We put a lot of effort on our weekends because it's the time to give the kids our undivided attention. Experts, however, say don't forget the benefits of daily quality bonding and giving your kids some space.
What kind of bonding? Research conducted by Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University and co-founder of Challenge Success, and her colleagues categorize the bonding as PDF: playtime, downtime and family time. Children, from toddler to teen, need all three every day because they can lead to a significant impact on a child’s capacity to thrive physically, mentally and academically, as reported by Usable Knowledge from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They’re also closely related to building “crucial life skills that kids need in order to become happy and healthy adults,” said Pope.
Below, experts recommend how you can make playtime, downtime and family time happen in your daily family lives.
1. Playtime “Parents may not realize that playtime is really where so many of the important life skills are built,” said Pope. Free-form play (where a child is free to decide how he wants to play) is “unstructured time when they can explore who they are, what kind of person they want to be, what it means to be a good friend, how to solve problems or navigate conflicts.”
Just make sure that your child's free time is being used for play. “Watching TV for three hours each day may be detrimental to kids, but spending unstructured time playing with friends or family is associated with positive outcomes,” said Pope in her co-authored book Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids with Maureen Brown and Sarah Miles.
How to: Young children “Set aside time to play with your child and don’t allow interruptions -- no cell phone, no TV, no business calls during this time. Your full attention to him during play time will go a long way for you and him,” educator Regina C. Licauco told Smart Parenting.
Older children Don't over-schedule kids with extracurricular activities, said Pope. Let them be kids and allow them to hang out with friends, ride bikes at the playground, and explore nature at a park. Essentially, let them choose what they want to do with their playtime.
A few more great suggestions from SP Mom Mae Quicoy Tanes:
2. Downtime Sometimes you just need to schedule a time in the day to do nothing at all, right mom? Kids need this too, according to Pope. Downtime contributes to better emotional health and well-being as it gives your child time to pause, rest and even reflect. Think of how much better you feel when you find time just to sit around, listen to music or nap. Same goes for your little one.
How to: “We know there are good reasons to be concerned about screen time—both the quality and quantity—but a moderate amount of screen time, in which kids play a video game, watch a show, or check in on social media, may be a good way for kids (and adults) to relax before getting started on homework or heading out to the next activity,” excerpted from Overloaded and Unprepared. Find the latest screen-time recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics here.
If you have a teen, letting them nap or sleep in on the weekends can also be their downtime, said Pope.
3. Family time “When kids are part of a family unit that spends time together, they are more likely to feel supported, safe, and loved unconditionally. This holds true for kids of all ages and in all kinds of families,” read Overloaded and Underprepared.
Family meals, in particular, have shown in different research studies to be associated with many positive benefits in children: increase in cooperation and getting along with others, a more positive sense of family values, a buffer against high-risk behavior like delinquency and more.
How to: Family time need not be strictly enforced, but your efforts to carve daily bonding moments will let your child know that it's a priority in your household. Even 20 or 25 minutes of quality time together a day is great, said Pope. One way to do this is to create simple family rituals that everyone can look forward too, like movie night on Fridays or game night on Saturdays. Try and make family meals where every member is present at the table, a must too.