Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time with young kids

Just because I stay home with my kids, doesn't automatically equate to me spending lots of time with them, at least not lots of quality time that builds out relationship.  When there are several small kids, all begging for my attention, it's sometimes difficult to not feel overwhelmed and just use the TV as a babysitter.  But here are a few things that I've found to be helpful in building my relationships with my kids:
Read to them.  As much as possible.  We like to go to the library every week (or other week) and get a few new books.  We read whenever they ask.  I loved being read to as a kid and wanted to encourage a love of reading in my kids.  And don't just read in a flat voice to get through the book, put emotion into it!  If the main character is scared, sound scared!  If the main character is running for their life, sound out of breath!  These kinds of things make the books more fun and interesting to little kids, and seems to help them to get the idea that you don't need to watch TV to get an interesting story.  We read books (one per child, and each picks out his or her own book, but gets to listen to the other child's book) at nap time, and again at bedtime.  Then they each get a song and generally fall asleep well after that.
Play with them. Taking kids to the park is great, but mine really like it when my husband or I go own the slide with them, or spin them on the merry-go-round, or pushing them on the swing.  They also love playing at home.  We like to play tag (running in circles in our living room) play hide and seek (with themselves or with objects), build something with Lego's together, or sit down and play with their toys with them!
Dance with them.  This one's easy, all you have to do is not think about how ridiculous you look!  I've noticed that sometimes "dancing" with kids includes jumping in one spot or in a circle, spinning (individual or picking up and spinning a child), and a series of silly looking wiggles.  Either way, have fun and don't be afraid to be silly!
Let them help in the kitchen.Yes, "help" is sometimes a hindrance, and will add time to you food preparation, but they feel so important and appreciated!  My kids love to tell dad that they helped make dinner, and if he doesn't thank them for dinner right away, they'll instruct him to say thank you for dinner!  I like to let them help me make baked goods by putting everything out on the dinner table, so the kids can sit or kneel in the chairs to help measure, pour, stir and grease the pan.  This usually involves a very big mess too, but since kids love to help so much, they get to help clean up too!  Usually this involves me going over it again after they're done, but at least some of the mess goes away!  One thing that helps me is to remind myself that I'm not running a restaurant, I'm raising children.  That kind of puts it into perspective for me to not freak out when it's messy and there's twice as much baking soda as we need or the muffins are pointy.  The point is that they enjoyed time with you.
Let them help you with chores. This is a hard one for me because they sometimes end up spreading the mess!  But as I've tried to be gentle and not only show them how it is, but put my hands on theirs and help them get a feel for it, they've slowly improved.  They've also gotten a better eye in seeing things that need to be picked up!  It's one thing to pick up toys, but then when you have to vacuum the room you just picked up, you notice the little things that you missed!
Discover with them. Everything is amazing to a small child. If any of you have a preschooler, you know that from the "why" phase.  It's hard, but just try to answer the stream of questions in the most accurate manner, that also explains and satisfies the child's curiosity.  Even if it's watching a movie with them and talking to them about it.  And I try to keep it limited to one movie a day or less.  Also, going for walks at a two year old's pace and taking time to look at every nut, every rock, and every dandelion that you pass.  Ask them to tell you a story about why they're poking the dirt with a stick, you may be surprised how active their imagination is!
Let them watch you. Sometimes kids can't really help.  Things like sewing or using power tools.  That doesn't mean that they need to leave you alone.  They just need to be at a safe distance and they can really learn a lot from just closely studying you.  When they're small, mom and dad are the most interesting people in the world, even in mundane tasks.  You can also talk to them about what you're doing and why and they'll retain a lot more info than if you just told them about it without a demonstration.

I hope you enjoy the time with your kids!
This post took forever to write because my kids kept interrupting me to spend time with them, go figure!

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