Don’t you sometimes find that family time could be summed up like this:
wake up (reluctantly) whilst in the shower,
have breakfast (in a rush),
run to school,
pick up the children (not all at the same time, that would be way too simple!) from various schools and clubs,
quick chat and homework,
read bedtime story,
… and repeat?
Does that sound familiar?
During term time, we tend to cram in way too much into our evenings: playdates, after-school clubs (all Beanie!), homework, cooking sessions with maman and occasional walk to the library. When 7 p.m. comes round the corner, the mere mention of bedtime triggers meltdowns and rebellion (overtired, much?).
School holidays are the complete opposite for us, with all routine (well, nearly all of it) going out of the window. Family life can also be hectic and full of ups and downs when everyone is off and we have more time in our hands than we’re used to, but it’s also a time to make memories and enjoy being together.
The Bassetts Vitamins press office invited me to take part in a campaign they’ve recently launched, to help UK families spend more quality time together. Last month, I attended a round table discussion focusing on a fascinating report Bassetts put together, their Purple Paper, alongside a few top UK bloggers: Emily from ‘A Mummy Too,’ Cathy from ‘Mummy Travels,‘ Kirstie from ‘The Family Adventure Project,‘ Maggy from ‘Red Ted Art’ and Luci from ‘Mums Make Lists.’
Child psychologist Dr. Richard Woolfson, and nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed & Elizabeth Leigh-Firbank, who worked on the Purple Paper, contributed to the discussion and conversation was flowing. Our chat, centred around the Purple Paper, a Family Life Survey showing how hard it is for modern families to accommodate ‘quality time’ into their routines, was like a game of table tennis, with everyone fully alert and happy to contribute ideas.
To delve into the intricacies of family life, Bassetts commissioned a survey of 2,000 UK families which highlighted that families regularly spent less than 7 hours together per week, with 10% of UK families hardly spending any time together at all.
Different families probably define quality family time differently. For me, a chat on the way to the park or a laugh whilst reading a bedtime story is quality time with my children. So are mealtimes, chatting about anything and everything at the table, cooking together or even singing our hearts out to the Trolls soundtrack in the car. Our rushed mornings, my nagging about mess or meltdowns over nail clipping are not (nope, not fun!)!
Now let’s be honest here: how much quality time do you really get with your family every week?
I would say that my four little ones and I spend about an hour and a half every evening really enjoying each other’s company and probably 6 or 7 hours a day at the weekend. I used to cram in a lot into our weekends, but nowadays, we only have one activity (swimming for Crevette, ballet for the girls) and that leaves Saturday afternoons and the whole of Sunday completely free. It’s been liberating to ditch the extra activities and just relax and follow the children’s lead at the weekend. We usually end up staying at home and baking, doing nothing, reading together or going to the park: bliss!
I am also pretty strict with myself when it comes to work. I work a lot during the week, particularly in the evening (night?), so I have a strict rule to stop working on the computer or other devices when I go to bed on Friday night and not switching back on until Sunday night when the children are in bed. It doesn’t mean I’m not working at all: I sometimes cook with the children and take photos of our food for a post, or jot down notes in a notebook, but the fact of the matter is I really switch off and give my brain the much-needed rest it needs. I am also a lot more ‘present’ with my children than I would be should my computer be switched on or social media lurking in the background.
Hurdles to quality family time:
- What and how the family eats has an impact on family life.
- A lot of houses these days don’t have a room big enough for a family dining room table
- Everyone in the family has a busy schedule
- Technology is not always banned at meal times
- In the digital world we live in, we have less and less down time. We are overstimulated and have a tendency to over schedule
- Modern life is stressful
- Housework won’t do itself!
- “Homework, technology and work are among the biggest barriers to achieving a better work-life balance.” (Purple Paper)
Bassetts Vitamins have pledged to help with these issues and they’re on a mission to parents some inspiration and support to reclaim quality family time. Here are a few things I gathered from my own experience, the discussion mentioned above and The Purple Paper.
