Looking around it is plain to see that so many of us out there lead hectic, over-scheduled lives. Twenty-four hours just does not seem sufficient to do everything we need to do in a day. Many of my clients express a desire for an additional hour, or two, or twelve–particularly parents. Having heard about the importance of early childhood experiences and their impact on development and attachments, parents/caregivers worry that the amount of time they spend with their child(ren) won’t be enough.
Rather than focusing on quantity of time, I encourage them to focus on quality. For some families, quality time of any amount can be difficult to schedule. What about cooking dinner, doing the laundry, paying bills, etc. they ask? It can feel like there is no free time at all! Parents/caregivers can try to add “play” to their list of household to-dos, but also, depending on the child’s age, can involve young ones in the domestic activity. Children LOVE to feel they are helpful and that they are like mom, dad, grandma, auntie, etc. Young children who are able to match like items and follow simple directions can help sort laundry or put away groceries. We can provide lots of praise for the assistance which can help encourage that behavior to continue as well as boost self-confidence.
How else can we increase those perhaps brief, yet meaningful moments of quality time? In what other ways can families sneak play into daily routines? What are some other FREE ways to promote development and personal-social skills in young children?
Talk, talk, talk! To your child, with your child, for your child. Narrate your actions, their play, and what is going on around them. If you are cooking dinner, explain to your young child what you are doing, list the ingredients, and describe how things feel/smell/taste. Ask your child questions about what they see and think. If they are not developmentally able to answer your questions, you can answer for them. Talking to and about your child–especially about what they may be feeling–can help them feel important and understood.
Read, read, read. It is never too early to look at books. And you do not need to literally read, you can label pictures, make up your own story, and wonder about what will happen next. Look at books, photo albums, magazines, billboards–whatever is around you. You can do this on the go–in the car, bus, train and/or when on walks–or when waiting at appointments, for example. When it comes to sitting and looking at picture books with your child, throughout the day is great, but if that is not possible, bedtime is a wonderful place to start. Looking at books before bed is a lovely way to promote bonding as well as provide a consistent nighttime routine for young children.
Play imitation games. Again, young children love to be like us adults. Play games where they copy your movements, what you say, and/or what you do. If you are paying bills or doing work at home, encourage your child to do the same and offer paper and crayons. If you are shaving before work, encourage your child to “shave” too using their finger or some other safe replacement tool. Trying to fit in some exercise? Try yoga poses, dancing, tag outside, etc. with your child.
Our interactions don’t have to be picture perfect. Life is messy and we are all doing our best to get by. Do what works for you, your family and your own uniquely busy schedule.
If you feel overwhelmed by the demands of life–as a parent or not–and would like some support to help prioritize and manage it all a little bit better, consider contacting Katie at [email protected].