Do you get caught up in creating “big moments” for your kids? Pouring loads of energy into Christmas lights, Easter hats and birthday cakes? Those things are special, of course, but I was talking to my kids recently about some of their favourite memories, and they weren’t what I expected.
My 12 year old said she loved experimenting with new meals out of cookbooks together each Saturday night.
My six year old said he loved it when I played Lego with him and we created a massive Lego prison and chained up all the Lego men.
My four year old said she loves it when I put my book down and watched her ballet lesson.
None of those are events I would have given a second thought to. I mean, I enjoyed them all (truth be told I HATE playing with Lego but I love the interaction with my son, who is a bit of a daddy’s boy), but I hadn’t placed that much meaning on any of them.
But I was chuffed to hear my children did.
It was a great reminder to focus on the little things we can do with our kids each and every day to help create great childhood memories. So here are my favourite little rituals I enjoy with my kids that you might like too.
- Pre- or post-dinner walks. At least a few times a week I try to head out for a short walk around the block with my three kids – either before we eat or afterwards. The children take it in turns to decide which way we go, and we either talk about our days or we try to spot as many animals as we can. It’s a wonderful time to just be together without any competing priorities.
- Baking. I’ll often spend a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen baking and prepping school lunches and snacks for the week. My kids will float in and out and join me for a while, sometimes mixing, sometimes chopping, sometimes measuring – but always having a chat and helping out. Yes, baking with children is inevitably messier and slower than baking on your own, but when you step back and think about it, it’s a lovely experience for everyone.
- Feeding the pets. Feeding the pets is a great way to introduce responsibility to young children, and they love feeling like they are caring for someone the way you care for them. My four year old has inherited the job of feeding our cats now, while the 12 year old empties their litter tray, and the six year old is responsible for removing anything untoward they’ve left lying around the house. They all feel invested in the cats – like the cats are truly a part of their family.
- Bath time. My two oldest don’t want me in the bathroom any more but my youngest still enjoys it if I sit in the bathroom with her and chat while she plays in the bath. I wipe over her face with the washer, and wash her back. And I will do it for as long as she wants me to. I just wish someone would do it for me!
- Having afternoon tea after school/kindy. Taking a moment out to sit with the family after a busy day at work, school and kindy is such a delight. I try to make sure I have a break in my work day at that time so I can sit with the children for 15 minutes or so, and we can talk about our days, or about nothing. There is no pressure to talk about anything at all but we always find plenty to say.
- Playing card or board games. My family loves games and, although it’s hard to find a game that suits 12 year olds and four year olds, we do our best. Uno is always a winner, as is The Game of Life. The four year old usually loses interest part-way through and wanders off, but eventually she’ll come around. I loved playing games with my mum and brother when I was growing up, and I want to pass that on to my kids.
- Reading aloud. My 12 year old doesn’t want to do this any more, which makes me a little bit sad, but I still ready every night to my six year old and my four year old. We’ve just finished going through the Magic Faraway Tree books and the Wishing Chair collection together, and now my son is into more action adventure books while my daughter prefers fairies, so we’ve separated our reading time. But I still find reading to my children enormously rewarding, and I love how enchanted they can get in these wonderful worlds.
- Joining in on their play. This one is a challenge for me, but I know what it means to my children. My son goes nuts when I join in at his Lego table, even though I have literally no clue on what to do once I get there. He usually builds me a ship and then wants to battle me. My daughter loves it when I pretend with her that I’m a unicorn or a fairy looking for a place for a fairy party in the garden. Again, not my favourite thing in the world, but gosh they love it. So I try to do it as often as I can stand.
- Sharing our play of the day. At dinner each night we all go around the table and share what our ‘play of the day’ was; that is, the best thing that happened to us. Sometimes someone might also have a ‘dismay of the day’ that they need to share. And sometimes we mix it up and talk about our gratitude of the day (it doesn’t rhyme but it’s pretty important too). Being able to share these stories as a family is a wonderful bonding experience for all of us.