Parenting Philosophy Tips

10 Easy Hacks to Help You Create Quality Family Time

10 Hacks for Creating Quality Family Time
Written by Kirstie

10 Easy Hacks to Help You Create Quality Family Time

How much time do you spend with your kids? Actually, let me rephrase that. How much quality time do you spend with your kids? Do you  often stop to measure it or bother to create it? We all know modern life can be exhausting, with time together squeezed out of busy schedules. And believe me, the older the kids get, the harder it is to put boundaries around family time. But it needn’t necessarily become extinct. In this advertising collaboration with Bassetts Vitamins we suggest ten of our own tried and tested hacks for making a lot more out of a little time together. 

Meditating at the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park

Meditating together at the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park

Creating Quality Family Time

When our children were little we took a gap year. A whole luxurious year, biking New Zealand with two toddlers. While we thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not sure we were aware of how quite how valuable it was at the time, or how much it provided the building blocks for our future family life.

Whilst on the road, someone we met stopped to congratulate us on our adventures and gave us this advice; “Make the most of the kids at the age they are right now; they will never be this age again.” They were wise words and I have often reminded myself of them.

Sand Surfing on Te Paki Sand Dunes New Zealand

Precious time with the kids sand surfing on Te Paki Sand Dunes New Zealand

Dreaming of a gap

But in the daily business of family life, there’s often no gap in the schedule, let alone a gap year. Amidst the demands of work, school, after school clubs, revision, rehearsals, practice and parties, I sometimes wonder how we can possibly all stay in touch and worry that we are merely orbiting the house and each other.

The issues around modern family time and how it is being squeezed out have also recently been addressed by Bassetts Vitamins. Recognising that the demands of contemporary life can put barriers in the way of creating shared experiences, the company commissioned a ‘Purple Paper’ about our time, how it is spent and why more of it should be spent together.

Bassetts Purple Paper

Bassetts Purple Paper supporting time pressed families

Desperate to hang out

Bassetts surveyed 2000 households, finding that almost 50 per cent of parents with children under 18 are ‘desperate’ to spend more time together. Meanwhile 10 per cent of parents said their lives were so busy they didn’t spend any time together at all. The survey also found that UK families spend less than seven hours of quality time together each week.

Of course any survey figures can be looked at as glass half full or glass half empty. For me those results are something to cheer about. Not only does it mean 90 per cent do spend time together, but 50 per cent want to do it more. On top of this, UK families manage to grab an average of a whole hour a day with each other.  I’m not sure we manage that in our house. When we aren’t working, or pursuing our various creative projects, we are trying to manage the diaries of three over achieving children. And then we get a call from the mother in law to say her TV remote has broken again…

Saint Lazare Clock Sculpture. Time Passes in Paris

Do you spend an hour together each day?

Strategies for shoehorning

But we do work hard at shoehorning ourselves into their lives. And over the years we’ve developed a range of hacks to create family time out of nowhere and to meet each other somewhere in a busy day and week. So if you are one of that ten per cent of people who can’t do it, or the 50 per cent who would like to do it more, here are some of our tried and tested ways of reconnecting with your kids and making family time quality time. With a little help from Bassetts Purple Paper…

Bluff, New Zealand. Starting point for end to end family cycle t

Are you all pulling in different directions or navigating the world together?

1 Turn ordinary family time into quality family time

We are all taxi drivers now aren’t we? I swear Uber drivers spend less time in their cars than I do in mine. So I’ve started switching off the radio and turning down the Satnav and using this time to connect. With my son now training in dance in two different parts of the North, we spend a lot of time driving, and what I assumed would be dead time has turned into a really valuable space to talk about the big stuff and the small stuff. Talking while driving is especially good for awkward teens as they don’t have to look you in the eye and they know yours are on the road ahead so you can’t eyeball them.

Child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson who wrote the Bassetts Purple Paper confirms that family time is not about the number of minutes you and your child spend together or how frequently you do it. Instead it’s about the quality of your experiences during those moments. “Chatting with your children for ten minutes while on the school run, offering them advice, listening to their stories, swapping ideas and suggestions and generally being present in the accidental moments you share as part of your daily routines can have a significant impact.”

