Q&A: How do you spend quality time with your kids?

Leo Babauta of Zen HabitsToday’s Q&A Tuesday comes from the writer of one of my favorite blogs, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. His blog is one of the most successful and fastest-growing in the blogosphere, with over 75,000 subscribers.  He’s a dad to six (six!) kids, and in the past few years, he has managed to notch quite a few accomplishments in his belt – lose weight, quit smoking, become debt-free, go vegetarian (and then vegan), run a marathon, write a book, and become a full-time blogger.  I’ve learned so much from him, and he continues to be one of my daily reads.

Today, Leo asks:

How do you make room in your life for quality time with your kids?

Tsh’s thoughts:
Great question, Leo.  I don’t think there’s a difference between quality time and quantity time with your children, most especially when they’re younger.  Having quantity time is just as important than quality time, in my opinion.  Needless to say, as a stay-at-home mom, it’s not too difficult to get the quantity time in.

But making sure we have some quality time can be difficult.  One thing that’s helped me is to set more boundaries around my writing and graphic design schedule, so that when I am home, I’m “all there.” It’s a luxury I can’t always allot, but right now, I’m writing this away from home while my hubby is home with the kids.  That helps, especially when little kids don’t understand that Mommy can’t always play, even though they can see her.

Turning off the TV helps. Games are big hits in our family, as are dance parties in the living room.  We also like crafting together – just being inventive with the stuff around our house and seeing what we create.  My daughter loves to help cook, so we let her drag her stepstool over and work alongside us.  Basically, we make everyday life a participatory, family-oriented event.  We also have a lot of conversations, and we include our preschooler without talking down to her.  Sure, she doesn’t understand everything, but we show her the same respect we want her to show us – we do our best to intently listen to her and engage her in her thoughts.

Now it’s your turn. How do you make room for quality time with your kids?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. One of the things my daughter enjoys most is reading, so I try to spend at least a few minutes a day reading to her. My schedule is a bit tighter with work and school, so sometimes we only have a few minutes together. I try to make up for this on days when I do have more time by having her help cook, or by doing something special like baking cookies together! We also have a special bedtime routine. Every night after her bath, and story time, we head down to her room, and I pray over her. Then I tuck her in, and sing Jesus loves me to her…I love doing that, but she also asks for it every night. It’s the sweetest thing!

    Autumn’s last blog post…Baby Weekend

  2. Right now my girls are 15 and 17. We homeschool and share a lot of other interests together. We are blessed to have my husband’s work close by home, so he comes home to eat lunch with us daily, we eat supper together nearly every night. We talk about everything throughout the day. We also like to create things together. Homeschooling them over the years has been such a rich blessing and has allowed us to spend quality and quantity of time together. They get along with each other wonderfully and actually enjoy their parents. 🙂 I am very thankful and blessed.

    Robin’s last blog post…Girlhood’s Most Cherished Lessons Seminar

  3. We have a 9.85 year old (seriously, that’s what she’ll tell you) and a 17 month old. And we, for starters, make sure we have a family game night every week. We play the Wii or pull out the UNO cards or get a board game. We also try to carve out time each month with our oldest for a daddy date and then a mommy date, too. Our family then makes sure that we sit together at the table every night and eat dinner, too. Dinner time conversations (either at our table or at a restaurant) are always so wonderful for all of us.

  4. I read at least 3 books a night to all 3 of my kids. I spend one night a week with my son at boyscouts, and my girls are home all day. So, we try to do something together when we are alone during the day. Like going for a walk, baking something, coloring, playing games, and a couple times a week we have movie night. But with 3 young children it is hard to sometimes get the quality part, cause they don’t understand that mommy is spending time with one sibling, and next will be there turn. 🙂

    Monica Bertone’s last blog post…The Simple Women’s Daybook!

