Having fun with your children doesn't always mean expensive outings to "fun factories" (theme parks, zoos, soft play etc), though there is sometimes a place for those. Having fun with your children can be boiled down to these five simple steps:
- Give them time - If you're always rushing and trying to get things done, or if you're always rushing them to get ready or get on to the next job, then you squeeze out the time to enjoy the children. Children need time. Time to think, time to formulate their thoughts into words and sentences, time to assimilate new experiences and ideas - you are their biggest, number 1 audience. They'd prefer to spend time with you than with anybody else in the world (while they're still little anyway!), so take time to listen to and be with them.
- Get down to their level - I don't mean dumb down your vocabulary or your sentence structure - though it's easier for them to understand you if you keep your sentences shorter while they are learning. I mean get down on the floor. If you are always standing over them you look intimidating, and you can't join in the game properly from up there. Even if you're doing something else, consider sitting on the floor to do it. They like having you down there, they can touch base for a cuddle, some reassurance, an affirming bit of eye contact or a smile. Say you're sitting reading a book or magazine on the floor, you'll be amazed how much easier it is for a little person to sidle in for a quick kiss or cuddle than if you're in the protective embrace of an armchair. Better still though, put the book down, and join in the game, or make a game. It might be an impromptu tickle-fest, a game of horses, chase, wrestling. Or it might be towing the teddies around the room in their "train". If you're not down there, you can't join in. Equally, if they are sitting at a table doing their homework, playing a game, or doing some craft - rather than looming over their shoulder - sit down with them.
- Let go your inhibitions and play - It's very tempting to chat to the other adults at the playpark. In fact, that's a really good reason to go to the playpark - the children can race around with their friends and you get to have a grown-up conversation. It's worth though, sometimes putting aside that conversation and playing with the children. Not pushing them on the swings or even worse, the see-saw - but actually playing. You swing too! You go on the slide or the zip-wire. You climb the frame. Even better, set up a game of rounders, french-cricket or football that you, the other mums and the children can all play together. The children will learn some new skills, and see that physical activity is something that grown-ups do too. You get to have a lot of fun with the children and get some exercise. WIN-WIN!
- Do a hobby together - whether your hobby is football, darts, crochet, or baking. Try doing it with your child. Get them their own simple equipment and do it side-by-side. Help them if they get stuck, but more often, just chat while you do it, and let them see what you do. Some hobbies are better if you work collaboratively, and you give them simple tasks to do (for example, working on the scenery for the model railway), while others demand a lot more instruction (knitting and crochet). You could even take up something new together, for example ice-skating, woodwork climbing or pottery, and go to classes together to help you both develop. Imagine their delight when they find they can do it better than you! Doing something together in your leisure time ensures that you are both getting something out of it, gives the opportunity to just enjoy one another's company and chat, and is something that could last a lifetime.
- Tell them how great they are - Spending time with your children, doing things with them, listening to them and enjoying their company will make you feel good. Nobody ever said "I wish I'd spent less time with my children." It will make them feel good too. Children who feel good, act good. They like feeling good. They know they are valued, and that the person they love, loves them. A good foundation of self-esteem will last them a lifetime. They will feel confident in themselves and will not put up with ill-treatment. There's no harm in telling them that you enjoy spending time with them either, though you don't need to go over the top. Just spending time with them tells them that you think they are great. Of course, as they get older, they also want to spend time with their friends, and your input becomes less important, but if they have a firm base, and spending time with mum and dad is enriching, fulfilling and fun, then they'll always come back to that base from time to time.