For the Busy Parent: 10 Ways to Spend More Time with Your Family

From waking up, getting the kids ready for school, packing lunches, dropping the kids off, grocery shopping, working and whatever else your hectic schedule entails, it can be difficult to find time to wind down and spend quality time with your family. How can a busy mom or dad pack quality time into such a tight schedule? Here are 10 fun and small ways that families can create big, lasting memories:

  1. Eat Breakfast or Dinner Together - Sitting around the dinner table helps children and parents become a part of each other’s meaningful conversations. Try to ask open ended questions about how their day went, what excited them that day, what stressed them out, what they’re passionate about, and more. Something that I’ve found that works is to ask each child for his or her “rose” and “thorn” of the day - you may be surprised by how much detail they provide!
  2. Take a Walk - Walking around the neighborhood with your family gives you the time to talk about deeper topics: passions, worries, fears. This will help your kids open up to you, build trust, and even get some exercise!
  3. Leave a Message - Maybe you had to arrive at work early and couldn’t see your kids off to school. Leave a sweet note! Wish them luck on their day at school, and they will see how much you value their time and love them. A Post-It note and a pen are all you need!
  4. Read Together - Dedicate ½ an hour of your day to sitting down and reading a story together. Let your child choose the book and be open to discussing their plotlines. Starting a discussion will allow you and your child to share ideas with each other.
  5. Bring your Child to School or Practice - A drive to school or to soccer practice is another quick yet meaningful way to spend time as a family. Sing along to your favorite songs in the car or cheer your kids on at the game; either will contribute to a lasting bond within your family.
  6. Plan a Day Out - Does your schedule free up on the weekends? Try to take a trip to the playground or to your favorite play space, that way you can have a day of fun with the family!
  7. Tell Family Stories - Tell your kids about funny memories from your own childhood, show them an embarrassing yearbook photo, show them how to cook a family recipe, and share with them a part of your culture. Doing so will bring the family together and may even create a family tradition.
  8. Get to Know Your Child’s Friends - Host a playdate or ask your child to invite a friend for a day out. Being a part of your child’s social circle will allow you to build trust and love.
  9. Homework Help - Sit down with your child as they complete their homework to answer any questions, support them, and help them create healthy study habits. Let them choose when to their homework - we suggest some time before dinner.
  10. Play Together!  Take your favorite board games or magnetic tiles out of the closet, and spend some time talking, learning, and having fun!
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5 Tips for a Successful Playdate

Sometimes, playdates don’t always go as planned.  

Like the time my son’s five-year-old friend wanted to spend the whole time in our garage with my husband’s leaf blower and tractor. It was a long hour and a half.

Luckily, I’ve learned the secret recipe for a successful playdate.  Here are the five ingredients you’ll need to host the perfect playdate:

  1. Choose Wisely. Some friends just aren’t the best fit. Help your child choose a friend who’s a good social and intellectual match for your child - don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for some recommendations if you need help. Also, one-on-one playdates work better than groups.

  2. Keep it short and sweet. There is such a thing as too long of a playdate. We learned that very quickly in our tiny NYC apartment. A playdate that lasts 1-1½ hours is the perfect amount of time to play, eat, run around, do some art and say goodbye. Any more than that, and it might go downhill from there.

  3. Choose a good time. Many children are tired after school. Try a weekend morning instead, when children are chipper and more likely to be flexible and cooperative.

  4. Add structure and some exercise. Some children could play for hours without any structure or parent regulation. Others need a little more guidance. Some great playdate activities include:

If you’re adventurous, you can also try: a cooking activity like make your own pizza (Trader’s Joe’s sells pre-made dough) or make your own play doh (How to Make Playdough | Homemade Playdough Recipes). Don’t forget to get out the ya-ya’s with some outdoor team games like freeze tag, kickball or soccer!

