In the busyness of parenting sometimes we can lose our personal touch. We've come up with a few fun suggestions on how to reconnect with your child.
1) Read together
You just can’t beat a bedtime story – or a lunchtime story, or a pre-breakfast story at that. Books are a timeless way to share an instant adventure with your child, and the memories they create are long-lasting. Who could possibly forget the bliss of listening to Where the Wild Things Are from the sanctuary of their parent’s lap? It really is the simplest of connections: when you’re on the same page, you’re on the same page.
2) Play with food together
So often we express our love for our child through the meals we prepare for them, but so often our efforts go right over their heads, and all our attention at meal times becomes focussed on getting it into their mouths. But kids are tactile beings. They appreciate their meals through taste and touch. Allow your child the time and space to experiment, and connect with them by joining in. Fashion a bridge of carrots to connect mountains of mashed potato. Bite 26 pretzels into the letters of alphabet, or 10 pretzels into numerals zero to nine. Engineer a tower of chocolate fingers, or arrange a plate of raw vegetables into a face. It only takes a little time and mess to celebrate food in all it’s creative glory.
3) Talk about their dreams
I’m not talking about their future aspirations – although discussions on princesses, astronauts and All Blacks are always beneficial – I’m talking about starting the day by asking your child what they dreamed about. Some days you’ll get nothing. No loss. But some days you’ll discover an open door into a wild wonderland of shenanigans. I’ve started to wonder if my children are trying to outdo each other with their weird and wonderful tales:
Me: ‘What did you guys dream about last night?’
Eight-year-old: There was an octopus in the Smith’s washing machine…
Six-year-old: Pokemon was in a spaceship and he was calling me Dad, and the spaceship was running away…
Three-year-old: There was a shark and a spider dancing in the vacuum cleaner…
It really is a million dollar conversation. As your child relives their nightly escapade and learns the art of crafting stories, you get to gaze into their earnest little face, and gain insight into their growing imagination.
4) Get back to nature
The best things in life are free. Often a simple walk in the park away from domestic noise and man made toys is all it takes to reconnect with your child. My children and I like to visit the local goat and feed him an apple or carrot. Your outing might involve feeding ducks, crunching leaves, or finding a ladybug or snail to place on their hand. Anything goes in the great outdoors, its amazing what arrests little minds when you suspend your agenda, and any sense of urgency. Older kids obviously take a little more effort to engage, but a trip to a farm or zoo is always worth the effort. Share the priceless wonder of milking a cow, collecting eggs, or watching the monkeys swing through the trees.
5) Be present in absence
When you’re a child a day can feel like a lifetime. Connect with your little one, even in your absence, with little reminders. Draw a heart or a star on their hand before school or preschool, to remind them of your love for them when they look at it. If your child can read, surprise them with a note in their lunchbox, or write directly on a banana with a biro pen for a message that is naturally shaped liked a smile.
6) Make chores fun
Mount Washmore – that mountain of unsorted washing – is a bore to you, but a potential source of entertainment for your kids. Time them to locate their matching socks, or give each kid a flexi tub and time them to shoot hoop with their underwear. Let them dress as a super hero as they tidy their toys, so they can employ their super powers as they work, or challenge them to find a creative ways to display their toys on their beds once they’ve made them. It’s amazing what kids are prepared to do when their imaginations are engaged. When I demanded my daughter tidy her room, she refused. When I pretended it was a stranger’s bedroom and that we needed to make it beautiful for this stranger before she arrived home, she was right into it. I then pretended to be that stranger, and acted delighted to discover my bedroom was now all neat and organised.
7) Running jokes
Capitalise on previous laughs by turning them into running jokes. I’ve heard of parents who routinely wriggle their bottoms as they get the tomato sauce out of the fridge, and fathers who make a habit of calling from work to speak to their child’s imaginery friends. In our house we call ear muffs ear muffins, and blossom trees popcorn trees. Whenever we see a yellow car we yell “yellow car!’’ and touch the person next to us, for no known reason. As we approach green traffic lights we plead with them not to change, and as we approach our house we sing “home-again home-again jiggety-jig-jig.” It doesn’t matter how non-sensical these little laughs are, running jokes remind us our family is it’s own unique unit, and that families remain united over time. My mother used to sing the jiggety-jig-jig song when I was a child, so as I connect with my children by chanting it, I still feel connected to her.
Pippa Henderson is the sub-editor of OHbaby! Magazine. She has tested all seven of these tips for connection with her own three children, and still rates story time as her favourite.