For most families, finding ways to carve out quality time together can be difficult as you shuttle between work, school, and activities. However, studies show spending quality time with our kids helps them to know they matter and are loved. Like we tell our children, our actions speak louder than our words.
So how do you find the time in a busy schedule to plan–and then enjoy–family time?
Don’t let the idea of family togetherness overwhelm you. Kids often do not need an elaborate plan; they simply want your undivided attention. For instance, at work, you focus on one client or task. At home, you can offer that attentiveness to your family members in ways both big and small.
Discuss with your partner and your children activities and ways you can make the time you have count. In this situation, you truly are seeking quality over quantity.
Use the Time You Have
No one has found a way to get more time out of each day. So, don’t try to add something to your already overwhelmed schedule. Instead, look for ways you can make the time you have together matter.
- Have family chore time. Designate fifteen minutes after dinner for everyone to clean up their space, put away out of place items, clean the kitchen, etc. Many hands make light work, and with chores out of the way, you’ll have more time for fun activities.
- Make errands an event. While dragging your kids to the grocery store may not be classified as fun, you can change that perception. Engage older children in helping track purchases or mapping out your journey across town for multiple stops. Have younger ones practice counting and letter identification skills. As you’re in the car, either turn up the radio and sing favorites together, or turn it off and ask open-ended questions.
- Outsource if needed. These days there are so many great options from online bill pay to grocery delivery to pre-made meal plans, you can skip the errands and get straight to home life. Look at your routine and see if there’s an activity you can swap for something more efficient.
Plan Special Activities
Kids often attach to “traditions” quickly. If you do something more than once, they assume it’s a family trait. Capitalize on this in simple ways.
- Plan a family game night for once a week or once a month. Rotate game choices through your family members. This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to games you loved as a child (hello, Operation) and to show your love through endless rounds of Candy Land. Better yet, make it educational for older kids by playing Risk or Battleship. Shh…they’ll never know you sneaked in some learning time.
- Make your own… tacos? Pizza? Omelets? is a fun way to involve kids in the process and prep of family dinner, as well as engaging them in conversation. Make this a regular occurrence for every Monday or Thursday or Sunday, whenever works best for your schedule, and everyone, from big to little, is sure to remember.
- Hobby together. Chances are your kids are imitating your likes and dislikes, so if you’ve discovered your children share your love for a particular hobby, search out ways you can do this together. Take a family art or cooking class, go on an excursion at a local state or national park (remember 4th graders get FREE family passes!), or exercise/play a sport together.
Turn off the Television
Screen time isn’t bad, but it can quickly take away from any free time you may have to spend together. While family movie nights are great fun, there are also plenty of ways to connect with the television turned off–but downtime turned on.
- Read a book aloud together (or download an audio version). Some great family friendly choices include Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Ramona and Beezus, The Sign of the Beaver, Little House on the Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia series, and Harry Potter series. Think back on your childhood favorites. Chances are, your kids might like those, too!
- Listen to a podcast or dramatization of a book series. Learn Out Loud has a huge database of free audio downloads including such classics as Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden.
- Choose short YouTube videos that teach a character lesson, share a place you’ve never been, or simply give your whole family a good laugh. Watch these together and discuss. Or giggle.
Put Family on the Schedule
When you see empty blocks on your calendar, resist the urge to fill them with another activity or chore. Instead, designate family time and put it on your calendar, just as you would an extracurricular activity. The more you protect this hour or entire evening every week, the more people will learn that is a time you are unavailable. Again, this doesn’t mean you’re having an activity each week, simply that you’ve designated this block on the calendar to not be taken by anything else.
While at first, saying no is hard, in the end your family will thank you for it.