  5. I didn’t really learn this until I became a grandmother but the biggest mistake I made as a parent was that I didn’t make time to play … to really play … with my kids. I also believe with all my heart that that play means getting on the floor and playing with them on their terms. You may have a cool game planned (and there are certainly times when its appropriate for you to lead a child into a new challenge or experience) but maybe your child wants really wants you to run and play ball with him. Maybe your daughter really needs you to have that tea party and really get into it with her. It means giving them your full attention (not all day long, every day, but during play time.) I remember taking an entire morning to take my son to the park and do what he wanted to do. As we ate together at the top of a covered play structure, he told me it was the happiest day of his life. I think kids want that special time with their parents more than all the toys and fantasy trips in the world.

    When this hit my husband and I after driving home from a day with one of our grandchildren, we were stunned to realize that the biggest mistake of our lives had been that we just didn’t play with our kids. We took them to church, we had home devotions, we prayed with them but none of that mattered to them because we didn’t play.

    Mary’s last blog post…Lean and green … green as in cash!

  6. I like what Mary had to say!

    Hubby and I take turns going on special outings with the kids. Mine are so close in age that they need some one on one time with each of us. Even if it is just a quick trip to the store. Everyone is happier when we return and we can focus on just that one child.

    Connie’s last blog post…The Husband Tracker

  7. my little guy loves to read, so I try to read several books to him daily – he also loves to be outside, so that is a great place to spend quality time with him. I’m working harder at organizing and streamlining my time (and commitments) so that it’s easier to spend more time with him during the day instead of always having something else I “need” to do. He’s just over 2, and can’t do a lot to “help” yet, but loves to try, so I’m also trying hard to include him in some of our daily household chores.

    jodi’s last blog post…Christmas Planning – 6 Weeks & Counting

  8. My wife and I both left our jobs for our children three years ago. She had been a teacher for twenty years, and we opened up a preschool so that we could spend time with them while they were still little. In September, we gave four month notice that we were closing our preschool at the end of the year. We are taking our preschool online, so that we will be able to continue giving our children the time they need to make them, and ourselves better.

  9. Those are all such good suggestions. I really work on creating a strong family because I never had that. The thing I see my kids needing is quality time alone with one parent. My husband and I are always taking one aside, usually outside the house, and spend one on one with that child. I think that was necessary because we have three. I like also finding something the children like to do, and have that special thing with them. My daughter is in 4-h and my middle son likes cooking. My husband likes to take the kids hiking while I have alone time too.

  10. We do a lot of reading together. And board type games. Because that’s something I can do without feeling completely antsy.

    Angie (from over at http://www.HalfAssedKitchen.com)

    Half Assed Kitchen’s last blog post…Baked apples in brandy

  11. What a great question! I’m so enjoying reading what everyone else does.

    With three children (5,3,1) my husband and I feel like it’s really important to take time to focus on each one individually. He’ll often pick one up from school and take him/her out to lunch for an hour before dropping them at home and heading back to work. This leaves me time with the other while the third naps. On the weekend he’ll take one on errands and stop at the park to play and explore for a bit while I have time to play hardcore with just one or two. We really enjoy spending time all together, but so often it’s nice to really hear what one is thinking and is interested in apart from their siblings and other parent.

    Amanda @ http://www.kiddio.org‘s last blog post…Friday Finds (lazy-weekend-Sunday edition)

  12. One way we have quality time is by eating supper together at the kitchen table every night – even weekends. It requires more effort to prepare and serve a family meal but the benefits pay off. My children are learning polite table manners and the art of conversation. It’s an hour every day we can spend focused on our family.

    stephaniesmommybrain’s last blog post…Three Generations of Women

  13. Family mealtime is a priority; dinner every night and breakfast on the weekends – sometimes Vintage Daddy serves us breakfast in bed – so fun!

    I also take the time we spend walking to and from school together to talk without too many distractions.

    I think it’s hard for working moms to find the balance; I feel like I’m often more of the bossy parent than the fun one – that’s my husband!

