With so much on our minds and busy, modern schedules, it can be easy for adults to get wrapped up in just getting through the day. Often, if our little ones are clean, fed, and safe we feel that we've done our duty and can send them off to play. And while these things are important and children should be able to entertain themselves, it's important that we take the time to fill our little ones' emotional buckets to ensure that they are growing up feeling happy, healthy, secure, and confident. Make it a point to spend some real, distraction-free time with your child each day. Need a few ideas? Check out the suggestions below!
- Sit and play with them - This can be tough after a long day! Plus, as adults, it can be really tough to connect with our inner child and play "pretend". But don't worry! There are plenty of ways you can play together without having to really use your imagination. Take 15-20 minutes to build blocks with them, do a marble run, or play a simple board game. You may find yourself enjoying getting lost in the fun and it will mean the world to your child.
- Do something creative together - Just as with playing, sitting and doing an art project with your child can be a wonderful bonding experience they'll always remember. There's no need to do anything elaborate (although you certainly can if you want to!) You can do something as easy as draw pictures while your child colors them or play with playdough together.
- Have them help you around the house - Believe it or not, your child will love helping you do chores around the house. As long as you're doing them together, that is! Children at this age love being a "helper" and also enjoy imitating what they see adults doing. Chat while washing and drying the dishes. Let them spray the window while you wipe it down. Get them to separate their clothes out of Mommy and Daddy's clothes while you fold them up. Give them the folded clothes to put in the closet. As long as you guys are spending quality time, they'll be happy!
- Read together - Yes, we know. We talk about it all the time. But reading together is so important! Not only does it provide your child with extra literature exposure, but it creates regular (hopefully nightly) one-on-one time with your child. Snuggle up together with a good book and have rich discussions about what you've read after the story has finished.
- Ask specific questions about their day - Don't just ask them, "How was your day?" after school. You'll likely get a general "good" as they move on to their next activity or ask you if they can watch T.V. Ask them specific questions, rather, that will invite a nice conversation. Consider asking them things like, "What did you play at recess today?" or "What's one thing you learned?" Questions like these will lead to richer answers that can evolve into nice conversations. For example, if they tell you they were playing tag at recess, ask them who they played with and how many times they got tagged.
- Use words of affirmation - Throughout all of these activities, don't forget to build up their confidence with words of affirmation. If they've accomplished something, praise them for how smart or strong they are. If they've put forth a good effort, be sure to let them know how wonderful it is that they never give up. If they're being a good helper, let them know how lucky you are to have them!