It can be hard as a busy parent to find slots for some quality time with the kids, but we probably all recognise that time is more important than ’stuff’. Evidence also suggests it is important for their mental health and adjustment to life and a parenting study in 2015 suggested that when it comes to time with our kids, quality was more important that quantity.
So here are some ideas of ways to spend quality time with your children that are fun, won’t break the bank, and that you as a parent will enjoy as well.
Get Lost in a Story
It seems a shame that some parents stop reading to their children when the child learns to read by themselves. But actually most older children will still enjoy being read too and sharing stories provides a great way to talk - things happen to the characters and it’s easy to have discussions about how the character might feel, how we would respond or to guess what might happen next. In fact the benefits of stories go far beyond literacy.
Audio stories can also be good fun to listen to together and of course most films actually tell a story. When the purpose is to spend quality time with your kids then it is important that you watch it together and then it can be a great way to discuss all sorts of topics that might not arise so easily in everyday life.
As well as reading stories, children will usually enjoy making up their own stories; some will write and illustrate them but others might enjoy telling you the story and having it typed on a computer. There are some great story making games and apps too - but in my experience kids still enjoy paper and a bit of gluing and sticking as well.
Drawing or painting may not be every child’s cup of tea, or parent’s for that matter, but exercising our creativity is important for us all in many different ways.
In addition to drawing or painting, try any kind of crafts, clay modelling, junk modelling or painting stones or glass jars, using fabric to make collages, pressing flowers or hundreds of other things. Again, while you are working together children often talk and find it easier to chat about how they feel. The fact that you are both engaged in a collaborative activity will also mean that it builds the relationship. The finished product may bring a real sense of achievement and satisfaction but the process as well as the product is important and beneficial.
Get out Into Nature
Alarmingly, a report in 2016 suggested that three quarters of kids in the UK spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Yet there is also evidence that being in nature is good for us both physically and mentally
Walks, nature, treasure hunts or simply visiting a local park or green space is another great way to spend quality time with your kids. As well as the good old fashioned ‘I-SPY’ books, there are a number of other worksheets and apps that you can use to spot trees, flowers or bugs. But being in nature doesn’t have to mean concentrating on nature - you can have fun with a kites, balls, bats or practice any other physical skills and enjoy the time outdoors together. I know the weather may not be great but getting wrapped and going out on all but the coldest and wettest days can still be great fun and good for both of you.
Be Creative in the kitchen
Most children love to ‘cook’ and it is important in terms of them learning about food, nutrition and kitchen safety but it is also great fun. They will often be more inclined to try new flavours or foods when they have had a hand in creating them. Don’t worry that you don’t know what to make there are loads of great recipes that are simple for children to make with just a bit of help, there are a few here to get you started, but it is important to tailor your kitchen sessions to the individual child, as you know what they will and won’t enjoy doing.
But if spending quality time with a child is easier outside of the home, then taking a child or young person out for just an hour or so - maybe just for a milkshake or ice cream - can provide some real quality time together and be something children really value.