16 Things You Can Do Today to Bond with Your Young Child – And it only takes 30 minutes or less (or longer if you are bold) & costs almost nothing!
1) Name That Bear!
Sit on the floor of their room and put a name to all of the stuffed animals (or toy cars or any other ‘collection’ they have).
Play a game on who can remember which name.
2) Colouring – Their Way!
Pull out two coloring books. Let them pick the picture you will color and they will color. Have them tell you which color you should use for which thing (want green hair? Ok, and ask them why the hair should be green as you are coloring). Have a fun conversation! Don’t forget to turn off all the tech stuff in the house – make it a quiet environment.
3) Just Ball Around!
Pull out the ball, especially in this great weather we have, and head just outside your door. Kick it, roll it, throw it, bounce it. Surprise them with your ‘lack of ball skills’ and praise them for their creative ways of throwing, kicking, rolling.
4) Show Me Some Game!
Grab a dusty game out of the closet – Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly (improvise and let them play with the money) or even some cards and Go Fish. Go sit on the balcony/patio/garden or even on the floor of their room and play.
5) Let’s Book It!
Announce, out of the blue, that you are really feeling like a good book – are they interested? See that look of surprise on their face. Grab a Dr. Suess book or Roald Dahl and have some fun. Depending on the age of your little one, it may be 5 minutes and it may be 30. But what a memory (and a tradition) you can create.
6) Say Cheese!
Pull out the photo albums of them, you and the family. If you don’t have and you’ve digitized everything, pull them up. Look at each one – see who they recognize, talk about the time and place and what you remember about it. Remember how you felt when you looked at old photos? This is great for us expats where family is overseas.
7) Hot and Cold!
Do it from the seat of your comfy couch (again, choose a quiet time). Play that fun game of “Hot and Cold”. Hide an item you have told them about in the room. They have to search while you say “You are getting colder” (far away), “You are getting warmer” (as they get closer) and “You are getting hot” (as they are almost on top of it). For younger kids it helps distinguish differences. For the older ones, it’s a laugh when they watch you scrambling around trying to figure out where they put it – especially when they decide it’s too much fun seeing you chase your own tail that they actually forget where they put it.
Throw on some tunes on the Ipod/Ipad/Laptop/Radio. Your kid(s) can move around, run around, anything to keep them going. When the music turns off – they have to Freeze! (hold still in whatever position they are in). This is a lot of laughs – especially when they get to control the ‘pause’ button for the music and you are stuck with your hands over your head and weird grin on your face.
9) Picture this!
Pickup a posterboard with a coloured background (the thicker ones) – have it cut in half (you can use the other half another day because another science project is ALWAYS around the corner). Grab a couple of glue sticks. Print up a bunch of pics of your kids, family, pets and friends (30 + is a good number depending on the age). Put them all into a pile and let your kid(s) pick the pictures they want to cut out and paste on the board. It can definitely turn out to be a mess (kid friendly glue sticks and scissors, please!) but it’s so much fun to see them put a Baba’s face on the cat’s body. Once it dries, put it up in their room. It’s something to laugh at and be proud of.
10)What do you think?
When the showers are done, the homework is packed back up, bellies are full, the house is calm and its almost time for bed – pull them up onto your bed – just the two of you and lay there looking at the ceiling (not at each other). Each of you gets to ask the other a question. You can’t look at each other but you have to answer truthfully. My wife does this regularly with our 6 year old and there are questions “Why did you marry Baba?” “What was the best part of your day?” “What did you think of me when I was born?” “What do you dream about?” (most often it’s about penguins or minecraft!) I’ve listened many times to their conversations but the rule is they can’t look at each other. Psychologists may say that it’s not healthy to avoid eye contact– but it opens up their mind/thoughts when their eye focus is on something else. Something miraculous happens. Just watch!
11) Hang with the fishes
Grab the kids and head to @atlantis The Palm in Dubai to The Lost Chambers. On the last day of the year, we took the kids spontaneously. Aside from the craziness of the great stores (pulling my wife away from an ‘un-named retail shop’ showing the 1800AED toddler dress that was already 75% off) there was the wonder of the aquarium of a lifetime! For 250 AED we had 3 adults, a 6 year old and a 2 year old. Best money and time ever spent. The wonder of seeing the rays and the starfish and the beauty and serenity was mind-blowing. And seeing our girls staring and pointing in wonder as we learned together provided a great few hours of fun and learning.
12) Wheels in the Park Go Round and Round
Kids have a bike? What about a scooter (a new favourite of our 2 year old)? Navigate through those disastrous hover boards and the kids can ride themselves crazy (grab those helmets and knee pads). We only get a few months in Dubai where the weather is amazing 24/7 and it’s perfect park weather and doesn’t cost a single coin. Grab a book and sit back. Or, better yet, join them. I like jogging around the track with them.
13) Color Coding
Toddlers love colors. And trying to teach my 2 year old that everything is NOT yellow can be a challenge. But, it’s a lot of fun talking about red and yellow and blue and green. So simple. 15 minutes (and that’s long for a small kid) and you just had a few laughs. Baba’s can take 15 minutes out of their day while being a couch potato and actually have a bit of fun, right?
14) Movie Night, Anyone?
Announce, out of the blue, that it’s movie night! Cook up some popcorn, get some juice, turn off the lights and sit back and enjoy. We did this with the new movie Inside Out. This is a great for adult and for kids (our 2 year old lasted about 30 minutes – big surprise!). The cozy part on the couch, the whole process just made their night. The big conversation we had through the whole weekend about emotions and how we felt ‘at that moment’ (“Joy is pushing my button” or “Sadness just pushed the button”) was completely more than what we thought it would be. And even better? It would have cost nothing except that we rented it ($5.00USD!). Have fun!
15) Picasso in the house?
Drawing on the walls making you a bit crazy? Going through reams of paper like there is no tomorrow? My wife was lucky when she happened to find this great portable chalkboard (with chalk and eraser) with a reverse whiteboard at @Mumzworld (and no, I’m not advertising for them – it was just an awesome product we picked up for Christmas that was good quality & price). Our 2 year old took to it like nothing and has been drawing ever since. It tucks away on the side of the sofa and pulls right out. Light and easy for little kids. She erases and draws and is so proud when she draws us a picture. A few simple praises make a little face light up and it’s all worth it. Our 6 year old even started showing her the A,B,C’s on it (again, not a long attention span).
What other things can you think of you that you can do right now? It doesn’t take money – it takes something that you can always carve out – 30 minutes atleast once a week. Your child may not always tell you they need you – you need to be able to be their voice sometimes and facilitate an environment of thinking, creativity, discussion and love.
16) Ask me a Question
We found a great way to help our daughter with her writing (especially when ‘dear dad’ was spelled ‘der dadd’). Plus, we spent 20 minutes just being random and funny. It was all of her idea and we have been sticking with it for weeks.
She sets up her pen and paper and we have to ask her a question and she needs to write out the answer. It started with funny things like “What animal lives in our house?” (cat) to “Is the sun hot or cold?”. Last night it was all about “How many legs does an octopus have?” (which she had to spell out the number). And, then it promptly ended when the crazy wife asked “What color is my hair?”. She walks over, analyses her hair roots and walks back and writes “GRAY” in capitals.
Somehow, I might be doing this on my own from now on 🙂