Finding time to do stuff with your kids

time together

There is a pile of laundry that needs doing, dinner is still a figment of your imagination, there are emails to answer, and a pile of work notes that need going over after the kids are in bed. How on earth does anyone expect you to add in some crafting, exploring, playing, doing, making, cooking, experimenting with the kids? Seriously?

I know. I hear you. Right now AJ is watching more TV than usual, LJ is requiring as many feeds, sleeps and nappy changes as expected and both Phil and I are running on empty.

So how do we find the time to start doing some of the fun stuff again?

Here are my tips that seem to work (some days anyway):

1. Sleep. This seems to be the deciding factor in whether I am going to have any energy to do anything positive the next day or if I am going to put on one too many dvds to get us through. It’s hard to get excited about lego or playdough or even a trip to the zoo when you are feeling that grumpy, heavy, mean-spirited feeling that comes with not enough sleep. Try going to bed half an hour or even an hour earlier. If you’re staying up late and watching awful TV or browsing inane websites because you’re too tired to get up and go to bed, force yourself to get up and turn it off.

2. Forward planning. The best days I have with AJ are when I think about the activity we are going to do before hand. That way I can have all the materials assembled or the arrangements made (even if it’s just in my own head) and the day seems to flow much better. There is also something to be said for positive thinking… write down your day’s plan… imagine it getting done and sometimes it just does.

3. Turn your kitchen table into the kids’ arts/crafts/science experiment hub. While you are making dinner or washing the dishes or sitting with your laptop or whatever, your kids can be tinkering away at the kitchen table with your input when they need it while you get your chores done. We have deliberately bought a very cheap kitchen table from IKEA and the surface is slowly but surely being completely ruined. It’s covered with glue and bits of dead playdough, felt tip pen marks and blobs of dried paint. Our idea is to let it be and not worry about it for the time being and then eventually we will either replace it with a more expensive, more permanent table or we can sand back the surface and start all over again.

4. Find activities that you enjoy doing too. There’s no point feeling guilty about not taking your kids to the playground and pushing them on the swings every day if you just don’t enjoy it. Find an alternative that you will all enjoy – maybe a walk in a national park, or shoot hoops or try some crazy dancing in the lounge room.

5. Relax about the mess and the cleaning up. Let’s face it, having kids around the place means there is going to be a lot of mess and that’s just part of it. If it doesn’t all get packed away by the end of the day it doesn’t really matter all that much. Likewise, think about which chores really can wait. That pile of clean laundry that needs folding can sit there another day if you would rather be putting together an ant farm or making that papier mache space ship.

6. Turn off the TV! If you are in the habit of watching TV with dinner or for long stretches of time in the evening, and everyone sits there glued to whatever show happens to be on because that’s the way it has always been, then try turning it off. Instead, have a conversation, play a game, go for a walk or sit out in the yard and enjoy the last evening light or the first stars. If you are stuck for ideas, there always plenty of stuff to be found on Kiddley!

Some other and similar ideas:

Making time for project making on 52 Projects (which inspired this post).

Write a NOT-to-do List again on 52 Projects.

Tips for being a more light-hearted parent (via Parent Hacks)

5 Responses to “Finding time to do stuff with your kids”

  1. jen

    Yes, the crazy dancing in the lounge goes down a treat and I must say I’ve cut down heaps on my tv viewing. Have probably ramped up the internet viewing however but at least that’s a bit constructive, ie writing my blog.

    And sleep is very important especially with a little one.

  2. John Mora

    Make time for your children. Leave the mess alone and get away from the TV.

    Your children are your life, and they’re why you were put here. Don’t be a selfish dolt, basically.

    Put your shows on your iPod, or on your laptop, and watch them during your lunchtime at work.

    Just my one cent.

  3. Asha

    I second the call to go to sleep earlier. More sleep (even if it’s interrupted) makes everything better.

    As for the advice to “leave the mess,” I agree with this, but only to a point. I want to model reasonable orderliness and housekeeping, and teach my kids that tidy surroundings make for more opportunities to be creative and have fun. (Hard to do a craft project when you can’t find the supplies or half of them are ruined from being left out.) It’s an ongoing struggle for me — I’m a naturally take-it-as-it-comes type when it comes to routines, but it’s what I aspire to.

    ps. Thanks for the pointer, Claire! I’m glad you enjoyed Light-Hearted Parenting post.

  4. harmony

    You know this same advice applies to anyone not just mothers. I’m a college student right now and completely overloaded with school and life in general wanting to have a life along with all of the school projects and working. Your honesty and bluntness is much appreciated. Prioritizing is a huge part of my life and something that I am constantly doing in order to stay sane and feel fulfilled in everything I do. Thanks for speaking up!

  5. Max

    This post makes me sigh with relief. Its not just me! I have felt so guilty about too much TV watching and not enough other stuff lately, mainly because I am nearly 8 months pregnant and have had zero energy this time around. Thanks so much for letting me know I am not alone and for giving me some inspiration!

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