Today’s families are busier than ever. Dads and moms alike tend to spend much more than 40 hours at work, while kids have school, friends, and various extracurricular activities dominating their days. In between meetings and soccer practice, many modern families find it difficult to spend any time together whatsoever, let alone plan experiences they will remember forever.
Yet, studies continue to confirm that quality family time is incredibly important for raising healthy, happy kids. No matter how many hours a week you can devote to shared experiences, you must strive to make them as memorable and meaningful as possible. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Eat Dinner Together
Time and again, researchers find that the absolute most impactful activity parents can share with their kids is eating dinner. At a young age, kids benefit by family dinner by picking up extra words during dinner conversations; later, regular family dinners provide structure in otherwise hectic work and school schedules, and they enforce responsibility for attendance that translates into academic excellence.
What’s more, family dinners tend to impart healthy eating habits on little ones. By preparing food at home, you have more control over the nutrition content of your kids’ meals, which means you can ensure your babies are eating more fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins than they might get otherwise. Tonight, instead of ordering pizza and chowing down in front of the TV, you should use the stove, set the table, and talk to your family.
Share Legacy Hobbies
You probably have a hobby, and chances are you developed that hobby because you learned it from your family growing up. Collecting coins has always been a great pastime to share with your kids― since you did it with your family when you were young, you can continue to do it with your family now that you have kids. Plus, because you know you already enjoy the hobby, you won’t find it particularly difficult to find time for it in your schedule.
The best way to get a child invested in a hobby is to start early. Younger kids are usually interested in any new experience, as long as you use are positive and enthusiastic about it. You can even try combining two related hobbies together, like coin collecting and metal detecting, for double the fun and double the opportunity of finding something your children enjoy doing.
If you have older kids, tweenage and up, it might be trickier to get them invested in your favorite activity. Allowing a tween or teen to bring along a friend is a good way to get started. Also, you can try taking your children along to conventions so they can see all the other people that are interested in that hobby too; there are conventions for just about everyone from coin collectors to auto enthusiasts to fishermen.
Explore the Outdoors
Like eating dinner together, venturing outside as a family is a good way to unplug from electronic devices, make lasting memories, and communicate. Researchers have found that too much time indoors is extremely detrimental to growing minds; nature deficit disorder is becoming a real crisis, as every day American kids play only about seven minutes outside compared to seven hours in front of screens. By spending family time outside, you and your kids can reap dozens of mental and physical health benefits.
The great outdoors provides ample opportunities for healthy exercise, including riding your bikes around the neighborhood, tossing balls in the local park, or hiking nearby wilderness trails, like these. However, you don’t have to go so far to reap the benefits of outdoor play: You can also work with your kids to plant and tend a garden just outside the front door.
Volunteer for Your Community
When your free time is limited, you might consider combining family time and community time into one, beneficial period. No matter where you live, your community could use your help, and volunteering your family for various services will help everyone feel better and grow closer. In most towns, there are dozens of volunteering options: distributing food and supplies to the homeless, cleaning parks and roadways, spending time with senior citizens, cleaning and walking shelter pets, and more. You can try different volunteer activities every week to find one the whole family enjoys.
Let Your Kids Choose
If you spend too much time away from home, you might not know your kids as well as you’d like. Allowing them to guide family time is an excellent way to learn what interests them and provide them with essential leadership skills. You might want to set a few limits, like budget, time, and distance from home, but giving them the reins shows your trust and respect for their happiness. Plus, you might find a new hobby perfect for meaningful family time.