It’s one of those things that sometimes we need to plan. It sounds crazy, but it’s the truth. How can we spend more quality time with our young children? Life with minis can be insane at times! Mine are currently 9 months and 4.5 years, and both my husband and I work full-time. Needless to say, our time is scarce.
Engaging in play and true quality time with our children (no phones, no distractions) is something I aim to do more of this year. I heard a statistic recently that the average American family only spends around 37 minutes per weekday of quality time together. 37 MINUTES!!! That is pathetic, but by gosh, I bet it’s accurate.
Most working parents likely get home between 5:30pm and 6:30pm. Kids are hungry and it’s creeping up on bedtime rather quickly. Between getting dinner prepped, kids fed, kids bathed and books read, it’s time for them to go to sleep. After the kids are sleeping sound, it’s time for mom and dad to eat or clean the huge mess that the post-work hour created. Then, if you are anything like us, you cozy up on the sofa, watch a little Netflix and pass the F out. Some of us even jump back on our laptops and work.
It’s’ definitely a grind. But how can we make it more pleasant? How can we spend more quality time together? There are many ways to reach this goal. Below are a few that work for us.
Meal prep on weekends.
If you can do some meal prep on a Saturday or Sunday while your kids are napping or while your partner or spouse plays with the kids, that is helpful and will enable you to sit down and eat as a family and spend more quality time together!
For meal prep, I like to make a big pot of cooked beans, noodles (toss in olive oil upon cooking), lentils, a large batch of quinoa, roast or steam some veggies and have a tub of organic mixed greens ready for assembly. An oversized crock-pot full of chili, a hearty soup or stew is another great way to have multiple meals covered. Just add different garnishes each night to spice things up! It will take time to get into this routine and some weekends it just ain’t possible, but that is okay.
Eat dinner as a family.
While you eat dinner, talk to each other. It’s hard with babies or over-tired toddlers. I GET IT! But, try. I remember growing up we used to share our highs and our lows each day. It was a great way to start a conversation and I loved hearing about my family member’s days and enjoyed when it was my turn to share
Another glorious option, if you have the funds, is to subscribe to a healthful fully-prepared meal delivery service a few times a week. Boy oh boy would that be fantastic! We tried Hello Fresh once, but it turned out to not be enough food for our insatiable appetites. Plus, the mess after was stupid. I think supplementing dinners with a fully-prepared meal delivery service is the way to go with young kids if you can afford it.
Read to your children before bed.
This is a great way to spend additional quality time together with your children. Leave your cell phones elsewhere and fully engage. Reading together not only fosters quality time, it helps your children develop their literary skills. Did you know that most of us spend up to 3 hours a day on social media? 30 minutes for story time with our kids doesn’t seem like too much to ask of ourselves.
We started reading books to our oldest when he was around 7 or 8 months, and still read him three books every night. He sits in our lap, snuggles in, and loves this special time with us. It’s something he looks forward to each night, and so do we. We just introduced story time to our 9 month old daughter as well. It’s a special time that we will cherish forever.
Weekdays are definitely tough for spending quality time together. So, families can make up for it on the weekends. Try hard not to jam pack your weekend schedule. It’s exhausting. What are you trying to prove? Think about it. Take it from me, it’s really nice to not have to be somewhere on a Saturday morning after a hectic week of work. It’s especially nice not to have to be anywhere if you travel for work during the week.
Give yourself and your kids a break from all of the madness! Stop the guilt. There are plenty of incredible ways for your kids to have fun, create, move and explore in the comfort of your own home. It just takes a little creativity. If you love getting up and out of the house and it is not a burden for your family, then by all means, get at it! We like to do at least one activity outside of our home each weekend. Sometimes it’s as simple as arranging a playdate at another person’s home or taking a trip to our local grocer and engaging my oldest to help shop!
Do things that YOU also enjoy with your kids.
This is something I recently discovered and is clutch. My son (4.5 years) loves to build stuff and take things apart. I don’t. But my husband does. So they engage in quality time together by doing things like that. I love to cook and my son loves to help. This is something special that we do together at least once per week. Sometimes it is as simple as stirring his chocolate milk or putting crackers and cheese on his chili. He is a great little helper, and in helping, it makes him willing to try the foods that we create together. Double score!
By finding things that I like to do together with my children, and not forcing myself to do things that I don’t enjoy, like building things and taking them apart, it makes it so much easier to spend quality time together!
Hire a cleaning service.
Obviously, not all of us can afford a cleaning service. But if you can, do it. There are a lot of affordable cleaning services out there that are usually found by word of mouth. Ask your friends who they use. It is worth every penny. If you can outsource deep cleaning your house each week, that frees up at least half a day to engage in quality time with your kids!
Take a family vacation.
My son still talks about our first family vacation to Arizona last January. He loved every minute of it. Why? Because we were not distracted by household duties, or work, and we were fully engaged in quality time together as a family. Turns out, we all love it so much that we are booked again this year!
Embrace the chaos.
This is a short period of your life that is going to be over “like that” (snaps fingers). You are currently the center of your kid’s universe and it won’t be like this forever. Trust me. I watched my younger siblings grow up, and it goes by really quick.
Listen to your elders.
They are right when they say, “time flies”. Soak it all up. Someday soon you will miss this crazy time and yearn for it.
What are some ways you spend quality time with your kids? Please comment below.