Good news for parents everywhere! While we all stress over making time for kids and family activities, when it comes to the amount of time you spend with your kids, good enough is, actually, good enough.
It’s absolutely true that spending time with your child is important, but if you’re like most parents, you struggle with knowing how much time you should spend with your child. Several recent studies agree that it’s better to spend fewer hours of meaningful family time together than hours upon hours spending time with kids when you’re stressed or distracted.
What Does Quality Time for Kids Mean?
Well, simply put, quality time means setting aside time for kids where you give your undivided attention to forge a strong and loving relationship. The definition is easy; it is answering the question of HOW to spend quality time with your family that is hard. There are several parenting tips below for family activities and ways to make the most of your family bonding time, but first, it is worth taking a quick look at what quality time is not.
Quality Time with Family is Not Perfection
Parenting is tough, and sometimes parents get so caught up making family time perfect, that they end up frustrated and guilt-ridden if something goes wrong or there was a single note of disappointment during this sacred time for kids. The importance of spending quality time with family is not in the outcome but in the act itself.
Not only is it ok to fail in some of your parenting endeavors, it’s actually necessary and helpful for your kids’ emotional maturation. One of the benefits of spending time with family is that it can be a time for kids to discover that they can survive disappointment while still in the safe cocoon of the family unit. Without making time for kids to learn these coping skills, parents can actually make it harder for them to thrive once they leave home and have to deal with the disappointments adults experience on a daily basis.
That means if you spend all week planning family bonding time at the local funfair, and you discover that they’re not tall enough to go on any of the rides once you get there, it’s ok!
It’s also ok if you can’t quite connect with each other or even fight a bit during your planned family time. While in your mind, your family activities at the park should have you singing and dancing around the playscape, deliriously happy without a single negative feeling, it’s actually a good thing to have some imperfectness pop up during kids activities. In fact, even complete and utter failure is ok, as long as you work through it together. This is one of the hidden benefits of spending time with family: it gives you a chance to flex your parenting muscles and teach your kids how to have healthy relationships, which includes dealing with conflict.
In fact, back in 1953, British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott advised parents that during the family time for kids, being emotionally tuned into their needs only 1/3 of the time is sufficient for healthy emotionally development. Another 1/3 of parenting time, you will get it wrong, fight, or completely miss something, but you will catch it, fix it and then reconnect with them. The remaining amount of your parenting time will be a complete disconnect.
And that’s OK.
Family time for kids like this creates a perfect practice field for life. This imperfect quality time with family allows you a chance to model behavior that teaches them that failure is both ok and inevitable. It also gives you a chance to consciously make time for kids to reconnect with them, which teaches them that even though you might get it wrong, it doesn’t mean that the rift is irreparable.
So ditch that unattainable perfect ideal of family bonding time, and when you are taking some time for family activities, just focus on how to spend quality time with your family, and that is to make it a time for kids to know you are fully present. This is not a time for kids to see you on your iPhone or mixing kids activities with daydreaming about that Sandals vacation you and your partner saw on TV or obsessing over some problem you’re dealing with at work.
How to Spend Quality Time with Your Family
Quality time with family means focusing your undivided attention on what you and your kiddos are doing or talking about. Use this special time for kids to get to know your child: how they think, what makes them happy, what their friends are doing, and so on.
One of the best answers to the question of how to spend quality time with your family is to use active listening. Instead of bombarding your kids with questions about things YOU are interested in, use your family time to ask questions about what THEY want to talk about.
To make it easy for you, here are six easy to remember active listening phrases to use during family bonding time for kids so that they know you are really listening and interested in what they have to say:
- “Really? Tell me about how that happened / you found out / you felt, etc.”
- “You seem a bit….” (Insert whatever feeling you think your child is experiencing)
- “I’ve noticed that….”
- “Wait – let me see if I understand….”
- “I’m so sorry – that really stinks.”
- “That’s rough. Anything I can do to help?”
How Much Time Should You Spend with Your Child?
Once kids turn three, the amount of time and attention they need (not want) changes. Spending time with kids when they are babies and toddlers revolves around the parenting challenge of meeting each and every one of their needs. After three, however, there is no evidence to show that the benefits of spending time with your child increase as the number of hours you spend with them increases.