Driving at Ferrari World Yas Island Abu Dhabi

Driving time is good talking time

2 Freshen up routines

Family life is built on habits. And some of these habits have been passed down through generations; if you sat down together for lunch every Sunday as a child, you might value this more than a family who went their disparate ways. But equally it might have got a bit stale. Maybe your kids are there under duress or more likely (like mine) they bolt their food and try and get away as quickly as they can. Freshen up mealtimes by taking everyone outside, in the garden or up the fell. Have Sunday lunch out occasionally, at a venue of their choice. Even if they choose Pizza Hut and McDonalds!

Nutritionalist Charlotte Stirling-Reed, who has also been working with Bassetts on the paper suggests making mealtimes at home more fun by hosting indoor picnics or playing pre or post dinner games, “and using fun dinner props – like a colourful table cloth or crockery.” She says older kids are more likely to eat well if they are involved in the cooking, serving or even growing. Getting them down to an allotment will certainly increase your family time together – I know this because my dad always dragged me down to his.

Family on mushrooms

Have tea on a toadstool to freshen things up

3 Tap into their enthusiasms

We have always tried to follow our children’s lead. When they were little and wanted to spend hours examining pebbles and shells we took them to the beach. As they grew we spent time with them at the library and the playground. Now Stuart and I have recently become interested in dance. To be honest we don’t know a pirouette from a tango step but with a child immersed in it, we figured we should know more about his world. We find ourselves on the motorway to Manchester a lot more than we used to be, and enjoying the easy companionship of sitting in a theatre together and puzzling out the subtext of the plot afterwards. The other son is into engineering and robotics. I’m passing on that for now, but you never know.

Collecting sea glass and pebbles on a beach in the Scilly Isles

Collecting sea glass and pebbles on a beach in the Scilly Isles

4 Unplug mealtimes

Meal times are the ideal time to chat. Lose the tech and you will instantly gain the children’s attention. Ok at this point I have to admit we aren’t the experts on this. We try our best to leave our phones in the office upstairs but sometimes they find their way down to the dinner table. And often the kids have to remind us of our own rule. In the Bassetts survey 30 per cent of parents said the distractions of technology are one of the biggest barriers to family time, while 50 per cent of parents blame work for their predicament. These figures definitely chime with my own experiences.

Communicating using technology

Stop communicating using technology – at least over dinner!

5 Use exercise to connect

The best way I found to force the kids to chat was putting them on a back of my tandem where they couldn’t escape. Or even better, a triplet. Exercise always bonds and according to Richard Woolfson is an important tool in any family’s armory. “Being physically active usually adds to everyone’s enjoyment because we typically spend most of the time sitting down or moving occasionally from room to room.; you know how good it feels when you’ve walked that extra lap with the dog, played a final set of tennis or pushed yourself to swim those few more lengths than usual.” He recommends the easiest way to do exercise together is to build it into a typical day. “Walking to school instead of going by car, climbing stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator, carrying shopping bags instead of putting them in the boot of the car; all those simple things can be worked in without the child even realising it.”

And despite what I said about mealtimes, using technology as a shared experience can help encourage them to do things with you. We have always done geocaching as a family and Stuart and Cam occasionally run away from zombies together with their phones and ipods. I’ve just downloaded the ‘Couch to 5k’ running app which I hope to persuade Hannah to do with me. However the kids did draw the line at Pokemon Go and refused to come out with us. No idea why!

Cycling a tandem while reading

The best way of getting them to talk to you. Or not…

6 Ring fence holidays and weekends

Holiday time for us is important. Travel has always connected us and I can’t remember a summer where we didn’t get away from it all. Protect it, make the most of it and don’t be tempted to over schedule it like your home life. But value weekend time too. Identify weekends you can get away together. Plan long walks like this week-long walk we did on our own patch, getting the bus home each day. Don’t leave your child wondering if getting outside with family is just something people do in adventure books.

Out walking with a Trunki

Getting outside together shouldn’t be a fantasy. Work it into weekends and holidays

7 Fill free time with microadventures

If your time is too full to take a big holiday together, and weekends are saturated too, it is possible to fit adventures into your working day. You just have to be creative about it. A couple of times we have taken up Adventurer Alastair Humphreys summer solstice micro adventure challenge. Other times we have undertaken 5-9 adventures. It’s the opposite of 9-5. You start after work and finish up at breakfast. Check out this post for our Lake District overnight canoeing adventure or this post on our Skiddaw overnight camp.

It’s not necessary to cram loads of them in; Richard Woolfson says you should let yourself off the hook and relax sometimes. “We are all human, and we occasionally secretly hope that our phone will ring so that we can side step that outing to the soft play centre. That’s normal.” But when the psychologist, who is now a grandparent of five, falls into that trap himself, he asks himself what he’d rather fall asleep remembering. “A film I watched alone, during which I nodded off on the sofa, or the fun time I had with our family together?”

