If you’re like most parents, you probably wish you had more time to spend with your kids. Life is busy and with all that busyness, there never seems enough time for quality parent-child interactions.
Feelings of time-related guilt amongst parents are common, but just because you’re not alone in your guilt doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to change the situation. Uninterrupted quality time with your kids is important and as little as 10-15 minutes with a child will tell them they are special and that they matter. If you have multiple children, aim to offer this 10-15 minutes one-on-one when possible.
Children and Tech
Technology is part of today’s life but for more and more children it’s becoming one the biggest elements in their lives. Instead of playing outside and tapping into their imagination with friends, they are commonly found to be watching television or playing games on a phone, tablet or computer console. This makes quality parent-child time all the more important, forcing children to unplug from their screens.
Educational apps and computer games can be great but children need their parents more. You might not feel confident teaching them long division or coding principles the way an app can, but you can teach them how to communicate, interact with others, and build long-lasting relationships.
To thrive as human beings, your children need time away from technology. They need time to make great family memories, to relax, to listen and to speak. They need time to enjoy nature, ride a bike, learn to cook, swim, play boardgames, build a cubby, go for a hike…all these things keep your kids engaged in ‘real’ life and push pause on the negative effects that too much technology can have on your child’s brain.
When screens are off, everyone involved is more engaged. It’s just as much a good thing for you as it is for your kids!
Tech-free family time
Whether you’re a family of two or a family of 10, switching off together is necessary. Quality family time is your chance to do this, helping you connect, relax, and enjoy your loved one’s company.
Quality family time means no device involved. If you’re stuck for ideas and you only have a short amount of time, you could.
Have a backyard picnic
While a picnic in a park or by a lake sounds heavenly, the time it takes to pack up a picnic and drive to a scenic spot can be a deterrent. Instead, throw a rug down in the backyard and nip out the back for a quick 15-minute lunch. If you forget something, you can always run back inside and grab it.
Another quick activity you can do on a picnic rug in the backyard is to stargaze. It sure beats another night staring at the TV! If you’re lucky enough to have a trampoline, you could swap out the rug for some even more comfy stargazing. Take it in turns trying to find shapes in the star formations or spotting constellations.
Work on a puzzle
If you have the space to lay out a puzzle, commit to working on that puzzle every day for 15 minutes. A 500-piece or 1000-piece will keep you busy for a while and when it’s complete you’ll have a visual representation of what you can achieve when you work together as a family. While you work, have a chat about what you’ve been doing that day. When kids are distracted they’ll often open up without realising it!
Younger kids will love taking a break from whatever they are doing to run and catch some bubbles in the backyard. You can buy bubbles at your local dollar store or you can make your own at home. Try to spread the bubbles across the garden to encourage 15 minutes of exercise too!
If you have longer than 15-minutes for a tech-free family activity you could:
Make lunch together
Instead of just making lunch for the kids and calling them into the kitchen, make lunch together and connect as you prepare the food. Rice paper rolls and sushi can be fun to make or everyone could take a turn at adding something to make up a salad. You could also try making homemade pizzas.
Play a board game
Playing games with your children not only ensures quality time, it also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate good sportsmanship. Board games can be lots of fun and this teaches kids that life is not always about winning or losing. Board games can also help to consolidate curriculum skills that they are learning at preschool or school.
Host a theme night
Host a Hawaiin luau or hold your own Mexican fiesta. Plan your menu to suit your theme, play some appropriate music, learn some new language phrases and get dressed up. Theme nights are sure to make lasting memories and they can give children appreciation for other cultures.
Be it a trip to the park, a hike in the bush or a swim in the ocean, there’s no better way to get kids away from tech than to get them outdoors. Fresh air is fantastic for the health and wellbeing of your children and you will benefit greatly from it too.
Tech-free leisure time
If pausing from technology only occurs when you interrupt with some designated family time, it may be that you need to introduce some automated tech-free leisure time. Controlling screen time can be tricky when you’re busy but by automating tech-free time, it does the hard work for you.
Introduce tech-free zones in the house or parental controls on your child’s devices. You could also purchase a router with in-built Wi-Fi scheduling, which allows for your household devices to be switched off from the Wi-Fi at a certain time. This is a great option if you are a family unit, as it allows you to continue using your own device, or watch Netflix, after the children head to bed.
If you’ve ever struggled to switch off your devices or get the kids to turn theirs off voluntarily, setting up the router pause function to stop your kids from accessing mobile and computer devices for purposeful tech-free time may be needed. Start by introducing tech-free family time and then look at ways you can limit technology reliance in the home by automating tech-free time.
Technology is a fantastic thing, but it’s not healthy to be too reliant on it.