This remains true until your child enters adolescence when the importance of spending quality time with family become clear. During this period, studies do show that the benefits of spending time with your child increase with the amount of time you spend together in family activities. One study showed that teenagers who spent an average of six hours a week with their parents had more positive behaviors, highlighting the importance of spending quality time with family when your kids are teenagers.
In this study, if a teen spent time with his or her mother, they were less involved in delinquent behavior. Plus, the study found that during the teenage years, spending time with kids in family activities was associated with adolescents being less involved with risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol.
How to Spend Quality Time with Your Family
Spending time with your child is important, but with so many different personalities in a family, one of the most difficult parenting tasks is finding family activities that everyone enjoys. So, we’ve put together a list of 38 fun activities for kids to help make your life easier.
Start with the 10 Minute Rule
We know spending time with your child is important, but coming up with family activities that you can fit into your schedule can be daunting. If your parenting motors are going into overdrive trying to come up with things to do during family bonding time or if you just don’t have big windows of free time, try to think in 10-minute chunks.
By starting with a goal of spending time with kids in short chunks, the pressure is off to come up with some once-in-a-lifetime experience and lets you just try to connect, which is the essence of quality time with family. The more it works, the more you connect, and the more everyone looks forward to that family bonding time.
Don’t have the time or the energy to come up with fun activities for kids that don’t require an entire day? We’ve done the work for you!
10 Family Activities That Take 10 Minutes or Less
- Take a 10 minute after dinner walk. It is a great way to spend your family bonding time, and walking together can make talking about difficult subjects easier. Plus it encourages exercise and physical fitness habits.
- Have a dance party. Use your family time to put on your favorite song and just let loose. The kids will enjoy seeing you let go, even if it’s secretly while they’re outwardly rolling their eyes.
- Become authors together. Take turns telling a story, with each person adding a sentence. One person starts with, “Once upon a time, there was a princess named…” and the next one continues with, “Butter Ball, but no one could ever get her to come to Thanksgiving dinner.”
- Play a round of 20 questions. This option for family time is great for all ages, though you might have to help the younger ones a bit. If you’ve forgotten how to play, you can find the rules here.
- Play a game of cards. This is one of the best kids activities because there are games for all ages. Go Fish or Old Maid for the younger ones; Rummy or Uno as they get older. Keep score, and you can have a running tally from session to session so that you can stop at 10 minutes and pick up where you left off later on.
- Create a Pinterest board together. Pick a subject you are all interested in, and spend your quality time with family pinning things to your board. Before you know it, you will be creating things to do together during your next family time with the things you find.
- Play hide and seek. Despite what you might think, this is one of those kids activities that really does work for all ages. If the older kids are reluctant to play, hide on your own and give them a good scare when they accidentally find you. Then, it’s time for kids to get you back, so look out!
- Let them teach you something. This can be anything they are good at, doing cartwheels, playing Minecraft, writing in fancy handwriting, etc. Not only do you show an interest in what they do, but it also creates a perfect time for kids to be an expert at something, and they will love that!
- Make a plastic bag explode. Use a recipe like this one, or set out the ingredients and let everyone experiment until the bag explodes. Great family bonding time and exciting, too.
- Learn a line dance together. Ask your kids what a popular dance is and learn it together. This can be a time for kids to show off and how well you do it doesn’t really matter, just do it together.
Once you feel more comfortable or can find bigger blocks of time, you can try out family activities that last longer than 10 minutes. Mix it up between kids activities they like and family activities you like. To get you started, we’ve given you a list of both.
9 Kids Activities You Can Do Together
- Regularly scheduled date nights. Set aside time for the two of you to hang out. If you have more than one child, try to give them each their own date night. Plan them together and prioritize your nights together over your other social and professional commitments.
- Go roller skating. Your days of Xanadu and couples skating might be passed, but everyone loves doing laps around the rink to the latest tunes.
- Play adventure dice. Assign a direction to each number on a die, then hop in the car and let the dice take you where they may. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, the object is to look around and then challenge each other to come up with fun kids activities no matter where you are.
- Create a fairy garden. Type in Fairy Garden on Pinterest.com, and you will see hundreds of ideas for making one of these magical miniature lands in a pot. Once you’re done, spend even more family bonding time creating stories about the fairies that live there.
- Make your own game. Using recycled materials, make a game that you can play together during family time once you’re done. Easy ideas are Plinko, Qbert (with plastic cups), checkers, or even target practice with a nerf gun and plastic cups.
