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Family Time on a Dime


First, let me define drawing closer to someone.  By drawing closer I am specifically referring to spending quality time.  Time that will encourage communication, increase love, build understanding and result in laughter.

As parents, we sometimes feel pressured to spend a lot of money creating memories or experiences for our children. Yet, it seems that often the most memorable may at the surface appear to be the most mundane or ordinary.

In this post, I will provide a framework for creating memories and drawing closer to your children. At the end, I’ll give a few specific ideas for activities, but that is not the focus. The focus is on the method.

Step 1: Let the decision be your child’s

By handing over the reigns to the kids, it shows that this is not yet another power struggle or mom mandated activity.  It also ensures that you are spending time with your kids how they want to spend time.  Which you will probably find is not exactly how you would have liked to spend that time.  Try to discourage options like watching television, or playing Nintendo games.  These activities are fun and have a place but they do not meet the requirements of encouraging communication or building understanding.

Step 2: Be fully engaged

Children are not stupid, they know when you are distracted or just taking a back seat.  Be sure that you are enjoying the moment (even the mess) and try not to watch the clock or anticipate the end.

Step 3: Invite conversation

Most kids, it seems, are hesitant to just jump into conversation, but I have found with my kids that they are more than willing to talk with the slightest encouragement (this is more problematic usually for dads than moms).  So ask open ended questions.  This is important because as parents we tend to lead, even without intending to.  Our children want us to be happy and want to please us.  If we ask leading questions, they are using all their brainpower to come up with the answer that they think we want to hear.  Wouldn’t you rather know and understand how your child’s brain works and what thoughts they come up with on their own?

Step 4: Show Gratitude

Verbally and physically express your love and appreciation to your children for the time that they have spent with you.  Hugs, kisses and laughter are not over rated and can quickly turn around a bad attitude or a stressful day.

Step 5: Teach Responsibility

Be sure to include your children in the clean up process, however big or little the task.  Yes, I understand that cleanup (whatever the mess may be) would be accomplished quicker, better and more efficiently if done by you.  However, we would be missing out on the opportunity to further teach and guide our children toward becoming responsible adults.

A few activity ideas

Below are a few free or low cost activities that may be beneficial for you and your family. Please add to this list as it is only intended to spur your own ideas.

  • Read books
  • Ride bikes
  • Bake a treat
  • Create some art
  • Build a play dough village
  • Visit a retirement home
  • Camp out in the back yard
  • Rake a neighbor’s leaves
  • Build a fort out of boxes

What have you found to be successful with your children?

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