5.  Put away prized possessions and know when to intervene.  Before a playdate, ask your child if there are any “special toys” they would like to put away. Always be within earshot, so if children start fighting, you know when to intervene and help children switch up the activities. When in doubt, fresh air always helps children cool off. So does a quiet story time coupled with a healthy snack. If sharing is tricky, sometimes a neutral spot like a playground, park, pond or an indoor play space can be the best bet!

Good luck with your playdate!

two children on a playdate

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5 STEM-themed Things to Do with the Kids Before Summer Ends

When all of the parks are played in and all of the coloring pages are drawn on, where do we turn for new things to do with the kids? STEM is a good place to start!

With two active and curious boys (4 and 6) at home, I know that the kids can get a little restless towards the end of summer. They love to explore and go to new places, so I love STEM.

STEM activities offer new experiences, some learning, and fun for the parents, too. Here are some great options that all three of us love to do:

1. Invention Challenge: Make A Floating Boat

Build a floating boat!

Build a floating boat!

via Kids Fun Science

Perfect for siblings or for a playdate.

Materials: masking tape, aluminium foil, action figures or dolls, large plastic bin or inflatable pool

Activity:

  1. Fill up a small bin with water or an inflatable pool (if the kids want, they can add blue paint or dye!).

  2. Give children aluminum foil and masking tape.

  3. Have them construct a boat that will float in the water.

  4. Gather some of their favorite action figures of different weights and sizes. My kids love experimenting to see how many figures can fit before the boat sinks.

STEM HINT: The wider the boat, the more weight it will be able to hold. If you have a scale, children can weigh the action figure to determine how much weight each boat can hold before it sinks.

2. Build a Tower!

Build a tower of boxes!

Build a tower of boxes!

via WikiHow

Activity:

Kids naturally love to build. My boys love to learn about really, really tall buildings.

  1. Print out pictures of some incredibly tall towers, like the Freedom Tower in NYC or the megatall skyscraper Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Study them for inspiration!

  2. Help children gather different building materials such as soft foam blocks, magnetic tiles or even leftover cardboard boxes to make the tallest possible tower without it collapsing (make sure it’s also a safe height).

  3. If using cardboard boxes, kids will love to decorate the box using stickers, markers or paint.

3. You Pick Farms or Harvest from Your Own Garden!

A great way to explore nature AND get your kids to eat their veggies!

When we first moved out of the city two years ago, we built a small enclosed garden. It was a major effort to deer-proof it, but we have managed to safeguard a nice selection of cucumbers, green beans, snow peas and some tomatoes.

Kids love to water the plants, weed, measure the growth and of course, eat the vegetables. Here’s a plus: It’s amazing how much more willing my children are to eat vegetables when they can pick it directly from the garden.

If you live in the city or you don’t have space for a garden, try visiting one of NJ’s beautiful “You Pick” farms - Alstede Farms has a Peach Festival until August 13.

4. Visit a Nature Center or a National Park

Thomas Edison Factory - Activity for Kids

This photo of Thomas Edison National Historical Park is courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives.

Something different than the beach, this one will be a breath of fresh air (figuratively and literally).

New Jersey has some great options all over. Here are some of the best:

  1. Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills, NJ: This is the perfect speed for the younger ones! You can see animals like snakes, fish, rabbits, and bees. There are also shaded trails for hiking, beautiful birds and programs for kids.

  2. Thomas Edison’s Factory and Residence in West Orange, NJ: See where Thomas Edison worked and lived. The older children will get a kick out of Edison’s many other inventions, including a phonograph and a talking doll. There are tours, walking paths, a greenhouse, and an electric car garage.

5. Take a Trip to NYC

via Batterypark.tv

Battery Park City

NYC is great for shopping and shows, but did you know that it is home to great STEM activities too?

  1. The Battery Park Conservancy offers free gardening classes in the summer for little ones.

  2. Take a walking tour or fly a kite at Tear Drop Park.

  3. Visit Rockefeller Park to experiment with water or see how many children it takes to push your friends on the group bicycle (bring water shoes and bathing suits).

 

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