7 Ideas For Quality Family Time!

Bedfordshire Parenting Week

This years National Parents Week theme is ‘Make One Change’. With the week fast approaching on the 19th October, we asked our staff & volunteers – ‘If you can make one change for Bedfordshire Parents Week, what would it be?’. The majority said that they wanted to spend more time with their family. But just how can we spend quality time together? Here’s 7 ideas for spending quality family time (one for each day of the week!):

1. Eat together as a family at meal times

This is probably the easiest idea to implement straight away (more like easier said than done I hear some of you say!). It’s true that in today’s world of digital television, games consoles and not to mention iphones and tablet PCs; it can be difficult to drag people to the dinner table.

Setting some basic ‘Meal Time Rules’ can really help to limit distractions and help conversation to flow naturally:

  • Set a meal time and stick to it – Gradually they will all learn what time they will receive food (much like at the zoo… the similarities probably don’t end there!)
  • Don’t sit in front of the TV, or if there’s a TV in the room switch it off
  • Switch phones off
  • Ban tablet PCs and hand held game consoles, mp3 players and in general any products starting with ‘i’ (we call this rule the iBan)
  • Set the duration of the meal, this can let everyone schedule their time and hopefully stop any arguments before they happen

Meal time is a brilliant way to find out what’s happened in each others day, whether that be at work or at school. Just the simple question ‘What did you do today?’ can keep everyone involved in each others lives. If your teenager finds this concept hard to grasp, just explain that it’s like being on Facebook… only actually face to face… real life.

2. Go on family days out

Although it can be hard to get a consensus on a place to visit that everyone will enjoy, there are many places that have multiple attractions. As a local charity we have visited many ourselves. This may be true for many parents with young children and not just parents with teenagers; how many adults really enjoy spending the day at a kids activity fun house? Places like the zoo, the fair or even the beach generally have something that everyone will enjoy, even if it’s a deck chair and a good book!

Family days out needn’t be expensive either, there are lots of interesting places to visit right here in Bedfordshire. The Day Out With The Kids website is one of many that has a directory of fun places to take the family all year round. Your local newspapers and magazines will often contain deals and promotions for local attractions. Taking a picnic and using public transport or sharing a ride with a friend and their family can help make your money go further.

3. Read together with the children at bedtime

So this obviously isn’t applicable for parents with teenagers (unless you count Glamour magazine as reading material) but for younger children this can be a real bonding experience. If you have a child that’s started school then this is an opportunity to help them progress with their reading and if they’re younger then just the sound of your voice reading a bedtime story can create a love for reading that will last a lifetime. Here’s some straight forward tips:

  • Choose an appropriate book at the recommended reading level, many books have reading level guidelines on the cover or spine (there are lots of children’s books that can be interesting for adults too…who remembers Biff and Chip from school?)
  • Enjoy yourself; reading together should be fun! Relax and be silly, if the moment grabs you put on a character voice or two!
  • Be positive and reassure your child if they get stuck reading or don’t understand a word. This can make a big difference to their progress and enthusiasm to continue reading.
  • Have a set time each day or night. This can help your child with their bedtime routine if done at night time
  • Visit the library for reading material. Imagine a place where you can get as many books as you want for FREE, for life! Your local library will have plenty of children’s books… did we mention they’re FREE?!
  • Story time needn’t be restricted to bed time – Talk about the stories you’ve been reading together when walking to school, having lunch etc. This is your chance to help your child translate the lessons and morals learnt from the story into real life situations. Talking about story time during the day can make kids look forward to the next instalment (quickly followed by bedtime… everyone’s a winner!)

See Book Trust’s free downloadable ‘Reading With Your Child‘ booklet for more advice and ideas!

Bedfordshire Parenting

4. Take up a new hobby together

Learn a new skill or get active by taking up a new hobby or sport together. Ever fancied learning karate or taking up swimming? Maybe you’d prefer to try your hand at acting or some relaxing bird watching? The list of hobbies and skills you can start enjoying today really is endless! Why not take a look on your local notice board to see what groups are running in your area, or you could even start your own group! (Anyone want to join my chocolate appreciation group?)

There are added benefits to supporting children in their activities and pursuits, including helping to increase their self confidence. A parent’s praise can really help to encourage a child in their activities and interests!

5. Have family time together at home on a set day each week

As every parent explains when their child says the dreaded words ‘I’m Bored!’, there are plenty of things to do around the home for entertainment. This is the same when looking for family activity ideas:

  • Watch a film (have a Movie Night with popcorn)
  • Play board games. We’ve come along way since the days of snakes & ladders, what child doesn’t smile at the words ‘Twister’ or ‘Jenga’!
  • Watch home movies, look at family photographs and cringe at bad hairstyles of the past!
  • Watch your favourite soaps or television programmes together
  • Have a family Quiz
  • Play multiplayer video games (there are some excellent family games, especially on the Nintendo Wii)
  • Play classic games like charades
  • Make a family portrait

Keeping to the same day each week will help everyone know to keep that day free in their schedule. Even basic games like charades can be genuinely fun and enjoyable in a family setting, especially if an element of competition is introduced such as boys versus girls or the losers do the washing up! They aren’t called classics for nothing!

6. Cleaning and chores

Yeah right, you’re telling me that I can get the family to help with the house work without complaining? This is a tall order I know but for certain chores this may be an easy way for you to spend family time together. For example household tasks like cooking, preparing meals, washing dishes and hanging out wet clothes on the line are all tasks that can be helped with more than one person. These kinds of tasks also tend to take some time to complete, perfect quality time to have a chat and learn more about each other!

This can be made even more enjoyable especially for younger children when teaching them a new skill at the same time such as kneading dough or folding sheets. All children love attention from their parents, it doesn’t matter if it’s whilst doing the cleaning (getting them involved in chores early is a definite plus – practice makes perfect!).

7. Homework / Coursework

Although we will never admit it, you may not be the only one who has had a busy day; most school children, sixth formers/college students will have some form of homework or coursework to complete during the week.

By taking an interest in your child’s work you get to see exactly what it is they are being taught whilst showing your child that you think that their education is important. If you sit with your child (even if it’s just in the same room) then you will be able to see if they are struggling with any parts of the work and offer help and advice should they need it.

Keeping the room as distraction free as possible is obviously important for concentrating on studying but just being in the same room as one another can create a stronger family bond. Of course there’s nothing to stop you asking questions about their work whenever they stick their head up from under a book! This can be an excellent time to find out about your child’s aspirations and dreams and help them to plan their route ahead.

Useful Resources:

A quick Google search will give you many useful resources for parents in your local area but the Bedfordshire Council Website is also a great place to start. Some of their resources include:

Bedfordshire Parents Week is running from Saturday 19th – Saturday 26th October.

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