Enjoying time with children: tips for building relationships

Key points

  • Spending time and doing things with your child helps to build your relationship.
  • You can spend time together as part of everyday activities, or you can make special time for play, games and other activities.
  • Try sharing activities like preparing food, reading, playing word games, going to the park and more.

Special time together: why it’s good for your child

Spending special time with your child is good for your child’s development and wellbeing. That’s because it builds your relationship and boosts your child’s confidence. Special time with your child is a chance to:

  • give your child your full attention
  • send the message that your child is the most important thing to you
  • see the world from your child’s point of view
  • find out more about your child’s likes, dislikes, worries and frustrations
  • give your child some guidance, talk to them and listen to them
  • be a role model for your child.

When you and your child spend enjoyable time together, it can help your child feel happier and more relaxed. It can also help your child build resilience for the teenage years. That’s why it’s so important to lay the groundwork early on.

And some regular special time with you can help your child to handle the times when they don’t have your full attention or when you’re apart.

Special time together: why it’s good for you

Sharing special time can be great for you too – it’s your chance to be a kid again and just have fun.

You’ll also feel good about being close to your child and staying up to date with what’s happening in your child’s life.

Special time with your child can happen while you’re doing everyday things like folding the laundry. Or you can make time to go for walks together, play board games and so on. Just sharing happy experiences helps to build your relationship with your child.

Everyday activities to do with children: ideas

Sometimes you can make special time and have fun as part of your everyday family life. Here are ideas:

  • Make a special after-school snack together. Or let your child choose a dinner recipe that you can cook together.
  • Go shopping for food or groceries together and let your child help to make decisions, pay for things and have conversations with shop assistants.
  • Eat meals together as a family and chat about your day.
  • Make car trips fun by playing ‘I spy’, ‘spotto’ or ‘Who can see the next car with a number plate that makes a word?’ You could sing along to music together too.
  • Read books or tell stories with your child at bedtime.
  • Point out things that you know your child likes as you go about the day, and talk about these things with your child – for example, a cool car or a beautiful tree.

If you’re away from your child for a long period of time, you can use digital technology to spend quality time with your child. For example, you could video-call your child and read books together, send each other text messages or play games online together.

Play activities and games to share with children: tips

When it comes to play and your school-age child, try to let your child choose what to play or let your child take the lead with play. You’ll soon find out what your child enjoys or what sparks their imagination.

Here are simple ideas to get you started:

  • Play word games and make up jokes and riddles together. You can start with jokes like ‘Knock knock’ or ‘Why did the chicken, frog, cow (whatever makes you laugh) cross the road?’ Then get your child to make up their own.
  • Chase, wrestle or roll around together. This kind of rough-and-tumble play can help your child learn how to be strong without hurting.
  • Play board games like ‘snakes and ladders’, dominoes and simple card games. This helps your child learn to take turns and play fair.
  • Spend time making things together, like drawing a picture or making a collage from photos cut out of a magazine.

Outdoor activities to enjoy with children: tips

Outdoor play is fun, and it’s good exercise too. Here are ideas for getting outside with your child:

  • Make time to go to the park together – walk or ride a bike there, if you can.
  • Give your child the chance to practise skills and get better at things like climbing and catching a ball.
  • Lie on the grass and look for shapes or animals in the clouds.
  • Go for a walk around your neighbourhood.
  • On a dark, clear night, go outside and look at the stars.

When children have had enough: what to do

When you’re doing something fun with your child, watch for signs that your child has had enough, is tired or is finding a game too difficult. For example, your child might complain about the game you’re playing or demand to go home because they’re bored.

If you notice signs like these, try to work out why your child might be behaving in this way. For example:

  • Are your expectations realistic? For example, maybe a game is too hard, or your child can’t concentrate on it for that long. You might be able to adjust the activity or guide your child through it.
  • Is your child getting tired or bored? If it’s a long outing, your child might have had enough. You might just need to try something else, or it might be a sign to stop the activity and try again another time.
  • Does the activity suit your child’s temperament? Some activities suit different temperaments better than others. For example, a more sociable child might enjoy playing with a large group of other children, whereas a less sociable child might prefer one-on-one activities.

If your child gets very upset during a game or activity, you might need to help your child calm down. When they’re calm, you can help them understand and manage their emotions. It’s good for your child to know that strong emotions during play are OK, but they still need to behave respectfully and fairly.

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