    Vintage Mommy’s last blog post…Holidays by Hand: My Papercraft Experiment

  14. We have an almost 11 and 7.5 year old, and we do tons of stuff together. We are very fortunate that our jobs allow us to do many things as a family. We eat dinner together almost every night, and read at bedtime. My girls also love crafts and board games, so we do lots of those, too!
    We also do the mommy/daughter and daddy/daughter date nights, which is always a treat.

    Megan’s last blog post…Because you asked…

  15. Just letting you know that I enjoyed this post AND I’ve added your button to my blog. I’ve also posted notice of your WONDERFUL Epson Artisan 800 printer giveaway – Yeah – another entry for me!

    As for quality time – eating meals together is great. Wish I had made this a priority when my kids (got 10) were still at home. We always ate in shifts – we didn’t have a table to fit us all, and DH usually came home tired and ate in the bedrom. If I had it to do over again, meal time would be a priority! Hindsight isn20/20!

    Libby’s last blog post…Giveaways

  16. My husband doesn’t always get the quality time he would like with our kids because they ask me for everything since I’m usually the one home with them. So I take one night off each week (I have to leave the house) and he gets to be a single dad. He gets special time with the kids, he thinks of activities that I don’t, and I get a much-needed break. Everybody wins! (and it’s a bonus that he appreciates how hard I work every day after being alone with both of them)

  17. We do something similar to what Mary suggests…

    After my second child was born, I started using the time after breakfast cleanup to connect with my older son. We call it “cuddle time.” It began by sitting on the couch reading books but over the years has morphed into playing a game of his imagining. My “job” during cuddle time is to be an attentive mama and play along. I am not totally passive as I will ask questions and make suggestions, but he is the director. My youngest now plays with us, too.

    Here is an article I wrote about our cuddle time and the other ways I spend time connecting with my kids: Doing Time with My Kids.

    Stacy (mama-om)’s last blog post…Mindful Mama, Meditating Mama

  18. I have a 5 year old, 1 year old, one on the way, plus I work full time. We do exactly as you say and make life a participatory event.

    In addition, I am making it a point to try to tune in to what each child considers quality time. My 5 year old is a talker and one of her love languages is touch, so I spend time daily cuddling with her and listening to her talk. The 1 year old is a little young yet to know what her deal will be, but right now she’s content with having me carry her around on my hip almost all evening, and I try to oblige.

  19. My kids are both in college now, and I know the very thought of that makes many moms shudder. It’s hard enough to put your child on the bus for the first day of kindergarten, let alone send them 1200 miles away to live on their own. However, as much as I maligned it when my kids lived at home (because it ate into our quality time), technology has made it so easy to still spend quality time with my far-away kids. We text each other regularly, and we each have a blog where we stay in touch. My husband is on Facebook, as are my kids, and they share some deep and meaningful conversations there, as well. And so, the old saying is true: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Yay, technology!

    Deidra’s last blog post…Giveaway!

  20. Dinner as a family that starts with grace.

    Bedtime Ritual (children ages 3, 7, 10)
    1 – Worst Part of the Day
    2 – Best Part of the Day
    3 – “Snuggletime”

    Kimberly’s last blog post…Microplane Zester

  21. Charlie and I both work from home, so we get lots of quantity time with the three girls. I find the tough thing to be knowing when to drop everything to play, when to include them in my tasks, and when to set them up with their own projects so that I can work ‘unassisted.’ It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day for all these things, and for everyone to feel like all their needs were met.

    I also loved what Mary wrote. One book that we’ve found extremely helpful recently is “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen. It’s been inspiring me to play and be goofy with our kids in ways that I’m … well, not naturally inclined to be.

  22. As a full-time working mom, this is something I struggle with daily. I try to set aside a small chunk of time for each of my kids after work. That may be sitting with my oldest as she practices her saxophone, or talking to her while I drive her to her swim practices. For my son, I play with him with his trainset or read him a book. He also loves to help me with the laundry! I sort, he tosses it into the machine. With the baby I tickle her and read to her and chase her around the house! It’s tough to work 50+ hours at a job and find time to spend with my family, but I do my best.

    a’s last blog post…Festival of Frugality~The Veteran’s Day Edition

  23. Awesome question. Bedtime can linger for an hour or more in my home and I love it. The kids are quiet and they share all sorts of stories about their day.

