You may or may not be aware of the fact that in our family, I am the one who picks up our 3-year old son Benni from kindergarten at least four times a week. When I do that the challenge is always the same: How to make the best out of the time we are spending together on that particular afternoon? How to spend quality time with your child without just “doing something for the sake of it” and counting down the hours until mom comes home from the office?
That may sound a bit harsh. But if you are a busy parent who, besides working and being a mom or dad for the most part, also has interests and hobbies and basically a life of his own, you will most likely agree that keeping your kids entertained while having a good time yourself can be a real challenge.
Which brings me to the point that there is a huge difference between spending time together and spending QUALITY time. It is easy to just being with your kid and deliberately making an effort to make the best out of it you can! While the first is something we all can do “somehow”, the latter can be a real challenge. My goal is to be there for my son as much as possible when he is around; and that can become quite stressful, especially when you happen to run out of ideas.
Hence, in this blog post I want to look at the top 5 activities that I enjoy the most when it comes down to spending quality time with my son. I want to look at five top-level activities that you can leverage to enjoy time together with your kids. Activities, that you can enjoy together as a “team”. So let’s get started…
#1 Play together
If you have ever visited this blog before, it won’t surprise you that “Playing together” is my number 1 tip for moms and dads who want to spend quality time with their kids.
At the end of the day, having a blast with your kid is all about rediscovering your inner child. Fear not, I’m not going to get into any kind of psychology here. What I’m trying to say is this: If you really want to bond with your child and have a good time together, try to follow them into their “world”. Try to enjoy what they enjoy and share the fun.
If it is hard for you to enjoy playing with the “kids toys” your son and daughter enjoys the most, here is a word of advice: Don’t feel bad. Benni also has a few toys that I don’t like. But it is OKAY to be a bit selfish here! Huh, that comes as a surprise, right? How can a mom or dad be selfish? Let me explain!
If you want to play with your kid, you may safely assume that he or she wants to play together with YOU as well. And if you don’t enjoy their toys, they will notice that and it won’t be as much fun as if you share the excitement of playing with a toy that both of you love. So when you join your kid for a mutual play session, why not tell him (or kindly ask) to put away that puzzle you do not enjoy that much and play some Lego or Duplo with you instead, if YOU enjoy that more? Your kid will most likely agree, because having quality time with YOU by playing together is usually much more important than holding on to this one toy he or she is playing with right now.
And if you are really excited to play with the toy you are suggesting, it will carry over and your kid will be excited as well!
If you are looking for some inspiration what toys you may want to get that qualify as “interesting for kids and parents alike” then take a look ad my List of Top 10 Toys For 3-Year Olds And Their Dads (works for moms as well, I bet 🙂 ).
#2 Read out stories
Now, if toys aren’t your thing or you are simply exhausted froma hard day at work then this second tip may work for you almost as good as the first one.
Read out stories! Reading out a book can be very entertaining for the two of you and can bring together the entire family. Sometimes I am just not in the mood of getting down on the floor and actively playing, or Benni is tired. What we would do in that scenario find a cozy spot somewhere in the house and read out a story.
You have several options here and you will have to figure out which one works best for you. Not all parents are the same, and your kids aren’t either. So just give it a try.
The first option would be to pick up a storybook. When we do that, Benni would usually sit down on my lap or right next to me and we go through the story and talk about what we are seeing. Sometimes, when it’s a story that Benni already knows, he starts “reading” the story to me, which is quite fun.
Besides picture books “normal” children’s books are an option as well. They are all about text, less about pictures. With that being said, your kid should already be at an age where he or she can listen to you for 15 to 20 minutes without getting distracted too easily. This sometimes works with Benni (who is almost three years old at the time of this writing), but more often he gets disturbed by something and then it’s hard to bring his attention back. However, more than often I am able to hold his attention by making use of my next tip…
Play it out
In either case, you can play a bit with your voice. Pitch it up or down, speak slower or faster, imitate an old person or a kid. Your kid will love that and will almost all the time return the favor with a big fat smile or laughter, which is the highest praise you can get from a child 🙂
Something you may also take into consideration is reading the book with the entire family. Imagine sitting there with your kids and your wife, and everyone is acting as one of the characters and reads the lines of that particular character with their voice!? This type of playing it out isn’t for everyone, but it is certainly the option that brings the most excitement to the table.
I know there are days when I am even too tired for reading myself. It rarely happens, but it sometimes does. In that case sitting down together and enjoying a really old school’ish session of listening to “old school” radio plays can turn out as very well spent quality time as well! There are tons out there and if you just want to give it a try before investing into it, you may just want to check out Amazon’s Prime Music library, as they sometimes feature very well-made radio plays as well.
Pro-Tip: Story cubes
Finally, there is one last options for the advanced story readers of you: Story cubes. Now, this may or may not be well suited for you because it requires a lot of fantasy and you will have to actively work out a story. Here is how it goes: Story cubes are small set of cubes (usually sold in sets of three) that have different pictures on either side. Now you through these cubes and you make up a story from what they show: For example one cube shows a sorcerer, the second a castle and the third one a butterfly. Now it’s your job to make something out of that 🙂 If your kid is already a bit older, you can also turn this game into a game of building out that story together or challenge each other or the like. The possibilities are endless.
