Quality Time Over Quantity of Time

caregiver helps young child on the playground

Work, school, appointments, activities, sports and more - free time is a precious commodity. And there seems to be less and less of it each year. The good news is that families don't need massive quantities of time in order to meaningfully connect with each other.

Focusing on the quality of time spent together is far more important than the quantity of time. We're sharing our ideas for how you can make the most of the little free time you have as a family.

  1. Remove All Devices
    Phones, watches and anything with a screen are distractions and can stand in the way of connection. When spending time as a family, commit to putting away all devices.

    Even if you start with just 15 minutes of device-free time, those 15 minutes will go a long way in helping your family to connect in a meaningful way.

  2. Make Time for Child-Directed Activities
    Children spend the majority of their time in an environment where grown-ups are telling them what to do, how to act and more. By carving out just ten minutes of child-directed time each day (or every other day), you will be giving your child an unmatched gift. 

    New to child-directed time? The rules are fairly simple. Let your child choose an activity (no screens though). Watch them play. Don't ask questions. Instead, observe what they are doing and make comments that let them know that you've noticed.
    Examples are below.
      • Wow. That's a bright shade of purple that you are coloring with.
      • Look at how high you threw the ball.
      • Your fingers are moving so quickly on the guitar strings.
      • Do you want to use this color crayon?
      • Can I try to throw the ball as high as you?
      • Why don't you try playing ____ song next?
  3. Be Silly
    People often say that laughter is the best medicine - and it is true! Laughter can break tension, block anxiety and create a powerful bond between you and your loved ones. 

    While it is hard to genuinely laugh on cue, you can build time into your day for being silly with your children. Try making up silly voices with their stuffed animals, go through your closet and pick out silly outfits to wear, have a staring contest, and more. Let your imagination run wild. You might be laughing harder than your children!

  4. Play Hide and Seek
    Playing hide and seek is a time-tested way to have fun with a group.

    Looking for a new twist? Try playing Sardines. In this version, one person hides while all others count in the same location. When time is up, the counters separate and silently look for the hider. Once a counter discovers the hider, the counter silently joins in the hiding. This continues until all counters, except one, are piled up in the hiding spot like a can of sardines! The final remaining counter must find the whole group.

    If you aren't able to hide or are looking for another new twist, you could hide objects instead of people. Gumballs, fidgets, rocks, dolls - the options are endless. Children will enjoy being the one to hide the object just as much as they will enjoy finding it. 

  5. Connect at Dinner
    We've all heard about the importance of eating dinner as a family. But what do you do when your children don't want to answer questions about their day?!?

    Come up with fun themes, of course (this is easier than it sounds)! A few of our ideas are listed below but don't limit yourself to our list. Come up with your own ideas - and invite your children to share their ideas, too!
    • Sunday Stars - Take turns going around the table and awarding each other a star (could be imaginary or a star-shaped award, toy, etc.). You have to say why you've awarded the star to your family member. PRO TIP: Make sure that each family member has been awarded the star - even if you're having a challenging day behaviorally. Stars can be awarded for something as small as putting on their shoes, brushing their teeth - or for bigger actions like helping vacuum or washing dishes.
    • Travel Tuesday - If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? What would you pack? Who would you invite with you? Come up with travel-related questions and take turns sharing. To keep this game fresh week after week, you can come up with parameters - like where would you travel in our town, in our state, country, world, etc.
    • Wednesday Worries - Take turns sharing something that you were worried about today. You can also share how the worry turned out - and chances are your worry seemed like a big deal but turned out to be no big deal. Not only will you build a chance to connect with your family, but you'll also help to normalize feelings of anxiety.

  6. Create Something Together
    A song? A drawing? A building? What will you create with your family? 

    Creating something together will help you connect and create shared memories. You'll also get to showcase your talents and really observe your child's talents, too. 

    If you are short on time, try a cooperative drawing. Fold a piece of paper in half and name an object (house, car, monster, pet, etc.). You draw one half of the object, hiding it from your child's view. Then, flip the paper over to the next half. Your child will draw the second half of the object. Then, unfold the paper to see how your drawing turned out. 

    If you have more time, consider an ongoing creation that you can work on little by little. You might try creating a song or story together. Set aside just ten minutes each day for a few weeks. You'll be surprised at what you can create together.