If you read last week's blog, you already know how important it is to spend quality time with your children — so I won’t belabor the point. Whether you choose to do so family style or one-on-one, the benefits will amaze you. As parents, we’re busy — I get it! It’s difficult enough to carve time out of our schedules for the things we have to accomplish, let alone the things we’d like to. However, it shouldn’t be hard to find a few moments to spend quality time with your children. I’m here to give you some simple ideas for how to do so.
First of all, try to combine some tasks. Otherwise known as killing two birds with one stone. Although I certainly don't mean for any little birdies to be harmed, children just want to spend time with you — even if it’s helping you complete something on your seemingly endless ‘To Do List.’
The other challenge for parents is that on those rare occasions when they find themselves with a little extra time, they also find themselves at a loss for things to do with their children that are simple to facilitate, perfect for multiple ages, and easy on the family budget. I’m here to help with that too. In this case, sometimes it’s as simple as asking your children what they’d like to do — and doing it! Beware, though, when left to the devices of children things could get very messy!
Remember — the important thing is not WHAT you do but THAT you do! Shake off that all too familiar ‘parent-guilt’ and by all means, stop comparing yourself to every #instamom or #instadad out there and thinking you’re not as good! Just spend time with your children — it doesn’t have to be perfect time, it just has to be time.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of 99 simple, low-cost ideas for quality time with children of all ages. Some can even be combined — so get creative. I'm going to provide you with these 99 ideas over the next three weeks! I challenge you to try one of these ideas — just one — each week! And at that rate, theoretically, you’d have enough ideas from this blog series to last you a whole two years — so no excuses. However, this does come with a CAVEAT: The positive changes in your family dynamics may cause uncontrollable cravings for more and more quality family time; therefore, this list probably won't take you through two years!
Reading works for any age. For younger children, read to them. For older children, read with them. When you read with older children, read the same book and facilitate a book discussion. If you have a family of readers, challenge them to a reading marathon to see who can read the most books — age appropriate of course. Have each family member make a reading chart and get together once a week to keep track of reading accomplishments. Remember, mom and dad should be reading too — it sets an impressive example for children!
2. Ride Bikes
If you have children, you probably have bicycles cluttering up your garage. Get those babies out and ride them! Many areas have bike paths, which — with no automobile traffic to worry about it — makes it an entirely safe place for the whole family to ride. If you don’t have bicycles and don’t want to invest, look for a local bike shop that rents equipment — baby seats and toddler trailers can usually be found for rent too.
3. Indy Pizzas
Buy or make enough pizza dough for everyone to create a unique pizza for themselves. Set up a healthy topping bar! Never had an artichoke heart on a pizza before? Use this opportunity to try new topping options because 'try it you might like it!' Here is the amazing whole-wheat pizza dough recipe that I use for my family.
4. Plant A Vegetable Garden
A vegetable garden can be an excellent summer project that offers lots of quality family time planting, weeding, and harvesting — not to mention cooking, canning, and eating too. Start with a fun craft project by making adorable garden markers. Trust me; there is nothing like the satisfaction and pride your family will feel eating food that you, yourselves, have grown.
5. Build A Snuggle Fort
Build a fort with furniture, sheets, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, appliance boxes — whatever you happen to have on hand — for the express purpose of snuggle time. Use flashlights and headlamps to create ambient lighting. Just build it in a location where it won’t be in the way because I guarantee you won’t want to take it down!
6. The Fancy Themed Dinner Party
First, have children pick a fun theme — Mexican, Italian, red, green, foods that begin with the letter 'S,' daddy’s favorites, vegetarian, Shakespearean, ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,’ 'Green Eggs and Ham,' etc. Use your imagination — any fun food theme will do. After that, let children plan the menu, decorate the invitations, set the table, and help prepare the meal. Bring out the good china and stemware — nothing feels fancier than drinking milk from a champagne glass — and don’t forget candles and flowers! Dress up for the occasion too! Make it, even more, fun and fancy by ignoring bedtime in honor of the festivities.
7. Fine Art or Decorating
Children love to paint, so give them something to paint and paint it with them! Whether it’s a piece of paper, a fine art canvas, a wooden birdhouse, a rock, the front door, a closet, or an entire room — make painting a family affair!
There's nothing more fun than baking with your children, and the best part is that you get your ‘just desserts’ in the end! Given the opportunity, children are some of the best measurers, pourers, stirrers, and tasters ever to set foot in the kitchen. Make baking about learning too — if you think about it there are lots of math and science lessons to be had in the kitchen!
