, sometimes. But the good news is that quality time can look like a lot of things and research says that having small bits of focused, engaged quality time is even more important than the amount of time you spend with your kids.
Here are some easy ways to work quality time with the kids into an already busy life:
- Movie Night. There are tons of great family movies out there that won’t even make you feel like that one scene in “A Clockwork Orange” where you have to force your eyelids to stay open. Make it extra fun by having a special treat: root beer floats, ice cream sundaes, a trail mix bar, or just a good old fashioned giant tub of popcorn.
- Grocery shopping. I know, it’s really just one task of many that you need to cross off your to-do list, but slowing down just a bit to shop with a “helper” (actual helpfulness may vary) is a great way to squeeze in some one-on-one time. Give them a list or a stack of coupons or task them with getting the items into the cart. I have really fond memories of grocery shopping with my mom, which I did into my teens, just because I liked hanging out with her.
- Take a hike. Or just a stroll around the neighborhood. Look for pretty flowers, count how many dogs you see, stop to check out bugs. Or just meander without any goal or purpose, I find that my older kids will often open up to me about things they normally don’t when we’re on casual after-dinner walks. If they aren’t hunting Pokemon that is.
- Cook together. Yes, it takes longer, it’s messier, things get licked, but even toddlers can help with dinner prep. Not only is it a valuable life skill, cooking with your kids is also great for bonding when you don’t have a lot of extra time to spare.
- At Home Manicures. If they’re old enough, let them paint your nails and then you paint theirs. If you’re feeling really fancy you can make a whole thing of it with pedicures and manicures and pampering. But any old drug store nail polish will do the trick, and aside from the inevitable spills and smudges, it’s a great way to have a relaxed few moments together.
- Gardening. I’m kind of terrible at gardening, with very little outdoor space to boot, but even I have managed to grow a few things. So if I can, anyone can, and there’s nothing quite as thrilling for a kid (or me!) as seeing a teeny-tiny strawberry on a plant they’ve helped bring to life. Plus there’s dirt and possibly worms, doesn’t get much better than that!
- Fix it. Similar to cooking together, fixing or building things together is great for multi-tasking quality time. Little kids can learn how to use a screw driver, measuring tape, sandpaper, and even hammers when appropriately supervised, and older kids can handle even more. Make a spice rack together, fix the hinge on that one cabinet you’ve been meaning to get around to; whatever needs to get done, do it together.
- Crafts. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or time consuming, adult coloring books are all the rage right now, for example. Sitting down to focus on creating something together is probably just the stress reliever you need, and if it has the bonus of squeezing in that quality time together you all need, even better.
image via: Happy Worker