Planning a paddling microadventure at Waterhead, Ambleside, Lake Windermere

Planning a paddling microadventure at Waterhead, Ambleside, Lake Windermere

8 Let the kids teach you

We all remember the joys of spending time with your baby, teaching them to tell the time, tie their laces, or read. As they get older they will do most of their learning at school. You can still spend time swapping information. But perhaps you need to relax and let them teach you. In our house the kids can help us fix most computer issues, they are all willing to teach me how to sight-read music and they seem to have been born ‘searching stuff up’ on Google that can explain everything I ever need to know.

In the Bassetts Vitamins survey, 45 per cent of parents report that spending time together has helped them overcome a fear of new challenges. I know that adventuring with Hannah makes me braver. If she hadn’t been holding my hand, I may not have completed the canyoning session at Area 47. And she was the first to freefall into a canyon the day after when we did a bungee swing, showing us all how easy it was.

All three kids are now much better at skiing than I am and we had fun last year when Hannah ran a ski school just for me. Check out this video of how I got on.

9 Trust them – to navigate for you or cook for you

And if you ask their advice, trust them to get it right. On trips we always make one child a leader each day and it is their job to decide what we  do. I remember one day being faced with a 10km climb up a gravel track in an Eastern European country to see some deer that we could have seen at home thanks to putting a five year old in charge of the map, but on the whole it worked very well. And on our driving trip of Japan, sometimes the kids were in charge simply because they were the only ones who could get to grips with the unreadable Satnav.

Taxi makes its way down side streets of Osaka, Japan

In Japan you either need to put your faith in a teen or get a taxi!

10 Be children again

Don’t expect your family to join you at the Opera or comment on the headline of the Financial Times over an intellectually stimulating breakfast. (Although don’t rule that out either.) Have some fun together and do what they do. Almost without exception everyone joins in when we play Bananagrams, UNO or poker. We’ve also spent years going round together on micro scooters, in cities ranging from London to Edinburgh as well as to the local shop. Get a dog, go swimming, rollerskating or trampolining. If you are fun and approachable and above all, there for them, you will get that quality time you are desperate for. And you will enjoy together, the age they are now, and later on when they are gone you will undoubtedly wish you could do it all again.

Family working together as a team in Slovenia n River Soca

The best way to connect is to physically be together

The Bassetts Pledge

The Bassetts research and Purple Paper comes with a pledge to support time strapped parents who want to live a happier healthier family life. Skye Lucas Banks, Brand Manager for Bassetts Vitamins, explains the thinking behind it,

“Families are already under so much pressure. Our pledge is we’re not going to ask mums and dads to find this miraculous ‘more time’ that they haven’t been able to find so far. It’s about making the most of every single bit of time you’ve got, like school runs. You’ve got these five minutes; they don’t have to a dull five minutes. They could be a really exciting five minutes.”

The Colour Quest Activity Kit is designed to help you colour the world together

The Colour Quest Activity Kit is designed to help you colour the world together

Colour Quest Activity Book

The pledge is supported by their Colour Quest Activity Kit – a little box filled with tips and tricks and ideas. “Not a big tome of ideas involving getting out paper and glitter and endless stuff,” say Skye. “But a little book of ideas you can fit into a handbag. Ideas for things to do together in a snatched five minutes.”

To find out more about the kits or the paper visit www.bassettsvitamins.co.uk where you will also discover the range of vitamins they produce for kids of all ages. 

Disclosure Note:  Bassetts Vitamins compensated us for producing this post to help share their Purple Paper findings. The picnicking on toadstools, reading on the back of a tandem, opinion and photography was, as ever, all our own.

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

82 Comments

  • Make sure you spend some time with them doing activities they enjoy, even if it is only for 30 minutes. Play dollies, make cupcakes or go for a walk in the fresh air, it does not have to be expensive. Simple things can be lots for fun too.

  • Breakfast!!! 10 minutes all eating cereal at the same time talking about the day ahead before you set off in different directions. It’s just a question of making sure you arrive at the table together.

    • Any ideas for scheduling arriving at the table together 🙂 We think breakfast is an ideal time to chat. And it doesn’t have to take long. Saturday morning breakfasts are the best!

