As an educator and child care provider, I have had the privilege of meeting many different children, and have encountered many different families. I have met children who are perhaps ‘over-parented’ and children who are definitely ‘under-parented.’ My thought has always been that the more quality time a child spends with his or her parents, the better chance they have of being successful in life. Parents are the foundation for the human beings their children will become, and even in this busy world, it is my belief that they still need to make sure their children are taken care of in all facets of their lives first and foremost. This doesn’t necessarily come down to quantity of time spent with them, but to quality time. Even if a working parent only has an hour or two a day to spend with their kids, they can still make that brief time count towards their emotional, intellectual and physical development.
I recently polled some parents around me about what kinds of activities they do with their kids. I know what I do with my own kids, but I was curious to see what other parents do, and how they differ or are similar. What I found out was that many parents in my circle are doing a great deal of physical activity with their kids, among other things. The results are encouraging to see, because at least a few parents out there are stimulating the physical side of the lives of their children as well as their creative and intellectual sides.
While most parents listed the common activities children do, like playing with dolls or other toys and going to the playground, they also listed taking part in sporting and physical activities with their children. Some parents play soccer, or go swimming or go for walks. Others take their children sledding and skating and for bike rides. I found it very uplifting to see that stay at home parents and working parents alike find time to integrate physical activity and play into their relationships with their kids.
Parents polled also listed many educational activities. Firstly, most parents said they read to their children often, and if their kids are older, they take turns reading to one another. This activity not only builds literacy and fluency in language and learning, but it also provides a wonderful forum for parent-child bonding. One parent I asked said she takes her two year old to museums, and another cited going exploring in a new country they recently moved to. Yet another mentioned going to the zoo. As for me, my daughter is very artistic and creative, so we spend a lot of time making crafts, drawing, painting and making jewelry.
Other things many parents said they do with their children is have special snack time after school and eat dinner as a family. In today’s society, many families are on the go most of the day and yet at least some parents are still taking time to have meals and snacks with their kids. Having a meal as a family tends to foster togetherness, and allows parents and children to unwind and discuss all the things they did that day. Many parents also take their children out for special treats like hot chocolate, and in my family, a common destination is Starbucks. My daughter gets her special steamed flavored milk while my husband and I enjoy a therapeutic cup of coffee. We all get to sit around a table, enjoying our treats and talk to one another without the hustle and bustle of life dragging us down.
What I found in talking to a few different parents is that they all have something in common. They all take at least a few moments per day to spend quality time with their kids. When parents are working or kids are in school all day long, it can seem like the hours pass too quickly, and before you know it, it’s bedtime. I know I sometimes blink and my day is gone, leaving me wondering exactly where it went. Even if it is only fifteen minutes of reading time, or half an hour in the back yard or the park, many parents are making sure their children are being emotionally, intellectually and physically stimulated.
I have had the unfortunate experience of meeting children whose parents do not spend very much quality time with them, and the effects are often clearly seen. These children crave attention, and will seek it in positive and negative ways. Many children who act out in school are doing so because they want the attention of an adult in their lives, whether it is getting praise or discipline. Other children pressure themselves to overachieve and ‘please’ their parents and teachers by doing perfectly in school, though this behavior is less common than acting out. Children need the attention of their parents and caregivers, and they will do many things to attain it. It is an unfortunate reality that many families are ill equipped to care for all of the needs of their children, and we see the effects time and time again in the school system.
Children whose parents spend time with them on a regular basis tend to perform better in school, are more confident in their abilities, and do not crave negative attention as much as those who are neglected at home. Children whose parents do activities with them like the ones above will have a better chance of being successful in our society, because they are being taught the skills necessary to live and function as a part of it. This is only a small piece of the puzzle, but it is very significant. Children need guidance, challenges, play, and emotional, creative and physical outlets. Their parents are the people who can facilitate these things, and I am pleased to see many parents doing so. If we parents can take time out each day to help our children grow, we will surely see the positive effects of it later on in life.