9. Play Board Games
Board games have indeed stood the test of time as a family staple for spending quality time together. So having a family board game night is a terrific idea! Here’s a new twist — get creative and make your own! Upcycle things you have lying around the house for the board and game pieces or check out Bare Books where you can purchase all the parts and pieces your little hearts could desire to create your family’s unique version of the board game.
10. Watch a Movie
Don't just watch a movie — make it an event by either visiting a local movie theater or creating the experience in your living room. When at home, darken the room and set-up a concession stand that serves movie treats like popcorn, candy, soda pop — as we like to say, make it 'the whole kit 'n' kaboodle!' Check out these fabulous ideas for a home movie event.
11. Take a Trip AT Your Local Library
You read it right — a trip AT your local library. Obviously, first take a trip TO your local library and there you’ll find the world is your oyster. If you don't have the time or money to travel, but you'd like to get away, the library is the perfect place to explore a destination and enjoy a virtual family vacation. Learn about the culture, geography, food, and folklore of anywhere in the whole wide world. And when you're done traveling AT the library, try decorating your home with artwork based on your virtual travel or preparing and eating some of the authentic foods from your vacation destination.
12. Check Out a Community Event, Attraction, or Local Museum
No matter where you live, there is always something fun going on. Grab the newspaper or visit a local TV station’s website — you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the cool things your area has to offer.
13. Visit a Grandparent
If your grandparents live too far away to visit for the day; then, borrow one! And if you don’t know of one you can borrow; then, visit a senior citizen center! I guarantee a visit from children will make their day.
14. Have a Picnic
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner — any time of the day is ideal for picnic time. And you don’t even have to go anywhere. Set up in your front yard, back yard, or side yard. You can even pretend you're somewhere else. No matter when you do it, where you do it, or how you do it — picnicking is just plain fun!
15. Learn Something New
The sky is the limit here — so use your imagination!
16. Light a Bonfire
Winter, spring, summer, or fall — all you need to do is call. Oh never mind, that's a James Taylor song! Winter, spring, summer, or fall — all you need to do is light a bonfire for loads of family fun! And as long as you're gathering the firewood, you might as well find yourself the perfect stick for toasting marshmallows and make some of these unique s'mores that are sure to bring out the girl scout in anybody!
17. Slurp a Smoothie
Oh! And by the way, we'd be ever so grateful if you'd...
I love this one because it just so darn healthy and so much fun! You can even make your slurping into a contest to see who can slurp the loudest. Just be careful you don't slurp too fast and get a smoothie-slurping headache! Why not try one of these 50 delish smoothie recipes to get your smoothie slurping groove on!
18. Numbers and Letters in the Car
We all spend copious amounts of time in the car with our children — turn that otherwise wasted time into quality family time by playing travel games. And these are just a couple that can help pass the time no matter your age. The Number Game — pick an object and see who can count the most. Count cars, birds, houses, children, road signs — whatever — as you drive along your route. Everyone counts to themselves, and when you reach your destination, each child writes their number down on a piece of paper and hands it to mom or dad. The child with the most 'finds' is the winner. If only one child is playing, have that child set a number as a goal and see if they can reach that goal by the end of the trip. The Letter Game — play this one out loud. Each child must get through the entire alphabet (in order A-Z) by finding every single letter on signs as they pass and shouting out the letter and the word they see it in. For example: 'A' as in 'Avenue!'; 'B' as in 'Boston!'; 'C' as in 'School!'; and so on and so forth. Once a child calls the word, that word on that sign is no longer eligible to other players. However, if the sign was 'School Crossing,' one child could call the 'C' in 'School' and another could call the 'C' in 'Crossing.' The first one to get through the entire alphabet is the winner — but do keep the game going until everyone gets through the alphabet for extra fun. And believe me; there are some letters that can keep this game going for hours — like Q, U, and Z! Unless, of course, you drive by Quality Pizza Shop. This game can also be played with one child — the challenge for one is simply to get through the entire alphabet.
19. Build Something
There is nothing like the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment children get from building something. For younger children that can be building with wooden blocks or anything stackable. Build up — until it teeters down or build long and winding — through every room of the house. For older children, who have outgrown wooden blocks, perhaps there is a home improvement project you've been meaning to accomplish — let your children help. Building something is one of those instances where you'd be checking a task off your ‘To Do List’ as well as teaching your children some valuable life and trade skills, plus spending quality time with them! It’s a win-win-win!
20. Pick Flowers
We are all a little guilty of not stopping to smell the roses — so do make sure you smell the flowers while picking them with your children. Whether you pick roses or dandelions, picking flowers is an easy way to spend a few moments of quality time with your children. The bonus is that fresh flowers are always a lovely addition to any home.
