Inside: Learn five secrets to doing more activities with your children, including how your kid’s mind works and why it’s important.
You know that doing activities with your children is important for bonding and fun.
To that end, you search Pinterest for slime recipes and Google “best kids’ activities” during the few spare minutes between putting the last dirty dinner spoon in the dishwasher and passing out from exhaustion.
But in the morning, the new day rushes at you at full speed, and you begin jumping from one urgent task to another.
Time goes by before you realize that all your great Pinterest finds never left the idea stage.
I get it.
Life is busy.
My to-do list is like a diaper on my baby’s butt, ready to explode at any moment.
Unfortunately, tomorrow is not going to be less busy and you’ll not grow an extra arm. Fortunately, you can implement a few small adjustments to improve the quality and quantity of time with your kids.
If you want to help your kids soar like Himalayan eagles while feeling a sense of satisfaction at a job well done, the following five tips will help you do that.
#1. The Grand Design
There are 940 weeks between the day your child was born and the day he or she will turn 18 (52 weeks x 18 years). It sounds like a lot, but if your child is eight-years-old, you already have used up 418 of them.
Imagine your kids ten years from now. What do you want them to remember about the time they spent with you?
Think of a big picture. It’s easier to find time for an activity when you realize there are 168 hours in a week. Can this week’s 168 hours include four 15-minute intervals to play, explore, and read together with your kids without interruptions?
A 15-minute walk on Monday, a quick science experiment on Wednesday, and two projects on the weekend. Book your sessions in your planner like an appointment. And don’t cheat when the time comes. No peeking at your cell phones and no multitasking is allowed.
#2. Take Action on What Works
Science says playing with slime is what will get your kids into college. Better yet, make a rocket from recycled milk cups and blast it into space with the help of a 10-hour tutorial from a NASA blog.
Start picking activities that “experts” say you should do, and your kids’ enthusiasm for doing activities with you will dry up like a raisin in the sun.
Forget rocket science.
Simple and fun is what works in my house. And I’m sure it will work in yours.
One rule of thumb in selecting activities to do with my children over the years has been: the more the activity appeals to me, the more likely we all will enjoy it.
My friend used to force herself to do crafts with her daughter because she read somewhere that doing crafts with kids is important for bonding. She hated every minute of it: the mess, the open-endedness of it, and being trapped at the table when she had so many things to do. It might have gone on for much longer if her daughter hadn’t blurted out one day that she hated doing crafts with her mother. My friend realized that because she so intensely disliked crafting, more likely than not she was short-tempered and discouraging. They now go for a bonding walk, and everyone is happier for it.
What is it that you like to do? I love reading out loud, so it’s a rare day when I won’t find time to read with my children.
Your activity options are limitless—kitchen science experiments, taking online art classes, nature walks, math puzzles, music, games, books, crafts. Even doing chores together can be bonding.
Related: The 7-day Fun-with-Kids Activity Challenge
Related: Seven Day Challenge: Cooking with Kids
#3. Kindness, Always
It’s not what you do; it’s the energy you bring to the table. In twenty years, your kids are not going to remember the specific activities you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
A great way to get in the right mindset is to remember that our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. And our actions become our habits.
What energy do you usually bring to your children?
Our energy is contagious. Want to be a positive energizer? Start with a positive set point. What that means for me is that I start by mentally picking a positive word or mantra and hold on to it. Like “Love. I’m doing it for love.” Or “Peace. I’m peace. I nurture peace.”
It’s much easier to be loving, patient, kind, and peaceful when you come with a positive mindset. What’s more, just by trying to exude the energetic and positive attitude, you will feel energetic and positive. You also will feel rewarded.
Next time an opportunity to do an activity with your kids presents itself, you will want to do it. The more rewarding the task, the easier it is to find time for it.
#4. Gearing Up
I just want to clear up one thing; you don’t need a fortune to have fun with your children. Many common things you already have in your home are really fun.
The dishwashing liquid mixed with water is an awesome bubble solution. If you add a kitchen string or a hula hoop, you can make GIANT BIBBLES the size of your child!
The trick with gearing up is to know what you have and what can be done with it.
Take the ubiquitous kitchen sponges. You can cut them into smaller pieces and use them as building blocks. You can use them as water bombs or for a grass seed sprouting.
Rubber bands, empty boxes, paper clips, shaving cream, tape, pots and pans, baking soda and vinegar, clothespins: You can have a tremendous amount of fun with these common household items.
#5. The Architecture of Your Child’s Mind
Our children want to learn new things and try new activities with us, but more than that, they want to be heard and understood.
Scientists have spent entire careers investigating what makes kids happy, and they have discovered that it’s connection. Not just the biological connection between parents and children, but the psychological connection. It’s emotional closeness, a relationship of mutual warmth, affection, and attachment.
“Relationships that are “connecting” and allow for collaboration to appear offer children a wealth of interpersonal closeness that supports the development of many domains, including social, emotional, and cognitive functioning.”
Connectedness is “feeling understood, loved, wanted, and paid attention to by family members (Blum 1997).”
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.”
How do you foster this miraculous connection?
It doesn’t take much.
Meet kids where they are.
In other words, connect with them in a way that is effective for them. All kids are different. For some, going on a bike ride together might feel like a great activity. For others (like one of my kids), nothing short of vigorous wrestling, tickling, lap time reading, and hugging counts.
Be curious. Observe your child without preconceived notions. What is he really like? How does she like to connect? What do they really like to do, say, share, and think about?
Ask what they think. Listen with your heart. Validate the emotions behind the words.
To connect with your child’s mind, give your children your full attention, hug often, give eye contact, play together, say “yes” to what they want (not just to what they need), make time for mutually satisfying activities, have conversations on a wide range of topics (reading together is an awesome way to start a conversation), build trust, and project an air of “I’m here for you” and “I’m interested in you” and “You matter.”
You will enjoy parenting more if you learn as much as possible about how your child’s brain works and apply that knowledge to your interactions.
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Trust that little tweaks can make a huge difference! Our kids’ minds are wired for wanting contact and closeness with us, but the busyness of adult life often causes us to get lost in the weeds. To keep your head above the foliage, implement a few adjustments with the most impact: keep the large picture in mind, understand how your child’s mind works, take action on what works, keep an upbeat attitude, and be ready. By applying these guidelines, you will foster bonding in your home and strengthen the relationship with your children.
I’m cheering you on! As always, you can talk to me about any questions you have. Just comment below or email me in private. I’m waiting to answer your questions.
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