  • My top tip is to make a pledge to go out once a week as a family no matter what the weather. It’s easy in the UK to spy the rain and spend timme indoors but it’s all about getting dressed adequately and embracing the weather. It’s amazing how little the weather bothers kids when they’re young so go for it too and just have fun with it.

  • Making the ordinary into something extraordinary. We spend too much of our lives worrying about the big things, big adventures and often fail to enjoy the smaller ones. Once the focus shifts we start to appreciate that the little things in life are really the big things.

  • I think the best thing to do is use google we recently found a lovely woodland walk where they had a find the gruffalo trail which was all free and the kids loved it they even gave out free maps and stickers I would never of found it without googling activities for children x

  • we always have meals at the table, no screens and actually talk, what they have done today any school problems and what we all want to do together at the weekend.

  • My tip is to take the kids out after school, and not worry if it means they’re a little late for teatime, bedtime etc. We have 3 aged 5 & under and sometimes after school, the two oldest get whiney after school. So a few times a week when it’s not raining, we pick them up from school and take them to the seafront (we live buy a beach but it doesn’t have to be the beach), have a nice walk and throw stones in the sea. It seems to calm them down and then as soon as we get home, I will stick some pizza in the oven (to make up for the time), give them a quick bath and then its bedtime. It takes my stresses away too.

  • There is always something going on somewhere nearby which is free or inexpensive – park/countryside walks, museums – look them up in the library (things going on in there after school and in the holidays too) and plan to spend one of the weekend days experiencing something new.

  • My tip is to go for a walk around the neighbourhood once the table is cleared and the dishes are washed. I feel the act of walking whilst I’m talking actually makes it easier for my children to bring up difficult topics they are facing e.g. At school

  • Sign up to subscription craft boxes so you can sit down and do these with your children. Don’t be afraid to get a bit messy! Also spend time at weekends with them, get some popcorn and put a film on and snuggle up together, they will remember these moments x

  • We always try and make a point of having our meal together round the kitchen table in the evenings with mobiles/TV/tablets etc switched off. It’s a chance to catch up with each other without interruptions.

  • Once a month, get the children to come up with an idea each for a family activity that is achievable financially, physically and in the time we have available. Take turns at whose idea wins, put it in the calendar and do it. I find this helps them understand budgets and timescales as well as taking turns and enjoying family time.

  • After a holiday or when they spend time at Nanna’s house (me) we sit at the table and make a scrapbook together using tickets, leaflets, photos etc which they picked up. This insures that they remember the special times and they take to school to discuss.

  • Certainly for my household the best tip is: “Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous”. Some of the best memories we’ve made have been when we’ve deviated from routine and just had fun together often without a plan.

  • Get kids hooked on family walks & fresh air by taking up geocaching – they’ll be desperate for long hikes in the woods if there’s a chance of finding ‘treasure’! It’s a hobby the whole family can enjoy and benefit from!

  • Go for walks in woods and forests where you can build a den its great bonding time for the whole family, get muddy, climb trees, take a picnic, look for mini beasts. All the good things in life are free.

  • We spend the day together, go for a walk, fly the kite if its windy and have a yummy meal sat down at the table. Its the little things in life that mean the most.

  • With 5 kids under 9yrs old I am very busy but I always wake the kids up 20 mins earlier so we can sit & talk at breakfast, we spend after school playing together not playing alone, tea time we talk together and then do homework together and bedtime we always get in pjs 30mins earlier and have a story and talk about what they want to do that week and how school has been. Weekends are family time with days out to the park which is great for talking about “adventures” they’d make up and also for playing games together like hide & seek where mum hides behind the door everyone because there’s no where else for me to squeeze into ! Haha

  • We have cut down on television time and electronic devices to spend quality time together out in the fresh air.

    • It’s a good idea to actually work that into the routine. We find doing homework or music practice with them helps too. It opens up the opportunity for conversation about other things. Thanks for your comment.

  • switch off mobile phones leave the housework and go out for a walk in the countryside- be big kids again and join in puddle splashing etc

  • Involve them in everything – cooking, setting, sitting around the dining table together, serving it up, clearing it away and listen to them. Children of all ages want to tell you things quite surprisingly!

  • Include the kids with some of the chores. It turns into bonding time while teaching valuable skills. Invent a family clean-up game, where adults and kids compete to see who can get the most done the fastest, or make up a family song to sing while you work together.

