I have heard various comments in the past few months regarding time spent with kids. In a conversation, I heard someone, much older and wiser say, “if you don’t intentionally spend time with your kids, you won’t spend time with them at all!”
In some ways, we’ve gotten our young children so busy, they are trying to figure out ways to spend time with us! School all day, activities all evening, homework all night, travels on weekend and the list goes on! If we aren’t careful, we may be missing some important formative times. With our over stuffed schedules, if we don’t intentionally spend time with our kids, we may be shocked at how little time we interact.
In confession, I’m speaking from experience. Even though our family has the freedom that comes with home education, the calendar is still full. For this season, Monday evening it’s dance for one daughter, volleyball for the other daughter, and a Young Adult Bible Study from church meets at our house. Tuesday is violin and dance. Wednesday evening is church – music, choirs, etc. Thursday is typically the free night, but because it’s the only free night, usually gets filled up. Weekends, if not invested in ministry events, are typically planned out with family and friends. Days are filled with school, work and field trips.
One guy told me that he didn’t travel at all when his kids were school age. He just said no to every invitation that required traveling. I heard another guy say that the best time not to write a book is when your kids are young. Another guy said, “you’re going to disappoint someone, try not to let it be your kids“. So, if I don’t intentionally carve out time, on the calendar, it may not happen at all.
Everyone has to arrange things in a way that works for them, but we must not leave time at home to chance. Intentionally figure out a way to spend time with your kids. I once read Wisdom of our Fathers by Tim Russert. It was a great book recounting all the different ways dads made a difference in the life of a young child. Most of them revolved around time invested. One story in particular was about a dad who was working two jobs. He had to leave at 5 am for his first job and at 3 pm for his second job. He was never home when his daughter was awake. Eventually, just to see her each day, he would wake her up – before the sun rose – and sit with her for a few minutes while they had coffee or tea. After talking a little bit, she would go back to sleep. The woman, now grown, recounted this precious time each morning as some of the most memorable in her childhood as it related to her dad. That’s being intentional.
Another time, I read a book about the The Difference a Dad Makes by Kevin Leman. Also a powerful reminder of the importance of intentionally investing time with your kids. One of the best quotes from this book, “It’s not a matter of if your kids will be belong, but where they will belong.”
It’s tough at times to get it all done. But let’s not stress out. Just make a commitment to be as intentional with scheduling time with your young kids as you are with the rest of life’s schedules. Here are 54 ideas to get you started.
- Actually write down the times on the calendar that you will be with them at home.
- Put things that matter to them on your calendar.
- Be the parent. Say “no” to ridiculous schedules for your kids. [Read: Six Kind Ways To Say No]
- Schedule a birthday lunch with your child (this was something I remember growing up).
- Take out Tuesdays. Each month, I take one of my kids out for breakfast early on Tuesday before I go to work.
- Make dinner together.
- Join an activity together. Don’t just drop them off, coach the team, take part, get involved.
- Attend worship together.
- You define the emergencies in your life – not other people. Don’t let a phone call interrupt time with your kids.
- Listen to your child.
- Google “great questions to ask your child” then ask them.
- Ask your child what they dreamed about last night.
- Take control of your own schedule – be at home more.
- Mile Markers: We’re planning a dad/daughter trip when my girls turn 12. We’ve been talking about it for years.
- Keep your cell phone in your car in the evenings. Don’t bring it into the house.
- Schedule a game night.
- Make shakes some night after supper.
- Take a walk around your neighborhood.
- Do something today – don’t promise more time another day. Go to the park – today!
- Ride bikes. Take a hike. Play in the yard.
- Learn how to play a new game – pull out the instructions, read them and start playing.
- Don’t discount odd times – kids crave your attention and it might be right now, while you’re waiting for the phone call or waiting for someone to come to the door.
- Teach your child something you know – how to play an instrument, how to play video games, how to ride a horse.
- Plan out family vacations and stick with them.
- Clean house together with the motivation of a free evening following your work.
- Make popcorn every night you can.
- Go camping – far away or in the back yard.
- Go buy a gift together for someone’s birthday.
- Take your child with you when you volunteer (if the setting allows).
- Always give your child a good night kiss, even if they are asleep.
- Be careful with promises. Your words are powerful to a child.
- Share a story with your kids while you are driving.
- Turn off the TV and devices during dinner.
- Read to your child.
- Pray with your child at night before bed.
- Buy a Christmas tree together.
- Start traditions that require being together.
- Go to the city. Go to the country.
- Drive around and look at Christmas Lights.
- Ask your child what would be their perfect day – then try to do it.
- Make eye contact when your child is speaking.
- Read a verse of Scripture before dinner.
- Plan a field trip some Saturday.
- Take a vacation day when they are off school.
- Stay home from work on the first snow day of the school year.
- Keep track of birthdays. Decorate for the party – even it’s just your family for the evening.
- Have fun being a parent.
- Don’t stop trying to figure out ways to connect.
- Remove the television from your living room (this one thing has served our family well for years).
- Make up round robin stories – where you begin with a few lines, then your kids keep adding to it.
- Be home when you say you will be home.
- Put some hobbies and friendships in your adult life on hold (or a decreased version of them) while you invest a few years in the life of your young child.
- Do something that you thought of while reading this list.
Of course, all of this can seem overwhelming, but just pick something simple and do it today. Be intentional about spending time with your kids. Build equity with them while they are young and as they grow – and really get busy as adult – you have already bankrolled time with them.
Have older kids? It’s never too late to begin. Jump in now. Make a phone call. Buy tickets to a game. Extend the invitation. Go out for supper. If you have a desire to spend time, then take a step to make it happen. That’s what being intentional is all about.
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