I spend a lot of time encouraging parents to enjoy their newborns but recently it dawned on me that I need to really enjoy my children at all of their stages. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sports, homework and housework that we forget to actually spend quality time enjoying our children. Here are a few tips for enjoying your children at all ages.
1. Get to know them. We often put a lot of effort into understanding our newborn’s cries, which can be very difficult. As our children become more verbal it seems that we do not need to put in the effort to understand what it is they are saying, however, it is important to truly listen to their words. Get to know what they like, encourage the art of conversation and show you care about whatever it is that is important to them.
2. Make something simple into something special. With today’s technology, on demand and streaming access, movie night can happen easily any day of the week. It does not take a lot to turn your regular movie night into something special that the kids really remember. The smile on their faces is more than enough to make it worth the extra effort. Make movie tickets, make popcorn together, watch from a couch fort, or anything else that makes it just a little more memorable.
3. Take kid friendly trips. Lots of places advertise as kid friendly but can your kids truly be just kids? Are they able to let off steam? Be a little noisy? There is a time and a place for structured vacations with itineraries and expectations, but having a trip where kids can run part of the show can make for a very enjoyable time. Low stress day trips or vacations can be a wonderful way to bond with your kids and really enjoy their noisy, fun and carefree kid nature.
4. Play! Get on the floor, put on your sneakers, just act silly and have a great time with your kids. It is one thing to create a space that allows your kids free play but sometimes it can be wonderful to join in on the fun. Take their lead and join the tea party, become a knight or join in their game of freeze tag.
5. It is okay to ignore the mess. There is nothing wrong with trying to keep things tidy, but sometimes it is good to just let things go for a bit. Kids can play, which is their work, by exploring a variety oftle toys at once. Allowing them to make a little mess will make for a better play time for them and a little less stress for you.
6. Skip the wait for hungry little ones. It is important to establish family meals and teach patience but sometimes, in the interest of less stress and more fun, it is okay to skip the wait. Serve pancakes, omelets, grilled cheese, etc diner counter style. Let them watch you cook and engage in conversation. This is not for every meal, but it is a great way to enjoy each other and avoid mealtime meltdowns.
7. Plan ahead and avoid the rush. If your kids are anything like mine they are lacking a sense of urgency when it comes to getting anywhere on time. We cannot always adjust appointment times or the start of the school day but we can plan ahead and avoid the rush. Pack book bags the night before, plan for plenty of time for homework and give the kids some wiggle room to take their time. When we are not rushing we can appreciate and enjoy the cute ways they learn to tie their shoes, match outfits and stop to count every step.
8. Just be with them. I spend a lot of time encouraging babywearing, skin to skin and closeness with infants. As their need for physical closeness becomes less urgent it can be easy to slip away from extra hugs, time on your lap and bedtime snuggles. While they might not cry like an infant needing your closeness what feels like 24/7, kids still need physical closeness. You will not regret taking a moment to just sit with them.
9. Let them help you. At first thought, letting your five year old help you with dinner and prolonging the cooking process by thirty minutes does not sound enjoyable, but the time you spend getting to know them and watching them learn is wonderful. It may not be something you can do often, but however often you let them help you with meal prep, home improvement projects and more you will find you are creating wonderful memories and moments you both enjoy.
10. Ask them! Just like we all have different interests our kids have varying interests. Ask them what they would enjoy doing with you and try to make it happen. Sometimes we think we need to plan an extravagant trip to catch their interest and have fun with them but often they simply want our time.
Though our days seem so long as we muddle through our everyday tasks and chores, their childhood is fleeting. Do your best to enjoy as many moments as you can. What have you done today to enjoy your children?