Parenting 101: Quality Time

One of my greatest challenges as a parent is money. I never have enough of it which means I am constantly working or trying to find work. It also means I have to say “no” a lot. “Mom can we go to the movies?” before I can respond I must calculate how much it would cost to take a family of seven to the movies….my entire life savings. So I must respond “No, I’m sorry – we don’t have the money for that this week.”

I hate saying no because my kids are amazing and they deserve all of the fun! I know my reality is the reality of parents all across the country and that is why I’ve decided to dedicate this post to free or low-cost quality time activities. Even if we can’t afford to take our kids to Disney World or the movies every week – we can still afford to give our kids time and attention.  We can always afford to pay attention!

My first bit of advice is to remember that of all the toys, games, and technology your kids may have, their favorite “thing” to play with is you. Even when they are teenagers and pretend that you’re lame, deep down inside, what they most enjoy is interacting with you. Take on quality time with that in mind.

Pictured - family fun in the car
Pictured – family fun in the car
  1. Game night. We love game night – it’s a time to let our hair down and encourage friendly competition. You don’t even need to invest in a bunch of board games to make this happen. Charades is fun and requires absolutely no money, all you need is:
    • Pieces of paper
    • A hat or bowl or container
      • What to do: decide on your categories – person, place, things, movies, TV, cartoons etc.
      • Write down topics in each category on pieces of paper put the paper in the hat, bowl, or container
      • Take turns picking from the hat and acting out the topics
      • If you have children in different age groups like I do, use two different containers and place easier topics in one for the little ones to choose from
  2. Movie night. This is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to all the classic movies you loved as a kid. For example, we just watched Gremlins together over Halloween and the kids loved it. We have a pretty big DVD collection but even if you don’t most cable/satellite companies offer free movies on-demand for you to choose from. You can also choose from TV specials which are plenty during the holiday season. The point isn’t really the movie, so even if you choose cartoons on Disney or Nick, it’s about getting together as a family.
  3. “Date” night. Obviously I don’t mean a romantic evening with your kids, that’s weird. What I mean is a special evening as a family. Set a date – Friday night works great – make a special dinner (you can do this together, my kids love to cook) and get dressed up. Meet in your dining room and share a meal together. You can follow it up with a movie or some games.
  4. Any outdoor activity, weather permitting. If you’ve exhausted all your games, movies, and meals, get outside for a game of soccer, kickball, or tag. If you live near a park, go hiking and explore nature. The point is to get out and play as a family.
  5. Freeze dance. When all else fails, nothing brings a family together like music and dancing. If you aren’t familiar with the rules to freeze dance it goes like this:
    • Turn on the radio to your favorite station or play your favorite record
    • Someone is in charge of the radio (usually my partner – since dancing in front of people embarrasses him)
    • Once the music starts everyone dances their hearts out
    • Once the music stops everyone freezes – the person in charge of the radio watches closely to make sure everyone is still
    • The first one who moves is out and then you start the music again – if no one moves, everyone keeps dancing
    • Keep going until everyone is so tired they need to go to bed!

Fun and family time doesn’t have to cost any money at all. Togetherness is free and you should take advantage of that every chance you get! When your children grow up they wont really remember the dollars and cents you spent but they will carry the memories of quality time you shared for the rest of their lives.

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