It can be hard to come up with creative and healthy ways to spend time with our kids. Often it can be tempting to let them watch TV or play video games while we parents do more “grown-up things” like chores or work. But scheduling 30 minutes or more a day with our kids without distractions can be much more valuable for both you and your kids then giving them a few distracted minutes here and there throughout the day. Whether this time is after school, in the evening or over a long holiday break, here are a few suggestions of ways to have fun with your kids.
1. Go Outside! You don’t need a plan, just go. If it is cold bundle up so no one complains and goes running back inside. If you have a swing set, use it; a trampoline, jump; if you have access to woods or fields go explore, if you live in a neighborhood go for a walk. Make a nature collection or nature art, play tag or basketball, build a fairy village or a fort. Often it is better to walk outside with our children without a plan, so that we are free to be in the moment and let our children lead the way.
2. Play. Again, no need to have a plan, but here are a few suggestions just in case your kids need help. Play school, I have found letting my children be the teacher in this game is very informative. You may learn more about what they are currently working on at school, the flow and schedule of their day, behavioral expectations and consequences. Not to mention, one of the best ways for our children to learn is to teach. Other suggestions include board games, puzzles, dolls, Legos, play-doh, coloring…the options are as endless as you and your child’s imagination.
3. Practice yoga or have a dance party. There are many benefits to having a home yoga practice, first and foremost you can share it with your family. The benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, strength, and balance. Including breath work and meditation with a home yoga practice also helps reduce stress and create more clarity in the mind. Yoga can be fun and playful. Dancing is also a great way to get the family up, moving, laughing and interacting. Everyone can pick a favorite song, choreograph a routine if they’d like, make it competitive or collaborative.
4. Cook or bake. Kids love to feel helpful and needed. Find a job in the kitchen suitable and safe for their skills. Pouring, measuring, chopping and mixing can be completed by young helpers while working over heat and with sharper utensils can be empowering for older kids. Let them help search for and plan a family meal or make a dessert. You can also include valuable lessons on nutrition while teaching your kids practical life skills for the future. No need to stop with the food, help them set a fancy table while teaching them good etiquette in the kitchen and while dining.
5. Plan an outing. You don’t have to wait for the weekend to take a field trip. The library or the local playground can be a nice weeknight outing; take a jog or a bike ride on a local bike path or through the neighborhood. Find a nearby MetroPark or city park and go for a hike. Take your kids to a café and have them tell you about their day over hot chocolate or check out a local museum.
The most important thing is to spend a little uninterrupted and unplugged time with your kids each day. Not only will you have a stronger more meaningful relationship with your family, but you might even find you are more productive with your “to do” list if you take a scheduled break.