Time is usually spoken about as a currency. Spending time. Buying time. Most adult people are time-poor, but the moment you cross into parenthood, you’re destitute.
Everyone’s busy, but it’s especially tough for parents. It’s hard to spend time wisely when you feel like you don’t have enough of it, to begin with. And that’s stressful! Time, with its relentless ticking and tireless tocking, can be one of the biggest barriers to enjoying time with your kids.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, someone forced some advice on me (imagine that!). I did a mental eye-roll as the stranger started speaking because I expected a criticism about how evil it is to wear a backpack during pregnancy or something equally unhelpful. But she actually gave one of the best bits of parenting advice I’ve ever received! She said, “Once they come, just try to slow down. Babies and kids go slow, so if you can go slow, you’ll enjoy it.”
To be fair, at the time I thought, “Whatever, lady.” But since having my first son and a second son and getting a few years into parenting life, I’ve realised that I crossed paths with an oracle that day. To enjoy down-time, you need to slow down and there are a few ways to make the most of those precious moments with your kids:
1. Book it into your spectacularly colour-coded schedule
It’d be nice to live in a world where downtime happened organically, but that’s not possible for most people. So, to avoid stress and over-booking, just book it in. Go into your calendar, create a new colour for family time and block out some time. Respect it as you would any other event on your agenda and show up with nothing else to do during that time.
2. Keep your brain in the game by taking turns planning activities
You’re not the only parent to feel like playing with your kids can sometimes be… boring. But you don’t have to follow their lead every single time. It’s okay to take turns and guide them to activities you might find more interesting. The most important thing for your kids is quality time with you, so if sometimes leading the way with play will keep you engaged, do it!
3. Pay attention to your kids’ tranquillity triggers
One minute, your kiddo is trying to stop the ceiling fan with an umbrella, the next they’re playing peacefully. Next time that happens, figure out what captured their attention and calmed them down. The intel could be super-helpful next time you’re keen for a moment together of the tranquil variety. Plus, it’ll give you a fascinating glimpse into your little one’s developing brain!
4. Make like Elsa
Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go. Mess and kids go hand-in-filthy-hand and following your kids around cleaning up messes as they happen is a very low-return time investment. I learned to let it go from a few easy-going parents I know and it’s helped a lot with stress throughout the day. You could do one big clean-up at the end of the day or two to keep the mess at bay. Apply the same rule to dishes and your day will be an open door!
5. Take the pressure off with some self-perpetuating activities
Activities like writing letters and growing plants are gifts that keep on giving. Not only are you creating some self-perpetuating fun, but your kids will also develop skills along the way. Getting them started makes for some awesome together time and the littles will love taking ownership as you help them get more confident over time.
6. Spend money to improve your time investment
Though quality time with you is what your kiddo craves the most, there are things you can buy to make that time as enjoyable as possible. Having a repertoire of board games, craft supplies and multi-purpose toys to pull from should help keep your down-time eclectic and exciting.
7. Bring that downtime way, way down
Downtime is usually seen as time at home. But as we all know, home-time doesn’t necessarily mean relaxation. Every now and then, try for some down-down-time with calming activities like kid’s yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. Or, if your kid is just too silly to give that a go, try sitting on the floor, facing each other and take turns making funny faces or trying to read each other’s lips. You’ll probably have a great laugh and being still for a bit is good for everyone.
8. Squeeze in some one-on-one
This might not be possible for some parents, but if you can, it’s an absolute delight spending one-on-one time with your awesome, unique kiddos. It’s amazing how different a dynamic can be one-on-one compared to group play. I have to strategise to make the most of down-time with both my boys but when it comes to one-on-one, it’s so easy to go with the flow. And when it’s over, I’m always craving more.
9. Make food a focal point of play
Food is fun! And I’m sure I’m not the only one with kids that live for snacks. There are so many food-based activities that make for easy, relaxing and tasty times with your littles. You can plan elaborate picnics (indoors or outdoors), bake together or add over-the-top decorations to just about any store-bought dessert. It’ll be messy but just remember to make like Elsa.
10. Never underestimate a snuggle
If you’re out of ideas, exasperated and stressed, take a minute and give your sweetheart a snuggle. No matter how annoyed you are or how busy you feel, that snuggle will press your reset and stop the never-ending tick-tock of the clock.