Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How do you use quality time with your child?

As busy parents, the quantity of time for our generation has decreased significantly from earlier generations where the traditional structure was a working father and stay-at-home mom. Many families still fall under the “traditional” structure but sometimes it is the dad who is the homemaker and the mom who works outside the home. More often, it is common for households have a single parent or two working parents. Blended families are also now very common; often that means the child is splitting time between two homes, reducing the time spent with either parent. Regardless of the makeup of an individual family, our lives are busier than ever.

As part of the Cherrios Blogger's Circle, I was one of the bloggers tasked with the challenge of answering. “How do you use quality time with your child to ensure the best nourishment for body and mind.”

As a mom who works outside the home, quality time with my kids is limited - is crucial to try to make the most of the time that I have with my children. Work and school, coupled with everyday responsibilities, leaves free time at a minimum. After cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, homework and after-school activities, there is only so much time left for anything, much less anything fun.

When my children were little, it was actually more difficult to get quality time. You would think it would be easier since I spent so much time with them and we seemed to have more time at home, but most of this time was spent caring for the kids in addition to all the other normal responsibilities. Now that the girls are older, it is easier for me to incorporate quality time into our daily routine. I still care for them of course, but because they are no longer babies / toddlers, they are much more self-sufficient.

My husband is the more "active" parent, meaning that he usually cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes. He is the one that does more of the traditional fun activities…. taking the girls swimming, on a bike ride, to the park or just out and about. I, on the other hand, am a homebody. I also take them out to the pool or for a walk, but more often we enjoy our down time at home. We do many activities around the house. Although many of these activities are fun ones such as arts and crafts, watching a movie or baking, other activities, primarily chores, are not.

In addition to personal care, decision making, problem solving, ethics, manners, etc., it is my priority to also teach the girls life skills. Whether it is buying, unloading and putting away the groceries, cleaning up, separating laundry, mailing a letter, making a bed, separating trash from recycling, writing a check or setting the table, each chore is an opportunity to teach. Of course the girls don’t always appreciate the value of what they are being taught :) So how do I turn “chores” into quality time? I try and make the activities AND chores fun for both kids and parents.

One to two nights a week is "fast food night" or "eat and run" - not by choice, but by necessity. On the nights were we actually DO have time to eat at home, we try to make a home cooked meal. One thing my girls LOVE helping with and I love having them help is baking and cooking. Last night we made a pot roast – together we peeled potatoes, cut carrots, celery and onions, and seasoned the roast. Some of the potatoes were diced, others were slices and a couple were whole. Tonight we made Asian Stir fry. I showed Miss E. how to steam raw shrimp. Earlier I had taught Miss N. the difference between chopping, mincing and cutting in julienne style; she immediately was testing out her new skills on the veggies at hand while preparing dinner. In addition to learning about the important skills of food preparation and cooking, they are also learning about creativity, nutrition and eating a balanced meal.

Afterward, when we are eating at the table, we usually relax and discuss the day, or play dinner games. The girls love playing “What am I” or “The Name Game”. I am actually planning to invest in one of the table conversational dinner card games to mix it up and keep things interesting. Afterward we cleanup and then have another hour or two - baths, TV or games, then bed.

Obviously this cannot be done for ALL chores, but by turning some of our tasks into quality time, I am able to capture a few more moments with my kids, while simultaneously taking the opportunity to teach. These moments with my children will result in both skills that they can carry into adulthood and life long memories of growing up in our home.

I would love to hear your experiences or ideas on how you spend quality time with your children. What tips to you have to share? What worked and what didn’t? How do you find balance? It is important to find what is successful for your family – what works wonderfully for a neighbor, friend or family member may not do well for you. Determine what both you and your kids love doing and somehow incorporate that into your chores, your weekly routine or your planned one-on-one time. And then plan to have some fun!

This post was done in partnership with General Mills and MyBlogspark. I did not receive any form of compensation for this post. For more information on this blog and my posting practices, please refer to the disclosure policy at the bottom of this page.

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