10 things you can do to inject some fun into your family time:
- Role modelling is the best way to improve the way our children eat. How could you expect your children to eat broccoli if you refused to touch it with a barge pole?
- Here are a few realistic tweaks for better family life and balance: don’t pledge to take the kids to Disneyworld when there is no way you could save the money to do it for another 10 years. Instead, schedule fun family time, e.g. a cinema party every Friday night, with the children making popcorn with dad then choosing a film all together then cuddling on the sofa, completely ‘in the moment’ with no distractions, tablets, phones or games consoles.
- What could you children teach you? It could range from something simple like making your own play dough, to an easy tune on the piano to a lesson on how to draw an owl to more adventurous activities like rafting or sledging. I promised my son I would try to play Minecraft with him before Christmas (yuck, yuck!). It makes him so happy I actually want to have a go (at some point. I will, I really will.).
- Get involved in the fun at the park. Why not try to go higher than them on the swings or go down the slide once in a while?
- Take 10 minutes to sit at the table after dinner and play a board game. Our favourite as a family is Blokus. We also love Uno, Jenga and Peek a Doodle Doo. LEGO and Playmobil are also firm favourites here, especially at Christmas time when everyone gets involved in the building process.
- Allow children to experiment and have fun with food. Why not have a baking session together once a week? Not only will you have some quality time together but you’ll also have something delicious to eat afterwards.
- When you only have 5 minutes to spend with your family, it doesn’t have to be a boring 5 minutes. Gallop to school instead of walking (why not, hey?), decide what you would do if you won the lottery, chat about the food that would never pass your lips and why, talk about which animals hibernate and why. If the conversation is fun and they feel you have time to chat, it’s likely to encourage little ones to open up about issues they might have had at school (friendship troubles, worries about swimming, times tables woes, homework struggles…).
- Rainy day? Just put your wellies on and jump in muddy puddles with them! Getting wet and dirty is the perfect excuse to snuggle up on the sofa in pyjamas afterwards with a large mug of hot chocolate.
- Let the children be in charge. Last week, I went to London with my eldest. When asked what his favourite thing to do would be, he just said: “Can we go on the next bus that comes past and go anywhere in London?” We did just that. We didn’t see any exciting sights and we got a bit lost, but it was nice to spend time doing what he wanted, without questioning why or what the end goal was. There was no goal and that was the fun part!
Here are the top 10 life lessons learnt from time spent together, across parents of all surveyed age-groups:
- How to laugh everyday (63%)
- You can find the joy in small things (59%)
- Things don’t always have to be done in the same way (52%)
- Not to fear new challenges (45%)
- It’s easy to be nice (45%)
- Every day is a fresh start (43%)
- Try not to care what others think (37%)
- Friendships should be nurtured (35%)
- Persistence pays off (30%)
- Bumps and bruises are a badge of honour (27%)
Skye Lucas-Banks, from Bassetts Vitamins, explains that all of the above is exactly why they decided to create “Colour Quest Activity Books with some quick and easy ways for families to connect in those little moments we have every day, whether going on a ‘treasure hunt’ in the garden or choosing and preparing a nutritious dinner together.”
You can download your Colour Quest Activity Book here, or better still, why not enter the giveaway below to win one of 10 child umbrellas and Colour Quest Activity Kits from Bassetts Vitamins.
Win one of 10 child umbrellas and Colour Quest Activity Kits from Bassetts Vitamins
How to enter the giveaway:
You can pick and choose a range of ways in which to enter. The only one you must click on to get into the draw is the one asking you to leave a blog post comment. You must also leave a comment telling me how you like to spend time together as a family.
Entries are open until 11.59 p.m. GMT time on Sunday 19th November 2017. Good luck!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Bassetts Vitamins. It was a real pleasure to help them spread the word about their Purple Paper findings. As always, all photos and opinions are my own.