Our kids are important to us—their health, their well-being, their happiness, their growth and success. Pretty much everything about our children is top of our ‘to-do list’. Sometimes we get so busy trying to do our best for them, we forget to slow down and just be with them.
I know many parents are with their children every day, and some all day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their time is truly with them. It is so important to slow things down and do those routine daily activities with your kids.
I’m aware that it takes more time (and patience) to let your little ones zip their own zippers, button their own buttons, and tie their own laces. It takes more time to let them choose their own meals at restaurants, pick out their own outfits for the day, and sign their own name on cards. Nothing gets done quickly when they help you with your daily chores such as laundry sorting, carrying groceries, and setting or clearing the meal table. But it is so worth it!
Just the other day I saw a dad playing with his son on their way into a store. They had a little race down the sidewalk, dad kept pace with his son and they tied. The way the boy looked up at his dad was pure love, and the dad ended it with a little hug, ruffled his hair, and they continued to talk about what sort of things they could buy mom for Mother’s Day. I doubt it took this little family extra time to bond in this way, but the effects will be long lasting.
Another mom had her two boys checking off a list and finding items to add to their cart. It probably took her longer to collect everything, but her children were learning how to do big things!
Today, the busier we get, the easier it is to let our kids mind themselves and hope they are content with a device in their hands. I’ll admit there are days when you might just want to get things done quickly, and this is one of the less painful ways to do it, in the moment. But your children will miss out on so many learning opportunities if this is their normal routine.
Allowing your children some freedom to help, and to make choices in their tasks or play, will benefit them now and as they grow older. They learn:
- how to make choices and accept the outcomes
- how to problem solve and compromise
- confidence and patience
These are skills that will help your children their entire lives—as they begin school, into their teen years, and beyond as adults. Skills that will be lifelong assets are worth the extra time it takes to nurture them in your children.
Who says it has to be work? It can be frustrating when you are in a rush, so perhaps on days when you are feeling overwhelmed or running late, dealing with illness or appointments, those aren’t the best days to slow it down. But I’m certain time can be found in even the busiest of schedules to take a few moments daily to just have a bit of fun together.
- If you are shopping at the grocery store, try asking your children ‘this or that?’ Let them help decide. Let the older children help gather items up and down the aisles. They can read signs and learn how to check ingredients. Younger children can look for individual letters on signs or food items, and search for fruits and vegetables in certain colours.
- When it is time to leave a place, maybe have a little race. Count forwards or backwards until it’s time to go, to reinforce numeracy skills. How many buttons need to be done up? How many seconds will it take to tie your shoes? Who can make it to the car first?
- While driving, sing some favourite songs. Try songs that count down or repeat many verses such as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “5 Little Monkeys,” “B-I-N-G-O,” “This Old Man,” or “Old MacDonald.”
- Try giving your children tasks to ‘help’ you with your daily routines. Sorting laundry (tell them how you would like it sorted or ask them how they think it should be sorted), setting the dinner table (how many plates, spoons, glasses, etc.), picking up around the house and putting toys away, even straightening out the family shoe shelf is a good matching activity for toddlers!
There are numerous ways to squeeze in a few extra minutes of play/learning activities into your day. In family literacy programs such as the free ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, we share many of these ideas with parents.
Visit our website www.famlit.ca for program information and information about our free App, Flit, for fun, everyday learning ideas (available at both the App Store and Google Play).