With so many things to do every day, it can sometimes be really tough to squeeze in that much needed quality time with our kids. But, Liana Cruz, the proud momma of two-year-old Nadia and one of the authors of the Kidstarter Curious Curriculum, a local preschool program for home use, is here to tell you that you can do it! Read on for Liana’s helpful tips for spending real quality time with your kids!
As my daughter’s constant companion and sidekick, you would think time is all I really have to give to her. But the reality is, in between chores, cooking, and the occasional writing for Kidstarter, how much unhurried time do I really have to offer?
One slow morning, I took Nadia, my 2-year-old, with me to an unfamiliar grocery where she had the most fun tasting grapes, talking to the ates selling fruit, choosing her snacks (we were on this aisle forever), and helping Mommy pay for our purchases. I had other things on my agenda but made sure to involve her in each part of the process. Her one request was to “ride the cars” in the arcade nearby which I willingly obliged because she was such a trooper.
After our successful errands, we both sat down in desperate need of something to eat. In between munches of Potato Corner and pretzels, Nadia stopped and smiled with sour cream powder on her lips to say, “Thank you for taking me on a date, Mommy! I love going out with you!” Then she proceeded to give me the best kiss ever. If I could bottle up time, this would definitely go down as one of my favorite memories (thus far) as a Mom. And now, as she naps quietly beside me, I realize the need to set myself up for even more magical moments like this.
In my quest to achieve this, I thought of a few more practical and doable things to try myself and to encourage others to do as well.
Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention to the present, observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.” To live mindfully means, “to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.” This buzz word simply encourages us to seize these precious fleeting moments we have with our children by being present.
It challenges us to really listen, understand, and question what is going on in their lives and what they might be thinking. Being present means setting aside our phones and other devices that can distract and giving our 100% attention to the children. To practice mindfulness, we can ask intentional questions and engage fully, with our eyes, bodies, minds, and hearts.
Have you ever noticed how precious your conversations are with your child before bedtime? Literature has shown that moments before they sleep, children are in their most relaxed and safest state. It is in this time when their brainwaves are in flux between the Alpha and Theta cycles causing them to share their deepest and sometimes funniest concerns as well as the most mind-boggling questions.
Take advantage of pillow talk and these special minutes/hours when you can ask things like, “What was your favorite part of today?” or “What’s keeping you up at night?” Read stories. Make up stories. Take turns creating your own version of a fairytale! Let your child snuggle into bed with you every now and then. They’re only this little for a while. On rare occasions, take pillow walks – around the village or condominium, with everyone comfortably in their jammies just enjoying each other’s company.
In truth, any day can be fun and fantastic as long as you do something out of the ordinary and plan for it with your child’s interests in mind. Messy Monday means old t-shirts that can get stains all over and art supplies to no end. Taco Tuesday is when you get to add as much beef and cheese to your dinner as you desire. Wacky Wednesday could mean whipping out board games for loads of laughs. Thoughtful Thursday is when each family member makes sure to say or do something encouraging for another.
Many families look forward to Friday nights because it means the start of the weekend and lots of Mommy/Daddy time. I’ve overheard children share, “Tonight is movie night!” or “It’s Friday and we get to order pizza!” Here’s a suggestion: Fun Friday is when you make your own pizza or watch videos like wedding SDEs, baby photo slideshows, or fun travel memories of the family. Choose one night, even on the weekends, and make the most of it knowing you’re filling their love tanks to the brim.
The best and simplest thing we can really do is to play, play, and play some more. This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes just playing can seem daunting. I’ve spoken to some parents who find they don’t know what to say while playing with their child or are stumped with what to do next. “How can I level up play? How can I be less boring to my child?”
A great starting point is to observe and listen. Many times, we come into play with preconceived notions of where the plot is going or what our child wants to do. Observing and listening in on how your child interacts with others or even their toys may just give you a glimpse into their interests and passions. Pick up from there and do your own version of trial and error.
One of the reasons the Kidstarter Curious Curriculum came to be was because I’m passionate about parents being play defenders at home. I’ve seen firsthand what a difference 20 minutes can make when a mom builds Legos with her child or a dad pretends to be chef with the best sinigang in town. The KCC is meant to encourage and empower parents who want to keep play alive and foster a sense of curiosity in their children. It breaks down play activities, provides conversation starters, suggests extensions, and of course leaves room for their creative minds to flourish and grow!