School is out.  The daily grind of homework and rigid routines can disappear for a while. We’ve all got a little extra time with our kids. So how do we make the most of it while also still taking care of our own responsibilities?

If I had my child to raise over again:I’d build self-esteem first and the house later.I’d finger paint more and point the finger less.I would do less correcting and more connecting.

– Diane Loomans

  1. Be realistic. If you work full-time twelve months of the year, planning a weekly field trip is likely too ambitious. The number one rule of quality time with your kids is knowing that it can happen anytime and anywhere and needn’t cost a dime.
  2. Read to them. It doesn’t matter if they’re 2 or 12, they’ll always enjoy it. My kids and I read the entire first installment of the Hunger Games trilogy aloud and together. And they couldn’t wait to read the next two independently.
  3. Create a family meal together. Let them pick a theme (Tacos, Chinese, etc.) and get in the kitchen. The memories made over preparation will outweigh the clean up. It might even become a weekly event!
  4. Make time to chat before bed. Because every kid loves to delay bedtime (and I’m even talking about my teenager), taking a minute to visit with him in the darkened room often results in the most meaningful, candid conversation of the day.
  5. Show an interest in their interests. Just because you’re not a sports fan doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few players’ names. It’s amazing how much more my son talks to me now that he knows I’ll listen to basketball statistics.
  6. Introduce them to yours. You never know what will resonate. My son loves to cook. My daughter loves to watch classic musicals. Now I have two things I love to do that I can do with them.
  7. Hire an apprentice. Need to fix a leaky faucet/paint the kitchen/wash the car? Involve your child. Chances are she can hold a wrench/paint brush/hose just fine. Yes, it might take longer but, in the end, you’ve fixed something AND taught her a new skill, since she won’t be living with you forever. (sob)
  8. Take walks. If your child resists, give the outings a purpose. “We’re just walking to the mailbox around the corner” or “I want to swing by the neighbor’s to see her new garden.” The conversation along the way will be totally genuine and unscripted.
  9. Unplug. If it’s got a power cord, put it away for a predetermined amount of time while you do some other activity. And don’t break the rules.
  10. Volunteer With Your Children. Role modeling. We hear about it as parents every day. We want our children to be kind and care about the world around them. There’s no better way to nurture this behavior than to demonstrate it. Whether in a soup kitchen or a children’s hospital, volunteer with your kids and make a difference.” bg=”yellow” color=”black” opacity=”on” space=”30″ link=”no link”]

Messy but tasty!

[infobox maintitle=”” subtitle=”July is National Make a Difference to a Child Month. Commit to do at least one special thing with a child this month. Then support an organization that serves children. And spread the word with our nation’s policy makers to build a better future” bg=”yellow” color=”black” opacity=”on” space=”30″ link=”no link”]

by Michele Robert Poche

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