    • Ooh yes, how Mary Poppins. I think that’s a great idea. We could bond over pairing socks in the odd sock basket. Do you have a sock basket? Ours seems disproportionately full for five people…

  • i try to get out with my family at least for 30 mins a day in the fresh air , if the weather is bad we doe an activity in the house such as games or dancing my boys likke dancing and …so does mama!!! x

  • I like to include a friend for our daughter because a child/children don’t always like to talk to you alone but bring a friend in and the talking is endless.

  • As s grandmother i love to spend my time with my 5 and 1 year old granddaugters- in the summer time we fill our days with camping, bug finding, picniks, dayd at the park, dog walking- we have loads of adventures in the woods so this would be perfect

  • I think the best way to make quality time for your family is to put it at the top of everyone’s list of priorities in the household and do things together even if the are free activities, etc.

  • We love to let the children decide every now and again what they would like to do and go by their ideas. Our most recent was an afternoon tea party, we made sandwiches, tea and scones and had a lovely afternoon followed by board games. It didn’t cost much and we had the best time x

  • I love to take my family geocaching. My girls race to find the clues and the prize. We break up a long walk into stages with a yummy picnic and a good view. Its taken us through some amazing scenery that we would have missed and we have some great photographs and memories.

  • Let them choose something to do after school. My daughter often wants to go to the park. Even 10 minutes is really nice for her.

  • My top tip is to strike no from your vocabulary as many children including myself grew up constantly hearing the word in response to asking to do activities without so much as a response instead be more positive such as maybe not today but we can do that next week if the activities idea is completely unrealistic guide the children into learning why it’s a bad idea and suggest something more appropriate by doing this you also open the lines of communication between you and your children and by saying yes more you also find yourself learning to have that childhood joy and excitement again

  • Create memory boxes ( an old shoe box), decorate them and fill with memories like photos, pictures, tickets, we have a seashells, crab shell and sand from the beach, toys that was played with a lot, leaves from a walk and everyone writes down a memory and puts in the box. We do a few like an autumn, summer, school, holiday or a special event one. It’s great to look back on together and share memories of our adventures.

  • Make it an adventure and more interesting by going to different places eg woods , streams and not just the play area in the park.
    And act as if your the first people to discover these places.

  • We love going for walks together. And gather up interesting things cones, leaves shells stones feathers then we have them at home for rainy days to do craft work great fun and doesn’t cost anything

  • I love to do a treasure hunt. If little ones can’t read then make and show them arrow signs, you can make them with twigs, paper etc. and leave them around. And have a little prize at the end.

  • Doing basic cooking and baking, sets them up for life and its fun to do, and they can enjoy the fruits ( or cakes!! ) of their efforts.

  • Set aside time once a week to do a family activity, plan it together so it’s something you are all looking forward to, often the anticipation of the event is as much fun, chat about it over breakfast, how exciting it will be and plan it well. There’s lots of things you can do that will fit any budget.
    Remember your time together is precious

  • On family days out I think it’s really important not to have plans that are too rigid. Some of our best memories are of the days when we just went with the flow, wandered down a new path or to a different part of town, found a new park or spent a day on the beach. Too many planned activities and expensive attractions can create pressure to have ‘the perfect day’, and end up being anything but!

  • Take time to ask your children if theirs anything they want to do or sit down together once a day and talk to each other about your day , especially if you have children ask them how their day went in school

  • We have tfd’s technology free days where our focus is doing things together outside or inside just together. We love board games…gardening…walking in the woods or treasure hunts!!

  • Use loose parts – planks of wood, tarpaulin, shells, logs, drainpipes, spools etc and set a challenge to build something. We have had loads of fun with loose parts and have made everything from dens to obstacle course to vehicles! Even my 19 year old joins in!

  • We love going out as a family into the local area and letting our boys decide how we get there (bike, foot etc) and letting them pick the route and lead the way. We are big into looking at nature, collecting sticks, looking for animals big and small. Finding interesting stones and leaves – whatever the boys like the look of. My tip would be use what you have outside, let your kids lead the way, your joining them on their adventure and thats the way it should be. See what you discover and uncover!

  • A golden rule in our house is that we always have meals at the table so that we chat about what has happened that day. My Son also enjoys baking with me which eventually will turn into cooking so he has a great start in life. Fantastic prize, thank you x

  • Make a plan and get everyone agree on it – then remember not to plan anything else in the time you should be with family – leave phones away from hands and just enjoy each other company – don’t worry about a mess , everything else can wait !!!!

  • As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Make sure you’re kitted out and there’s no excuse for not getting out and having fun whatever the weather!

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