- Let them do your make up. Even dads can participate in one of the most fun activities for kids. Kids will have a great time making your look fabulous, and it only takes a second to wash off when they’re done.
- Make a paper boat and test it in the bathtub.
- Tell scary stories in the dark. It doesn’t have to be nighttime for this one. Find a dark room in the house, or just throw a blanket over your head, flip on a flashlight and get ready to scream.
- Color Easter eggs. This is one of those family activities that are fun any time of the year. Hard boil a dozen eggs, then use vinegar and food coloring to make the color stay. Once, they’re done, pop them in the fridge, and you have healthy snacks ready to go for any of your kids activities.
9 Family Activities for All Ages
- Go for a hike. Up a mountain or just around the neighborhood – either one is fine. The goal is family bonding time, and you might just burn off a little energy, too.
- Fix things together. If you can handle the “help” your kiddo provides, this is a great way to spend quality time with family, get something done, and make it a time for kids to learn a new skill all at the same time.
- Help someone out. You don’t have to sign away your Saturday volunteering to do this one. You can collect things together to drop off at a donation site, sell lemonade to raise money for a cause – find something your kiddo likes to do and build on that.
- Family game night. Pull out a board game, play charades or make this a special time for kids to create their own game. Make a Family Cup trophy to pass around to the winner from week to week.
- Grow herbs in the kitchen. Spending time with kids doesn’t have to be all about games and excitement. Grab a few small pots and some herbs from the grocery store, put them in a sunny spot and watch them grow. Later, you can use them for one of the best indoor activities for kids: cooking together.
- Start a business together. Have a lemonade stand or a pet sitting business, and let your kids call the shots. If you want spending time with kids to be educational, this is a prime opportunity to teach them the way the world works and help them earn some extra cash at the same time.
- Write a letter to someone famous. Is one of the most popular indoor activities for kids in your house using the iPad? Spend a few minutes talking about what else they wish their iPads could do and then help them compose a letter to send to Apple with their suggestions.
- Create your own chalkboard. Use your quality time with family to pick a spot in the house and then paint the wall with chalkboard paint together. Kids (and adults) of all ages will love writing on the walls, and one of the benefits of spending time with your child in this way is that you can turn it into a message board once the novelty wears off.
- Make your own movie. Come up with a storyline during family bonding time and become your own family of Steven Spielbergs. 15 to 20 years from now, you can show it at their wedding.
10 Indoor Activities for Kids
- Read books together. You can each read on your own time and then turn spending time with kids in the car into a family book club.
- Bake together. Grab a mix from the grocery along with some icing, and create together. Check your local library as some let you borrow cake pan shapes that are great for the younger kids.
- Get out your old photo albums. Pull out the pictures of your wedding or pictures from when YOU were a kid. Your children will love seeing what you looked like, and spending time with kids like this will give you a chance to tell them funny family stories – perfect family bonding time.
- Take a class together. Whether it’s painting or carpentry, this is a great time for kids to see you when you’re vulnerable. It can even make you seem more approachable and maybe even get them to use quality time with family to open up more.
- Put a jigsaw puzzle together.
- Go Bowling. This is one of the best indoor activities for kids if the weather outside is just too extreme to bear. They almost always have family specials, and they have equipment so that even the littlest ones can participate.
- Have a food challenge. Spending time with kids this way isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re up to the challenge, fill paper bags with food, both yummy and not-so-yummy. Number each paper bag. Draw numbers out of the hat, and you have to eat whatever is inside.
- Build towers out of plastic cups. Test your engineering skills and see how high you can get the tower. Accidentally knock it over? No problem, just start again.
- Make a time capsule. Have each person contribute one or two items that represent life for them as it is today. Bury the box or simply put it on the top shelf of the closet.
- Create an obstacle course. Kids bouncing off the walls with pent up energy? Create an obstacle course with broomsticks, chairs, sofa cushions and pillows. You can even time them and see if they can improve their score with each attempt.
To make the most of your family time together, try reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish for tips on getting your children to open up.
If you’re looking for a fun family game that’s good for all ages, try Hedbanz. Family members put a word on their forehead and then try to guess what it is by asking everyone else questions.
Also read: How to Call a Truce in Sibling Rivalry?