As I’m giving the baby her lunch, I feel a familiar and insistent tug on my jeans. Looking down I see my cute toddler gesture to be picked up. At the same time, a shrill voice shouts “Muuuuuuuuuuuuuum!” down the staircase. Hmmm, welcome to the world of having more than one child!
It’s not just family time that’s important for children. Each of them wants and need time with both my partner and me, individually. Even we might love them all equally, their needs aren’t the same as they’re all at different stages of development. This is why I wanted to write down a few tips on how we try to spend individual quality time with all our children. If you have any of your own, please pass them on because I could always use a little help!
It just takes a few minutes
No one can juggle their time effectively all of the time, but even if it’s just 10 minutes, I find our children notice it when we take some time out with them individually. They don’t have to compete with anyone else to get attention and aren’t distracted by what’s going on outside of our conversation. Whether it’s a walk, reading a book, making something or just talking and listening - those extra minutes can go a long way.
Using routine to help us plan time with our children works really well. This means that your children will be able to look forward to the time you will be spending together. If one of your children wants you to do something specific with them, they will know that there’s going to be space in the day for you to do this - and so do you.
Can you add on a bit of time to your usual daily routines? Instead of launching right into making breakfast, what about setting aside a few minutes for some morning stretches or yoga? Not only will your little ones love the extra time with you, but it might also help to relax and prepare you for the day ahead!
If your little ones are still at home in the afternoon, this can be a difficult time to navigate. Having a gap to spend time with my toddler before our middle child gets back from nursery means we can sit and spend time on activities she loves, just the two of us. I know she looks forward to this time together.
We used to try and put the kids to bed together, but recently we changed our routine. Allowing our oldest to stay up a little bit later means that either both or us or one of us can spend more quality time with her. It also means that our middle child can have her own story time all to herself whilst our eldest can enjoy slightly more “grown-up” books.
Enrol your child in a class or club
Enroling your child in a class or club that reflects their interests or personality can be a great way to support your child individually. From Rainbows and Brownies to ballet, football, swimming, drama, music or martial arts there are all kinds of options for kids classes and clubs.
Going along to support your little one, helping out and encouraging them in their practice at home is a bonding experience for you both. It also helps your children build skills and hobbies they may have for a lifetime.
All play and no work
Fitting household chores around work makes it hard to find quality time to spend together as a family, never mind individually. If there are lots of tasks to do around the house, I try to create little “jobs” for my kids to do. Even if they’re not actually helping, they like to think that they are! Putting the washing in colour coordinated piles is currently a favourite - although (unfortunately) I don’t know how long this will last...
Fitness is good for all the family, so exercising together is both fun and incredibly beneficial. It can be hard to find time to get to the gym, so, why not bring the gym to you? Putting on a workout that’s set to music and getting your kids to join in is a great idea. Kids have loads of energy so once they’re confident on their feet, they should easily be able to keep up with you and will enjoy copying the moves.
Also, think about activities your kids like. If they love hopscotch or skipping, buy your own rope and skip with them outside - it’s an amazing calorie burner and your little ones will love seeing you join in with their playground games.
Take a break from tech
As I spend a lot of time using my laptop and phone at work, I really try to monitor the time I spend on my phone when I’m at home. I’m also conscious that I don’t want the kids to see me constantly staring into a screen. We try to have a no-phone rule at the dinner table and instead, try to get our older children to tell us about the best and worst parts of their day.
Even though we’re sitting and eating as a family, we can give our kids individual attention whilst they’re telling us about their day. Often, we’ll already know almost everything they did (especially if we were with them) but it gives them the opportunity to tell stories and reflect on their day with us.
What do you do to spend quality time with each of your children? Share your tips with us on twitter @matchstick_monkey with the #howwespendourtime.