Quality Time – The Best Way to Enjoy Time With Your Kids

A photograph of the children's version of Monopoly
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It’s hard to know your kids.

We live in a world of constant distraction.   Working full time, chasing the kids to whatever activities they’re enrolled in, play-dates, and other commitments all conspire to chase you away from the one thing that truly matters: your family.  It’s not enough to be merely present, you have to be engaged.

How can you carve some time out of your hectic schedule to spend time that your kids will never forget?

We play a lot of games in my family and we start far younger than the recommended ages on any of the games we own. I taught my oldest kid to play chess when he was 4 and he caught on well enough to teach his grandmother within a few months. If a game doesn’t require reading, the recommended age is complete fiction. A two-year-old can count, so Sorry! is a good game. 5-year-olds can add, so Monopoly is a good choice that reinforces math skills.

To keep it fun, we have a few generic rules for playing games.

1.  We play for blood. Nobody gets to win a game without earning it. It took my son 5 years to beat me in a game of chess. Two years later, he’s still bragging about it.

2.  Losers don’t cry. Sportsmanship is important. It’s no fun to play with someone who throws a tantrum for losing. My son’s friends learned that lesson in a hurry.

3.  If you’re not a good winner, you won’t play the next game. We talk a little smack when we play, but it’s only in fun. When someone gets mean, their gaming privileges get suspended.

4.  The TV is off. We don’t need more distractions.  No TV, no texting, no phone, no nothing.   Game time is about family time, not about letting the outside world in.    Guard this time with your life.    I even hesitate to bring in other friends.

5.  Video games don’t count. You get far less interaction when you’re staring at a screen.   The goal is to have a good conversation while you’re playing and really get to know your family.  You can’t do that when the only words coming out of your mouth are “Ack! Zombie Nazis!  Shoot him!”

Board games and card games are relatively inexpensive.   Settlers of Catan costs less than a trip to the movies.  The games don’t wear out quickly, though we are on our third copy of Phase 10.   For the price and the time, you don’t have any excuses.

How do you spend time with your kids?

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    1. Here are a few things I do with my kids:

      Geocaching. Great way to get outside, get some exercise, work the brain a bit, and just have fun. http://www.geocaching.com A functional gps receiver costs under $200 and that is all you need. For those that have an android phone (like my wife) there is a free app (c:geo)that appears to be excellent. The smart phones are nice because they access the net and show satellite pics. However, from what I have heard (not by experience cause the wife won’t let me run off with her phone) that the smart phone gps is not as accurate as the dedicated hand units are.

      Dungeons and Dragons. Just got the boys started on this and they are having a blast. We keep it down to about 6 or 8 hours a week and they are hooked.

      Cooking. I always have a kid in the kitchen with me. It is a great time to spend some one on one time in a bigger family.

      Hunting. Just got the boys really hooked on hunting this year too and we are all having a blast. We are lucky cause we can borrow a couple of shotguns and have the land to hunt on.

      Reading. No, we don’t read out loud to each other, but there is a growing amount of books that we have all read and can really enjoy talking about them.

      • This actually started out as a list of “3 Best Ways…” and cooking was #2. 🙂

        My kids help cook a lot. The girls like to pull the barstools up to the counter and help mix or top whatever we are making. A couple of days ago, Oddly asked to help mix the hamburger I was working on. That got shot down. A 4 year old just doesn’t understand food safety.

    2. I’m a huge fan of Phase 10, Power Grid, and Hansa Teutonica. Your game nights with your kids sound like our game nights with friends. 🙂

      • I think game nights with our kids are much more spontaneous than your game nights. “Dad, can we play a game?” “Sure, brat. Turn off the TV!”

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