Start by turning off all gadgets and stowing away laptops and phones,
says Carl. This is easier said than done, what with vibrating phones and beeping computers. There is a very conscious, almost ceremonial quality to turning everything off. The more we practise this disengagement from the distractions around us, the more our kids will learn to disconnect from their own electronics.
“Get close physically, look them in the eyes and listen when they talk,” he says. “This sends the signal that you’re available.” Some days it feels like the starting gun goes off the minute we step out of bed and we race to the finish line (kids in bed, a bowl of popcorn, and the PVR).
Is this truly an ideal childhood? Am I being the parent I want to be? I don’t believe everything has to be perfect but I don’t want to get to the end of this parenting journey and realize that I was busy for most of it. Busy with the laundry, busy with my work, busy with the dishes, busy in the van.
Is it easy to slow down? No, sometimes it takes real effort. But the results are in. I feel more relaxed, the kids are learning to entertain themselves, and the connection in the house is palpable.
Here’s 10 ways to take 10 minutes to play and connect with your kids.
A HUG. Sometimes all we have to do is stop and give our children a cuddle. We hear about “failure to thrive” in babies who do not get touched. How about toddlers and older children? They love the cuddles. Spend 10 minutes just hanging out on the couch, you won’t regret it.
A BOOK. Sounds so simple, right? In every literacy program they talk about the importance of reading to our children. Don’t make this a lesson, just read for the love of reading.
A PUZZLE. Great for those logic building brain cells and wonderful because it has a beginning and an end. Find age-appropriate puzzles, get down on the floor, and start puzzling!
GET OUTSIDE. Blow bubbles, skip rope, throw a ball, do some chalk drawing. Again, don’t make this about improving a skill, but we can always model good sportsmanship. “Nice catch!”
BREAK OUT THE MUSIC! Do you have a CD that everyone loves? What child can resist ABBA? Get dancing, get groovy, burn some calories, giggle, and let it all hang out. Especially great for a rainy day.
ARTIST ANYONE? How about pulling out the markers and doing some drawing. My kids love that I am a terrible artist and that I still try. I’m also modeling the fact that you don’t have to be great at something to enjoy it.
BUILDING TIME! The Slow Parenting Movement advocates open ended toys such as blocks, Lego and Playmobil because children learn to use their imagination. Sometimes I set a timer for this kind of play because I struggle with the “open-endedness” of it. But once the kids get started, they will usually continue.
CARDS. UNO is a huge hit in our house but we play Snap and War and other games as well. In 10 minutes, we can usually play a few games of cards and the kids are learning to add and subtract without even knowing it!
JUNIOR BOARD GAMES. Okay, some of these will take longer than 10 minutes, but you could always break it into two parts. (Remember to warn kids of this!) We like the junior versions of Clue and Monopoly and they really don’t take long to play once you get started. These require patience, so don’t try them if you are feeling impatient.
SCISSORS AND GLUE. What child doesn’t get a kick out of using scissors and glue (and what about building dexterity and creativity)? If you get a roll of glue, there’s less of a mess for the neat-freaks out there.