News flash: the superexpensive toy with all the buttons and flashing lights isn't the thing at the top of your kid's wish list. What your little one really wants is something that doesn't cost you a cent but is perhaps more difficult to provide than anything you can put on your credit card — it's your time.
Such quality time is the one thing all happy kids seem to have in common. It's actually been proven that children tend to be happier and more satisfied in life when they are able to interact with their parents — whether that's you talking to them, listening to them, or simply looking when they implore "watch this!" for the 17th time.
Sadly, as inexpensive as time is, we're often strapped for it. Between long hours at work, endless chores, and the allure of digital distractions, what should be the easiest thing to give is, these days, the most difficult.
Here are some practical suggestions to get you started in, well, no time.
- Get out of your comfort zone. It's easy to be distracted when hanging out at home, so relocate. Setting up a blanket at the local park is a perfect change of pace. Just make a point to leave your phone at home — or at least put it away.
- Include the kids in your chores. Prepping a grocery list may seem like a solitary task, but having your child help can make it a shared experience. Ask him to open the fridge and list off what he sees and what he thinks is missing. If they're able to do basic math, have them help you figure out how many apples you'll need for the week.
- Run errands during work hours. If you can manage it, schedule those odds and ends — doctor appointments, dry-cleaning drop-offs, and even grocery shopping — during your lunch break. This way, you can share quality time together instead of rushing them in and out of car seats all evening.
- Accept "good enough" when it comes to housework. You may have the urge to wipe the baseboards clean every Tuesday, but when that interferes with your kids' needs, do your best to accept less-than-spotless results.
- Do separate things in the same room. Even if your kids are happy to play independently, there's absolutely no disadvantage to you being in the same room as them. Read your magazine on the floor while they're building a Lego tower — you'll be surprised what your mere presence means.
- Get involved. It's a commitment, but instead of just dropping them off at their extracurricular activities, consider volunteering to be their Girl Scout troop leader or to help coach the kickball team. Such involvement will allow you to be present at some of their most memorable events.
- Schedule bonding time in the calendar. You book time for things as boring as dental cleanings and oil changes, so why not pencil in some uninterrupted family time? Whether it's a weekly board game night or a monthly day trip to a museum of their choosing, block off the time and make a point to never reschedule or cancel.