The holiday vacation brings family, joy and fun. But it also can bring too much idle time for the kids. We talked to parenting expert, Meredith Sinclair, about ways to spend quality time with your kids during the holidays.
Many parents feel that they don’t spend enough quality time with their kids. What are some ways parents can address this issue?
This is indeed a sentiment I hear over and over from parents. We live in a fast-paced, overly “busy” world resulting in parents who often feel disconnected to their kids. We spend a lot of time managing, and not enough time really engaging. In fact, in a recent study of 1000 parents conducted by Nintendo, parents said they tell their children an average of 8 times per week that they are too busy to play with them.
I suggest taking connected quality time with each other as serious as anything else occupying our family calendars. At the start of a new week, look for open spaces in your family’s jam-packed calendar, and then fill in specific and immovable time to simply play, laugh and connect.
Another way to fit more quality family time into our days is by taking advantage of all those “in-between” times throughout the day. When we consciously look for them, we will find that there are 15 minutes here, 10 minutes there, where we can fit in some quick yet meaningful playtime.
How can parents alleviate some of the stress that traditionally comes with the holidays, especially when kids are home from school for an extended period of time?
During the busy holiday break, I’m all about letting go of perfection and allowing ourselves to leap into what our kids love playing the most. When else do we have the perfect excuse to play? Ignore the mess and the over-the-top expectations, and allow yourself to embrace the magic of playfully bonding with your family over the break from school and regular work obligations. We will never regret the time spent connecting and letting our hair down with the folks we love most. It’s only a couple of weeks! Let’s play!
What types of activities can parents and kids engage in that are wholesome yet entertaining?
As an educator and mom I am a big proponent of anything that awakens our kids’ imaginations, gets them actively engaged and creative. I say let them lead the way! Hands-on crafts, building and constructing toys, pretend play and wholesome digital games are always great ways to play together.
How much time should be spent on what can be considered “fun” vs. “educational” activities and what are some examples of the intersection between the two.
I believe every play experience is educational. Our children, when engaged in playful experiences are always learning something. Disconnecting the two is like trying to separate the peanut butter from the jelly in a perfect PB and J sandwich. They simply go together. Even the digital games we may think of as frivolous involve developmentally important things like strategy, prediction, risk management, cause and effect, and hand eye coordination, just to name a few. When we take a closer look at our kids’ play, we quickly find all sorts of educational value lurking within. As with anything in life, all things in moderation is often the best rule of thumb.
How significant does family “game night” figure into the modern family and how important is it to have a set time for shared activities?
Whether it’s family game night, morning, or afternoon, the point is to make dedicated time for open-ended, engaged play time. Parents and kids bond better through a playful experience then through anything else. As humans we have the need for play that never subsides…whether you’re 2 or 52. So if you have kids, you’re at a bit of an advantage. Children are masters at play and are always ready to share their expertise! If family game night doesn’t work for your family, find another more suitable time in which to jump into some fun and games together. You’ll be amazed at the family-bonding results.
What are some of the biggest challenges during the holidays, traveling and entertaining with the kids?
Many families travel and entertain during the extended holiday break, and it can be a challenge to keep everyone entertained and engaged with long road trips, flight delays, party prep and house guests to manage. I’m a big supporter of doing a little “pre-production” making sure to have some sure-fire, family-friendly play things on hand for when you need them most. Our kids love digital play, so instead of handing them our phones or grown-up devices, give them something made especially for them. The new Mario Party Star Rush game by Nintendo for the New Nintendo 3DS is super-popular with my boys and I know as a mom that it’s safe, fun and engaging. And they can take it anywhere we go.
Plus they can play together simultaneously, with no turns to wait for. SCORE! Perfect when you’re honestly too busy to entertain your troops. Nintendo is a name in gaming I know I can trust to appropriately entertain and playfully engage my kiddos when I need it most.
Parenting and education expert Meredith Sinclair is the author of the new book “Well Played,” the ultimate guide for parents looking for ways to incorporate both fun and purpose into playtime with their kids. Meredith appears frequently in family-centered segments on both local and national television shows, including the Todayshow. Check out MeredithPlays.com/book for more info!