According to researchers in a wide range of fields, the time young children spend with their parents is essential for their healthy development. As such, parents should not feel guilty about working outside the home, but they should enjoy and make the most of the time they do spend with their children. In other words, make it "quality time."
Quality time is defined by development experts as meaningful time parents spend nurturing and teaching their children, and is not just reserved for stay-at-home moms or dads. Time-crunched working parents take note: You too can have quality time with your kids. It's what you make of the time you spend with your children that makes it quality time.
There are many moments throughout the day that busy parents spend with their kids - standing in line, waiting for the doctor, driving the kids to school, getting ready for bed - that can easily be turned into quality time. All it takes is some imagination and creativity.
I've collected over 200 stimulating activities (in my new book "Quality Time Anytime") that parents can use during daily rituals to strengthen the parent-child relationship and teach skills and values that will benefit kids long into the future. Here are a few of my favorites:
* Bath time: Give your child a toy boat to float in the bath tub and ask her to guess how many pennies (or paper clips) she has to put in the boat to sink it. Then, ask her to test her guess.
* Bedtime: Read a story to your child, and have her try to guess the ending before you finish the book to build creativity and imagination.
* Car time: Play rhyming games, make up rap songs, and play the alphabet game, by spotting letters A through Z on passing signs.
* Dinner-making time: As you prepare dinner in the evening, let your child help you cook or create a kitchen concoction while you cook. For example, fill a bowl with soapy water and let her beat with an eggbeater. Then add food coloring and have her continue to beat. See what happens! Meal time: While the family is gathered, play word games, such as I'm thinking of a word in the kitchen that begins with "J," or tell jokes and share funny stories to emphasize the importance of family "togetherness."
* Shopping time: Have your child play "find the food" to become more aware of what the family eats or "check the change" to become more aware of how much things cost.
All things considered, it just takes a little imagination plus love for busy, working parents to create activities that will help them raise happy, confident responsible children. By making anytime quality time, children will learn fundamental skills that will serve them well for a lifetime.