It happened the other day…
The day had started like most mornings, I prepared my toddler sons breakfast, then sat down to drink my tea while mentally planning the day ahead. My plan went something like this…
- Finish breakfast & tea and clean up
- Go to the play park for some fresh air and outdoor time
- Snack and book time
- Nap time
- Lunch time
- Playtime and more outdoor time
- Dinner time
- Wind down time
- Mummy Relax time (ha!)
Lots of ¨times¨ planned… now I am not rigid on schedules, but I like to follow a sort of flow shall we say! After breakfast, I did the usual leaving the house checklist; make sure diaper is clean, water bottle full, shoes on, you get the idea! We were ready and off we set. I opened the door and we walked out on our way to the play park.
About 4 minutes after leaving the house my son found a trail of leafcutter ants and decided to sit down and watch them for 20 minutes. Every time I said ¨come on let´s go to the park now¨he simply said ¨No shaking his head and pointing to the ants. While I thought this was cute, I started feeling annoyed! It was over 85 degrees (we were in the shade) and the humidity was around 98%. I kept trying to coax him to the park by saying things like ¨don´t you want to go on the slide?¨what about the swings? etc. Then it hit me
WHY WAS I IN A RUSH TO GET TO THE PARK?
After all, the entire point was to get outside, explore, get fresh air, and connect with nature? He was doing exactly that! I was the one trying to rush him to the park and for what! because it was on my list? It hit me like a ton of bricks…
How often in the day do we rush around trying to get to the next thing on our lists without really taking the time to enjoy the moments to their fullest?
Now if I had to be at work, or had an appointment I understand I couldn´t spend all the time in the world just staring at the ants… but I didn´t, the only thing on my list was to get outdoors to the park that morning.
My son didn´t care about the slide, the swings, the park, he was in the moment, living life to the fullest and enjoying the beauty and wonders this world has to offer! Needless to say, we didn´t actually make it to the park, but we did have a fun time!
It then made me think…
how many tantrums could be avoided if we as parents would slow down for a second to really take in the moment and evaluate the situation?
Are we truly in a rush or is it only our imaginary importance we place on things we should be doing? If the answer is no then why insist on an activity because it´s in our plans or because we think it’s a good idea? If the answer is yes, then obviously we need to easily and gently move forward with our day while still respecting the curiosity and adventurousness nature of our kids.
One technique, if you are in a rush, is what I call the play and count method.
Get down to your child’s level and explain that you can see that they are enjoying themselves but that it´s time to leave, or stop playing with XYZ. Then simply say you can continue doing XYZ until you count to 10 (you can choose any number you like but I wouldn´t do less than 10.. also count slowish) and that once you have reached that number it´s time to leave.
So far this technique has been working great! However, I’m not going to lie this doesn´t always work, mainly when my son is either tired or hungry, but providing his belly is full and he’s not too tired it works extremely well.
Now providing your not in a rush, let’s look at ways to slow down with our kids
Stop planning activities for every hour of the day
Don´t get me wrong it’s nice to have activities and good for our kids too. But in our modern day world, we can often find ourselves “pressured” into signing up for every activity available in order to give our children the “perfect childhood” and exposure to as many different things as possible.
Do our kids really need to be doing gymnastics, piano, swimming, Spanish, karate, and dance lessons multiple times per week any sometimes in the same day? NO!
We feel this pressure because little Timmy down the road speaks 7 languages, plays 4 instruments, and can already read at an adult level before the age of three. This pressure is then escalated by viral videos showing infants playing classical music on a violin at only 1 years old. 😉
Our children don´t need to be shuffled to and from activities at every single free time slot we have available, they need us, the parents, to sit down and engage with them, play with them, talk to them, read to them and just spend quality time with them and enjoy being in the moment together.
Note: I am not bashing anyone who places their child in multiple classes each week, they are beneficial and I know a lot of mom´s who rely on these activities in order to work extra hours to put food on the table, pay the rent, or simply because their children love the classes. I am just saying we should be conscious to not fill every empty time slot we have and to consciously make time to do nothing and just enjoy our children and soak in the moment.
Turn Off Technology
We use our phones and devices for so much these days, everything from meal planning, budgeting, working, organizing, you name it and we have an app for it! And while these things can be huge time savers and help us plan our daily lives more efficiently. They can be the ultimate block between slowing down and enjoying the moments with our kids.
How often have you put away your phone to spend quality time together, only for one of your kids to do something sweet or funny? You pull your phone back out to take a photo and the next thing you know, you’re sharing it on Facebook, adding filters, adding text overlays and little hearts!
Before you know it your decision to put away your phone to spend quality time has now be turned into 20 minutes of you staring at your phone, doing the complete opposite of what you set out to do in the first place.
Turn off the tv, turn off all the screens and just spend the time connecting with each other and appreciating the moment.
Go for a walk with your family and purposely look for new things you´ve never seen before even if you walk the same route you usually take. Talk about the different things you see, colors, shapes, insects, funny garden ornaments, really soak it all up. Not only will you benefit from the fresh air, walking is a great way to slow down and connect, burn off energy, connect with nature and get in some exercise.
Talk to your child about the things that interest them, tell stories to each other, share ideas. Talking is a wonderful way to connect and learn about one another.
Kids love playing and for good reason it´s FUN! Use your imagination to make up your own games, play board games or just goof around. Playing is an excellent way to bond and slow down.
Read Stories Together
Curling up on the sofa and reading aloud to your kids is another great way to connect, spark imagination and build a close bond. Sure you could watch the action packed fast paced version of the book on DVD, but slowing down to actually read the book over several days or weeks is a great way to connect each day and spend quality time together. After reading a book try to find the DVD and then ask your child what differences they found between the movie and book.
They say that the kitchen is the heart of the house, so what better place to connect with our kids? Often preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily feels like a chore. Getting your kids involved will no doubt lengthen the time it takes to prepare the food, but it´s a perfect way to slow down, appreciate the food, teach our kids new skills and spend quality time together.
So to summarize, here are 7 simple actionable steps you can take today to slow down and connect with your kids
- Don´t plan activities for every day of the week. Schedule in Free Time
- Turn off the Technology
- Get outdoors and go for a walk
- Talk to each other and ask each other fun and silly questions, share stories, or just chit chat
- Play together
- Read aloud each day
- Get your kids involved in the kitchen
I would love to hear what you do to slow down and connect with your kids, let me know in the comments!