#3 Go out
By going out I do not necessarily mean “go outside”. While this can certainly be super fun, sometimes the weather is bad (it’s raining or it’s too hot or whatever). By going out I also mean things like
- visiting the mall,
- eating out,
- going to the toy store together
- or even taking your kid to the hardware store.
I know, that “hardware store” point may sound a bit weird at first, but hear me out: When I want to spend quality time with my kid, it is, in my opinion, important that you share the things with your child that you are passionate about. If you have to something in the backyard or in the house this weekend and need to get some stuff in preparation, why not take your son or daughter with you when buying it. Usually kids are very interested in the stuff you as their parents are interested in or better yet excited about. Share these things with them!
Of course, as mentioned above, this point also includes more traditional activities like going to the park or visiting the playground. If possible, combine such a “getaway” with something you don’t do every day. Maybe take the bike together with your kid (make sure that you have a good safety seat or kids trailer and wear helmets, though) or even public transportation. That’s interesting for kids and if it’s something you don’t use every day, it may get you excited as well (which, again, is key here)!
I try to share the things I am excited about whenever I can with Benni. I go swimming with him, we go to the model airfield or to the Nürburgring racing track every now and them. Obviously, there isn’t much for him to do; but lots of things to experience and get interested in.
Maybe you are a private pilot or love driving the motor cycle. Maybe you love go fishing or see the Yankees play. If there aren’t overwhelmingly complex security measures required (and it doesn’t get dangerous for your kid, never put their health at risk), try to share that with them. They will thank you later!
That leads me to the next point…
#4 Play video games together
This one may come as surprise, and I do not want to go too deep into this, as I have already dedicated an entire block post to this topic.
I just want to say so much here that I was a huge fan of video games my entire life, and I guess I will always be. And that’s a good thing! It’s something I enjoy and it is part of who I am. I strongly believe that I can leverage that to give my son the best starting position when it comes down to developing a healthy relationship with multi media some day.
In this rapidly changing world computers already play a big role, this process will not be turned over. Computers will only get more important. And just like with physical toys, my basic idea holds true: The best way to learn is through play. Benni will get in touch with video games sooner or later (rather sooner) with or without me and it is in my and Bennis best interest when I help him developing a healthy relationship to them right from the get go.
In our case that means that we are having a blast together when we fire up my PC or Nintendo Switch. Yes, we spend quality time together!
#5 Be creative
However, time in the virtual world should under no circumstances exceed the amount of time you spend together in the “real world”. That’s important: Anything you overdo can turn into poison, and that is true here as well. So be creative! Play the games that you enjoyed as a kid. Play hide-and-seek in your backyard or inside the house, play tricks at each other. Even “fight” a bit for fun. Why not? As long as your kid understands that there is a time and a place for everything, you’ll be fine, and you’re being a great parent!
Invite other parents from the neighborhood over so your kids can play together. You parents can have a great time talking while your kids are playing. Uhm!? But how is that quality time? That brings me to my last point, my bonus tip if you will…
BONUS TIP: Do different things while just being together
Now, this is the secret sauce to spice things up: Understanding that spending quality time together does not necessarily mean that YOU as moms or dads have to keep your kids and yourselves entertained every single minute! You’re a parent, you’re a super hero ALREADY! Allow yourself and your kid to be by himself as well, while still letting that time count towards quality time.
If I notice that Benni is fiddling around with a toy all by himself, I don’t disturb him. I find something to do by myself. Like drinking a cup of coffee. Or preparing a blog post. Or reading the news. The key is not to park your kid in front of a toy, but to also understand that it is okay that your kid (and you) need some time for yourselves every now and then. Just be there for each other when you need each other!
There you have my 5 tips, or better yet top-level ideas, on how to spend quality time with your kid. I hope my article had something in it for you and that you could get some inspiration from it. If you have something to add to the story, or there is something you disagree on, please do not hesitate to reach out. There is a comment section below where I read and respond to every single comment. You can, however, also reach out via email, of your story is more personal and you want to talk in private. My email address is chris@ThatToyDad.com.
If you want to dig a bit deeper, you are more than welcome to read either my article Top 10 Toys For 3 Year Olds And Their Dads, my review of the Hubelino Marble Run System (which is an amazing toy to get started with my tip #1 from above) or my essay about The Best Video Games For Kids And Their Dads To Enjoy Together.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you 🙂
P.S.: Did you EVER happen to yell at your child or call a timeout? Did you regret it afterwards? I certainly have, and I never felt good about it! If you want to learn how to put an end to this behavior, decode your kids and understand them so much better and become a calm parent, then make sure to read my FULL REVIEW of “Positive Parenting Solutions” HERE. This program changed our family’s life and we saw first results within just 3(!) days. And it will certainly work for you as well!