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The Smaller Moments Matter with Kids

Quality time during early childhood is vital to the growth and development of children. Quality time between parents and children develops stronger communication, promotes interactions, strengthens bonds within the family, helps children become mentally and emotionally healthier, builds self-esteem, and instills values and experiences in your children to help them become better people overall. Benefits for parents include communication amongst parents, growing closer to and learning more about their children, and learning different activities that bring fun and enjoyment for all within the family.

My favorite thing about quality time: it is effortless. It can be planned or unplanned; occur at home, as a car ride, or in the backyard; and can happen morning, noon, and night. The creativity surrounding quality time is timeless and limitless, meaning no two times have to be the same (unless you would like for them to be). Below are tips for creating quality time.

  • Tell your children you love them—often. Your children need to know how you feel about them. Expressing your love reminds them they are valued. For older children, this can be done in a silly manner, too. You can “compete” with your child by saying one loves than the other more; trying to measure the amount of love you have for one another; or comparing your love of them to the love of something else (“I love you more than you love your favorite food.”).
  • Create routines for different occasions. Creating a routine for the morning or evening does not need to be elaborate. They just need to be special. Make time to brush your teeth together before you start or end your day. Put your children to bed as you usually would, adding a bedtime phrase before closing the door. I tell my son, “Goodnight. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight, I love you”, in the same order and every night. Similarly, I have phrases when dropping off for school, returning home, and before starting car rides.
  •  Laugh and be silly, even in the smaller moments. Being silly in the car, telling jokes and laughing at random times, and dressing up in funny clothes are little things that bring smiles to your faces and laughter, which improves you and your child’s emotional health. This is especially helpful if you had a bad day, and to show your children you can be silly like them.
  • Make time for the little things. Quality time does not to be scheduled, nor expensive to enjoy each other’s company. You can have a camp out in the living room, a picnic in the car, or simply take a walk to your favorite community area, like a garden or library. As children get older, you can let them choose the route you drive or walk, let them choose what to eat for dinner, or even decide how they would like to spend time with you.

Because quality time happens even when we don’t realize it, make sure to make the moments count. There are no rules as to how and when your family can have fun. Everyone can participate, and children and parents both benefit from the time. What are your favorite moments with your children, and what are theirs?

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Written By: Jordyn Hayes, Family Life Intern, Human Services Program Administration, Eastern Illinois University