How to Make Time for Quality Time with Your Kids
Whether you’re a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, have one child or four, it can be hard to carve out quality time with each of your kids. Our plates are so full with things that we need to do that it can be difficult to find time for things that we want to do.
That said, despite all of our competing obligations, we all know that there is nothing more important than spending quality time with our kids. Here are the strategies I use to find that time – and make sure I’m maximizing it.
1. Let go of the “shoulds”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that I will never get to the end of my to-do list. Between work, childcare, cleaning, cooking, laundry, organizing, and everything else on my plate, there is always something I should be doing.
But here’s the thing: life isn’t about checking off the next task on our to-do lists. At the end of the day, the “shoulds” aren’t what matters. It’s the moments when we ignore our to-do lists and let go of the “shoulds” that we’re going to remember.
So, whenever I can, I ignore the hundreds of things running through my head. We won’t remember the fact that dinner was PB&J’s or the house was messier than it should be, but my kids will remember Mom playing with them, and – more importantly – how special it made them feel to have Mom’s full attention.
2. Enlist help with chores
I know what you’re thinking. Ignoring the “shoulds” is all well and good in theory, but in reality, there’s a lot that needs to get done. I hear you.
Ignoring your to-do list is not always realistic – or possible. If there are things you need to get done, why not let your kids help out? Yes, it will take five times as long, and yes, enlisting their “help” may use up every ounce of patience you have. But young children generally LOVE to help out with the chores, so I like to take advantage of that while I can (I have no delusions of this lasting forever!).
Let them help with the vacuuming. Give them a cloth and show them how to dust or wipe the baseboards. Assign them the task of matching socks or folding washcloths. Teach them how to put away the cutlery or their own dishes. Even at a young age, there are plenty of tasks that they can help out with. Not only are they learning important life skills, they’ll likely be thrilled to be working alongside you.
You can make it extra fun by turning on music and challenging yourselves to complete your task before a song is over. Or, take advantage of this time to talk to them. I often find that my kids will open up more to me when we’re working or playing side-by-side versus when we sit down for a more formal conversation.
3. Make one-on-one time a priority
We have three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1, and my husband I and are juggling two demanding careers. To say life is busy would be an understatement! In the day-to-day chaos of our household, it is easy for one child to feel lost in the shuffle. That’s why we make it a point to make one-on-one time a priority.
One-on-one time doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as reading or playing in their room while the rest of the family is elsewhere, or taking only one child to the grocery store. We will also schedule date nights with one parent and one child, which are a welcome chance to spend some quality one-on-one time. Our children thrive with individual attention, and will often show a very different side of themselves than they do when their siblings are around.
4. Surprise them
One of my favourite ways to squeeze quality time into day-to-day life is to simply change up the routine. Take the long way home to drive past their favourite Christmas lights. Walk to pick them up from daycare. Take the bus to swimming lessons instead of driving. Make an unplanned stop at the coffee shop or park, or take them out for frozen yogurt after dinner. Pack a picnic and have dinner at the beach, or go on a family bike ride after dinner. Play their favourite song in the car with the windows down and the music turned up. Simple changes – that take very little extra time – can make an everyday activity into something special.
5. Turn exercise into a family activity
Along the lines of enlisting help with chores, why not exercise with your kids? Not only do you maximize your time by combining exercise and family time, you’re teaching them about the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle. There are so many ways to do this – walking, swimming, biking, hiking, running while they ride their bikes, soccer, yoga, basketball, tennis, ice skating – just to name a few! Make up an obstacle course, challenge them to a race, play with skipping ropes or hula hoops, have a family dance party – the only limit is your imagination.
6. Family movie night
When all else fails and the week gets away from us, we all look forward to our standing Friday night family movie night. Every Friday we plan a simple dinner, let the kids stay up a little bit later, and all curl up together for some popcorn and a movie. It’s a great way to decompress after a long week, and a tradition that all of us look forward to.
What are your favourite ways to squeeze in quality time with your kids?