21. Create a Quality Time Album
With all these fun things you’re doing to spend quality time with your children — add this one to the list. If you're taking the time to do all 99 things on my list, you should find it relatively simple to create a family album and a real shame if you don’t!
22. Sing & Dance
Dust off the old vinyl and fire up that turntable, or plug in your Smartphone and visit Spotify! It doesn't matter how you do it just as long as you do it! Get singing and dancing — it’s a total blast for the whole family! And the bonus is the health benefits. The singing and dancing will improve your mood and your heart rate! So sing, dance, have fun, and get healthy!
23. Find a Hill
Hills are a wonderful source of simple fun, and everybody’s got one somewhere near them. Find yours. If it's the time of the year when your hill is green — roll down it and if it happens to be white — slide down it!
24. Write a Letter
Don't let letter writing become a lost art for future generations. Find some lovely stationery and teach your children how to write a letter. It's a great way to stay connected with loved ones — especially grandparents or great-grandparents who may not be computer savvy. They will very much appreciate a handwritten letter sent and delivered snail mail!
25. Care for a Furry Friend
Let’s face it, the dog has gotta’ go, so why not turn his business into the business of spending quality time with your children. Have the whole family take the dog for a walk or feed the bunny or groom the horses. Whatever your pet, make their care about quality time with your children. We have two dogs, four goats, and a brood of chickens. We feed them, bathe them, walk them, clean the barn, and gather eggs as a family. And believe me — we stop a lot of cars when we walk through the neighborhood with our herd of goats, but it's fun family time!
26. Knit, Crochet, or Stitch
You don’t have to be a master knitter, crocheter, or stitcher to do this activity. Just get some needles, hooks, yarn, and thread. Not only is it fun, it's a proven fact that needlework improves fine motor coordination, comprehension, critical thinking, and problem-solving in children. To get you started here are some simple ideas for crocheting with children and believe it or not, some only require yarn and a finger!
27. Climb Every Mountain
It doesn't have to be a mountain-mountain — just go for a hike, or a walk if you live in the city! To keep younger children engaged, make up a phantasmagorical adventure story as you hike or walk along. Creating imaginary fantasies, those that await you around each corner and at your final destination, will make your journey way more exciting and give young hikers/walkers the incentive to keep on hiking/walking! If you do happen to live in a state with lots of peaks, though, challenge the family to see how many you can climb together!
28. Fly an Airplane
Well, of course not a real airplane — unless you happen to have your pilot's license! If not, do the next best thing — explore, discover, and learn the physics behind flight and use those principles to fashion the perfect paper airplane. If you're at a loss, these are some pretty amazing paper airplane plans. So fly 'em high — fly 'em long and turn it into a contest to see whose paper airplane flies the highest and the farthest.
29. Conduct an Experiment
Why not inspire a little bit of learning and a healthy interest in science while creating some quality time with your children? Here are home science experiments you can easily do in any room of your house using everyday household items!
30. Play with Clay
I don’t know any child who doesn’t love playing with a big honkin’ piece of clay, and as an adult, I think you’ll find it fun and very therapeutic too. We carry natural air-dry clay that can even be repurposed once it has dried (as long as no paint or glaze has been applied) by simply placing it is a seal-tight plastic bag with enough water to just cover the largest surface side. Within 24 hours you'll have fresh, moist clay to be used over again!
31. Make a Splash
Weather permitting — go swimming! Your backyard pool, a community pool, a lake, a pond, a river — any body of water will do. If the weather isn't cooperating — perhaps you have an indoor pool close by. This kind of quality family time will always make a big splash with your children.
32. Solve a Puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles are so much fun and they’re even more fun when it’s a collaborative family effort. Don’t be afraid — go for the one with 5000 pieces or 13,200 pieces or 40,000 pieces. You'll get plenty of quality time mileage out of those! Just make sure you get a jigsaw puzzle rolling mat so it can easily be moved out of the way when you're not puzzle-ing.
33. Sail or Sale
Of course, 'sail' and 'sale' are homophones — a type of homonym that sound alike, have different meanings, and have different spellings. Nevertheless, sailing a boat (if you have access to one and live near a body of water) or garage sale-ing (if you don't) are both fun ways of spending quality time with your children!
We’d love it if you’d share your fun ideas for family time below. We’ll send the first ten people who comment a free set of our high-quality acrylic paints in glass paint pots — to help accomplish #7 on this list!
Watch for next week's blog — the second installment (1-33) of "99 Super-Duper Fun Ways to Spend Quality Time With Your Children" — you won't want to miss it! At the end of three weeks, we will be offering this helpful list in the form of a pdf. If you would like to receive it to have ‘on hand’ from Homespun and Hands-On®, let us know in an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org