We asked Harley Rotbart, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital Colorado, for advice on spending the right kind of time with kids.
What is "quality time?"
I define quality time as meaningful and memorable time, regardless of duration or content. Quality time can occur when you least expect it-yes, at a planned outing to the children's museum or amusement park, but also in the minivan on the way to ballet practice and during commercials of your favorite family TV show.
Dr. Rotbart's top 10 ideas for quality time
Make the most of every minute that you get to spend with your kids, and include them in more things than you may have thought possible. For example:
1.) Walk, don't drive. Next time you need to take the kids to an activity someplace close by, leave a few minutes early and walk instead of drive. Hold hands, and talk about school or about the beautiful flowers along the way.
2.) Include kids in your projects and home repairs. Don't let cartoons or Facebook be the "babysitter" while you do house projects. Give younger kids a flashlight, and have them watch what you're doing - in the attic, the garage, the basement. When the kids are older, you hold the flashlight for them.
3.) Kitchen time is family time. Share quality time while you cook. With younger kids, this may mean watching you chop veggies from a high-chair. As kids get older, they can learn to cook and help clean up, too.
4.) Read together at the library or in the cushy seats at a bookstore. A change of venue for reading can make it more exciting and fun, and the selection is limitless.
5.) Fold laundry together. You can chat while folding laundry and running between the laundry room and the dresser drawers. When they're a little older, do the ironing together, too.
6.) Unplug in the car. No, not the hybrid - unplug the people in the car. That means no ear buds, texting, cell phones, or DVD players. Everyone shares car time - talking, listening or singing together to music on the radio.
7.) Snow shoveling, leaf raking and lawn mowing. You have to do these chores anyway, so involve your kids and make it fun! Think fresh air, snowball fights, jumping in piles of leaves, and laying on the freshly cut lawn.
8.) Share a hobby. Involve your kids in your current hobby, or develop a new hobby together. Playing tennis, collecting baseball cards, sewing, fishing… the possibilities are endless.
9.) Learn a new language. Language on tape is a great way to share car time or waiting room time with your kids.
10.) Start a family business. From lemonade stands to babysitting gigs, teach your kids all aspects of "running a business."
Although some quality time is spent teaching life lessons or addressing crises, most quality time is unscripted and spontaneous. As you can see from the examples above, quality time doesn't need to be expensive. In fact, the best experiences with your kids are usually free.