**This is a guest post from Sam of Love Parenting**
I was pondering a question a while back – When was the last time you spent an entire hour having uninterrupted one on one play time with your child? How about just 30 minutes?
I am sad to say that I wasn’t quite sure, and I suspect I am not alone in my answer.
Parents today live in a busy world, with busy lives, and have seemingly unending to do lists, places we have to be, deadlines we have to meet.
Children can get caught up in the rush, and struggle to get our full focus and attention.
I truly believe in the value of children being involved in adult activities. My son loves to help me with housework, join in with cooking dinner, and see all the sights and sounds as he joins me at various places.
But during all of these activities, I am the one in control. We usually have a desired outcome along with a time limit, and this means that sometimes I hurry him, I direct him and he looses interest. After all, it’s not so fun when you are feeling the pressure.
I realised that I was beginning to feel some resistance. I could see my son felt over controlled and I hated feeling like we were always rushing somewhere and missing out on the journey. But habits are hard to break.
So I set myself a challenge. Spend 30 minutes of totally uninterrupted “us time” together every day. It doesn’t sound like much, but the reality is, not many families actually do this. I mean, turning your phone off, not checking your email between reading stories, not jotting down notes for an article whilst your child is drawing, not daydreaming about future holidays when you are building towers together. Being totally present and focused in what you are doing in the moment.
I didn’t want it to be 30 minutes of unhealthy child centred activity, with me giving in to his every demand resulting in me feeling like a disrespected martyr. Instead I wanted it to be a time that would be fulfilling and enriching for both of us, strengthening our connection and retuning ourselves to one another.
It started out hit and miss. Some days were successful and fulfilling, other days were a total disaster. When I picked the wrong moment and he was too tired, or I was too distracted worrying about things I needed to finish, or when we were unprepared for the weather and it all went wrong!
One time I had the great idea to go and share a hot chocolate on the beach. We took coats, but in my excitement I ignored the signals he was throwing out that he was too tired. We got to the beach to freezing, high winds and to top it all off, the hot chocolate made me feel nauseous! We sat shivering on the beach for ten minutes, me holding back the urge to throw up, and him getting more and more tired and irritable, until we backed out and called it a day!
But the more I practice mindfulness in our time together, the more successes we have. The things we do together don’t have to cost a bomb or take a lot of planning. Sometimes, its as simple as moving away from the computer, leaving my phone turned off, and giving him my full attention while he breastfeeds, breaking away to chat to me, and making eye contact with each other.
Here is a list of some of the things we do together during our one on one time –
- Cozy up on the sofa together and read stories.
- Chalking outside on the patio, side by side, each adding to the colourful creation!
- Cooking with no desired outcome, allowing for freedom and experimentation. (This doesn’t have to be cooking with real ingredients, mud pies and leaf soup are some of the favourite dishes around here!)
- Going outside, in nature for a walk, somewhere where he is free to roam and explore safely without being controlled and directed.
- Jumping on the bed, rough housing, tickling and all round silliness until we both collapse in a giggly fit for a cuddle.
- Making dens out of pillows, blankets, tables and whatever else we can find!
For more ideas, check out this list of 40 activities to do with infants and toddlers and this one for preschoolers on up!
Thirty minutes doesn’t sound like long, but the act of stopping what you are doing, clearing your mind and simply enjoying each others company brings such a boost to the day. It gets you back on the same page, shows them that they really do matter to you. It lets them know that you will always make time to be with them, and show them in your actions, not just your words, that they are a priority in your life. And once you get in to the habit of shutting off the distractions and enjoying each other, you might find that that thirty minutes drifts in to an hour, that hour becomes a morning and before you know it, your whole relationship is feeling more focused, more mindful.
So are you ready to take the thirty minute challenge? What activity is your favorite to do with your children? Tell us in the comments, we love to hear from you!