Parents who take an active role in their children’s lives not only show that they are interested in spending time with them and that they are important, but they also help them develop life skills. Your children’s social, emotional and academic development will depend in large part on how much quality time you spend together.
One of the most important activities that you can do with your children is read. You will directly impact their academic development when you read together. For example, a 1999 National Household Education Survey found that 24 percent of 3- to 5-year-old children not enrolled in kindergarten who had someone read them fewer than three times in the previous week had three to four of these skills: counting to at least 20, writing their names, reading or pretending to read story books and recognizing all the letters of the alphabet. On the other hand, 42 percent of those who had someone read to them more than three times in the previous week had these skills.
Discuss what you read with your children. Have them retell what you read together, and ask questions that encourage them to analyze and infer information from pictures or from the author’s word choice. This encourages reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.
Listen actively to your child’s thoughts and concerns about what is going on at school, at home and in the world. Validate his ideas and encourage him to verbalize his opinions and to think through difficult problems. This shows him that you care about what is happening in his life.
Set aside a regular date with each of your children. Provide them with one-on-one time. Do what your children like to do, not what you want to do together. The main idea is to be involved in their lives.
Taking a Walk
Taking a walk with your children is a good way to let them burn off some energy, and just talk and play together. Walking does not cost money, and it gets everyone out of the house.
Family Art Project
Create a collaborative art project as a family. Pull out paints, glue, ribbon, crayons, paper, scissors, brushes, string and anything else you can find. You might make a collage of different objects or have a themed painting in which you make your own Picasso. Then hang your art on the wall at home.
Movie nights with the entire family bring parents and children together. Turn off the cell phones; put away the computers and enjoy a movie together. Check out movies from the library or borrow from a friend to save on rental costs.
Volunteer to take part in your children’s extracurricular activities. For example, you could coach a sport, pass out snacks during half time, head the booster club or help drop kids off after practice. You might also volunteer to chaperone a field trip at school.
Volunteer with Your Child
Another option is to volunteer with your children in a family-friendly nonprofit activity. Sort cans at the local food bank or build or clean a hiking trail. Helping others together is a way to help your children develop a sense of serving and to spend quality time together.
Write down or make a video with clues to a scavenger hunt that you and your kids complete together. One parent or a sibling could create the clues, or the parents could create the clues for the kids. Kids could also make clues for a parent scavenger hunt. Use objects around the house, or set it up at the park.
One of the easiest ways to be involved in your children's lives is to do activities with them that they enjoy. Have a tea party or go swimming together.
Pretending develops your children's ability to take turns, play cooperatively and solve problems creatively. Set up a corner in your house with big boxes, dress-up clothes and shoes, stuffed animals, art supplies and other materials they can use to make their imaginations come to life.