    I learn the most from what really happening in their lives and whats worrying them if I simply lay in bed with them before they sleep and have a chat.

    There are no distractions at all and I have soft music playing in the background always.

    Peace, love and chocolate

    Rejuvenation Lounge

    Carole Fogarty’s last blog post…Cancel, Clear, Delete Negativity:

  24. We have stay-up night, a time when one kid gets to stay up with us and the others head to their rooms for quiet time.

    Rose’s last blog post…Stay-up night

  25. Well, if I didn’t learn anything else, I learned that I live under a rock!

    Tiffany’s last blog post…Pantry Raid, "After" pictures

  26. “I don’t think there’s a difference between quality time and quantity time with your children”

    I don’t have children (hopefully I can insert ‘yet’ here), but I think this is a good point, Tsh.

    I read recently, that Aussie dads spend on average 6 mins with their children from Mon-Fri. I wonder what’s the average time spent watching TV?

    Mel T’s last blog post…Warning: 10 Lies You Swallow When You Eat

  27. We try to have dinner together as a family 4 times a week, on weekend we bring the boys to the park to play, ride their bikes.
    I read to them 2-3 times a night..sometimes we just have chill out time watching their favourite DVD together.

  28. I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom to 2 busy teenagers. One is almost 18 the other will be 16 in 5 weeks so to say that our house could use a revolving door would be an understatement!! But quality time with kids this age means being available to talk NO MATTER what time of the day or night. It’s not always so cut and dry now with them finishing school and part time jobs and a very active youth group. I’m blessed to have a very open line of communication with my teens, but I have to be willing to be available whenever they need me. It’s not always easy to be awake and participating in a conversation at 1 in the morning, but the bond with my teens is MORE than worth it!!!

    Deb’s last blog post…Give-a-Way Reminder!!

  29. we do a lot of reading before bedtime.

  30. I definitely think quality time is a matter of shutting off distractions—TV, loud music, etc. It’s obviously difficult because it requires more focus and energy from the parent. Our son is a senior in high school now, so I can only reflect on the early years. We didn’t have a TV, by choice, until our son was 8 or 9 years old, and then it was just to watch family videos on Friday nights. We’ve never had any video games in our house, either. What to do all those nights? It’s a funny thing, but quality time is catchy. I mean, when you get used to it, when it becomes a habit, a lifestyle—there’s always something to do: reading, coloring, playing cards (lots of cards), floor games, blocks (lots of blocks), puzzles, marbles (…), magnets, paper airplanes, cars, puppets, charades, theater and lots of outdoor play.

    The nice part is, the investment in quality play builds a child’s attention span and ability to focus. Our son locked into what he was doing for LONG stretches of time. With nothing interrupting him, the natural course of action was to continue exploring and figuring things out on his own terms. This actually took some of the edge off parent participation—I mean it made it a little easier—because there wasn’t the need to constantly respond to restlessness. So the extra effort in the beginning was well worth it, at home and also academically. But the key is definitely to have a lot of great activities, and of course. . .to minimize distractions.

  31. When I make my class schedule I try to have a midday 1.5 – 2 hour break between classes. Not enough time to do much work, but just enough time to have some quality play time with my almost one year old son. I do not feel guilty during this time about other things I could be doing and try to focus 100% on my son.

    Of course, sometimes my problem admittedly is how do I stop playing with my son so much and make more time for my other responsibilities! 🙂

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…And I’m Back! What To Be Looking For In The Coming Days At Unconventional Origins

  32. Thats great davice I think. I have six kids of my on, and it’s very important to interact with your kids as much as you can. My hubby gets out his guitar and we sing and dance around, let the kids help cook also, etc..

    But my question is how can you spend equal time with each child?

  33. What a terrible response… Quality time with kids = Quantity??? Are you kidding me!!!! You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about….