When it comes to spending time with our families, we often wish those everyday moments resembled a perfectly curated collection of Insta-ready snapshots. Everyone would be smiling, bonding and laughing together... and that glitter our children used to make their latest artistic masterpieces wouldn’t still be stuck on our floor all those months later.
But we know that real life - especially life with kids - doesn’t look like that: it’s messy, chaotic and unpredictable. And that’s what makes it so magical.
All parents feel the need to become master jugglers, trying to manage their schedules to fit around careers, looking after children, making time for family and friends and remembering the occasional thing for ourselves. Since we’re so often rushed off our feet or feeling guilty for not being able to spend more time with our little ones, we want the time we do spend with them to be special and enjoyable - for us and for them.
The good news? Quality is better than quantity when it comes to looking after children (just check out this 2016 study published in BMJ Open). So it’s not about logging extra hours, but having a good time together, whether you’re enjoying life’s simple pleasures like a really good book or embarking on new adventures, like an under-fives-centric seaside holiday…
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Was it Confucius who said that bonding over food is the best way to bond? OK, maybe not - but lots of experts insist on it. Sitting down at the table with your children - and eating something healthy and hearty together not only encourages positive role modelling for children, it's also a great chance to get some uninterrupted QT. You can talk about the food you've prepared, your plans for the next day or the colour of peas - anything goes. Science has found eating meals as a family can help encourage everything from better (and more interesting) food choices to improved academic work to less stressed-out parents. Bonus points if you get your kids in on the food prep and cooking action from a young age.
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Experts say that reading to your children every day makes the biggest impact in terms of their future academic success. It develops their language and literacy (as well as other cognitive skills), enhances their creativity and ignites their imaginations. Plus, getting children excited about books from a young age will help keep them unplugged from devices. An added bonus for exhausted parents? You can do it in bed.
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Modern life is full of chores. And those chores need to get done while we're busy looking after our children. Instead of plopping them in front of a TV programme the next time you need to empty the dishwasher or get dinner ready, get them involved in your day-to-day errands. Fact: no toddler has ever met a laundry basket they didn't like (and couldn't magic into a spaceship).
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No matter how exhausted, grumpy or uninspired you might be feeling, music always helps. And once you turn the music on, the impromptu dance party is likely to follow - and that's just fabulous, whether you're dancing around the Weetabix your three-year-old has just knocked onto the floor or shaking it in the bubble bath.
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Sometimes, as parents, we feel we need to be able to devote hours to our children each day - and then we feel annoyed with ourselves when we realise we simply can't. Thing is, quality time with our tots can be found anytime and anywhere: walking to nursery, snuggling at bedtime, reading a book. Start to make the most of those short 10-15 minute time slots in the day. The secret to making it work? Don't let yourself be distracted by your pinging phone or that open laptop on the kitchen counter.
There's no better way to embrace time with your little ones than by getting away from your day-to-day routine with an exciting mini-break. Only thing is, you want to go somewhere that's as relaxing for parents as it is exciting for tots. Cue Butlin's Just for Tots breaks, which have everything you - and your under-five - could possibly want.
Book a Butlin's Just for Tots getaway
in easy-to-access seaside locations around the UK like Bognor Regis
in West Sussex, Minehead
in Somerset or Skegness
in Lincolnshire for a few days of uninterrupted parent-child bonding time. The breaks have been designed especially for families with under-fives: think family-friendly dining options (yes, we mean dinner at 5pm if you like and Ella's Kitchen goodies for the younger set), where kids and parents can choose from a variety of healthy, tasty meals and buffet-style dining.
A Just for Tots break at Butlin's also includes a selection of drop-in activities that allow you to easily work around your tot's routine while giving them the time of their lives. Every day is a new adventure with exciting entertainment (live shows with their favourite stars like CBeebies' Justin Fletcher, Mr. Bloom and the Teletubbies™) and repeat performances in case your little one needs a nap or a snack during one of the showtimes. There are also Little Libraries (in association with Campbell Books) for fun reading sessions, Little Tikes Town and the opportunity to learn new skills, like bike riding with Balancability and swimming with Puddle Ducks™. There's your little treat for the New Year sorted then - only we're not sure if it's more of a treat for them or for you.