University of Illinois Extension
Skipnavigation Nibbles ... Ideas for Families

Kids & Food
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Your Child's Health
Challenges of Parenting
Learning to Get Along
Playtime Is Fun Time
The Day Care Routine

A Little Time Goes A Long Way

Heathy families enjoy being together. Family time doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. The most simple activities will become the most important.

When children are asked "What makes a happy family?" they respond "Doing things together!" It may seen so obvious that it gets overlooked, but doing things together as a family builds family strength. People sometimes say that it's not the quantity of time that is important but the quality of time. It's hard, though, to have much of a relationship with someone you don't spend much time with.

Here are ideas for busy parents on how to turn any time into family time.

  • Play games or dance as you cook, shop, clean or take care of animals.
  • Expand healthy ideas into every day family life:
    • Sing or listen to music together.
    • Exercise together.
    • Cuddle together with a good book. Make it a part of your everyday routine, perhaps each night before bed.
  • Sit down to pay the bills, and go through the mail next to your child as he colors a picture.
  • Limit TV time. Some TV time together is worthwhile in strengthening families, but more often there are additional ways that families could be spending time together that would do more to create a healthy family.
  • Plan to use car travel time as a special "together time."Sing; talk about your day and theirs; tell stories about your childhood; have them tell you a story; identify colors, shapes or objects along the road.
  • Plan a special night, perhaps each week, when the family eats the child's favorite food.
  • Give your children a responsibility in the grocery store. Ask them to match the coupons with the labels, point out where the bananas are, etc. or play games such as "I see something" and have the children guess what you see.
  • Along with a goodnight hug and kiss, tell your child how much you appreciate all the good things that they did that day. Be specific.

Don't feel guilty. Family time may not always end up "greeting card" happy. Quality time is simply the things we remember, that we hold on to at the end of the day.

Prepared by Diane G. Ryals, Unit Educator, Family & Youth