The importance of spending time with family

Family bonding time is important for building strong and meaningful relationships, making lifelong memories and creating a positive environment that builds character and confidence in children. 

Showing an interest in your little people: 

  • helps them feel loved and appreciated 
  • makes them less likely to behave badly to get attention
  • helps their brain development, and 
  • is lots of fun!

There are lots of different ways to spend time with your family.  

Keep it simple and connect with your family in ways that make sense for your lifestyle and relationship.   

Ideas for quality time with your whānau

Create a family night 

Whether it’s movie night, pizza night, game night or family walk night, designate one night each week for time together.  

Get on the floor and play 

Parents playing on the floor with their child.

Let your little ones pick a fun activity they’re interested in. 

Young children naturally engage in creative play as they learn more about their world. Let you child lead the way and ask what they want you to do next. 

Create a bedtime routine 

The end of the day provides the perfect opportunity to snuggle, read to, and talk with your little ones. Creating a bedtime routine is a way to carve out quality time with your child. 

An established routine guarantees that even if the day gets busy, there will be this special moment at the end of the day to devote to your little one. 

Share family stories 

Find time to share stories about your family’s history and whakapapa. Dig out your old photo albums and look through them with your children. Add new pictures to the family collection together and make this a regular activity.  

Children could have their own albums or scrapbook to place their photos and stories about their whānau in. 

Plan a family outing 

Dad playing with his kids outside.

Get outside and enjoy the great outdoors with your kids!

Take time to play an outdoor game or ride a bike. Prepare a picnic lunch and visit a local park or playground. Visit your local museum or head over to the beach.  

Physical activity and fresh air are good for everyone, but when you do it together as a family, you build those relationships at the same time. 

Get gardening 

Spend time outdoors by planting flowers and herbs in the backyard. All you need is a pot, veggie seeds, soil and water. 

Children can start learning the names of the different plants and vegetables and the seasons they're grown or when they flower.  

Make sure gloves and protective masks are used when handling potting mix, and have an idea of which plants in your garden might be poisonous. 

Have dinner together 

Eating dinner as a family allows you to be a part of their daily conversations and build stronger relationships with one another. 

If you’re short on time, look for simple meals that require little prep, or grab a snack and chat with your child for a few minutes. 

Spending time in the kitchen and cooking new recipes also helps children to develop a positive connection to all different types of foods, including fruits and vegetables.

Forming a positive experience with fresh foods is so important because healthy foods are the foundation for good nutrition. 

Read more about our tips for making meal times fun and how to promote healthy relationships with food. 

Read books together 

Dad reading to daughter.

Reading to your children cultivates an interest in knowledge and helps develop their language skills. It also helps increase their attention span and teaches them to be more curious. 

Make the effort to join your local library and go together to select books to share. Libraries often have wonderful family story times you can attend together or activity days you can take your littlies along to. 

Help others 

Find ways to help others as a family. Do you have an elderly neighbour who needs help tidying their garden, or a new family who would appreciate a nice meal?

Team up with your kids to do something nice for others – volunteer at local fundraisers or get involved in community projects.  

Doing household jobs together 

Sharing out the household jobs and sharing the load is not only beneficial in getting these jobs completed, but a great learning opportunity for little ones.

Make everyday tasks fun 

Young children can help with dusting around the house, sweeping up, wiping surfaces and even learning to fold the laundry.

Outside, raking up the leaves or grass after it's been cut, helping put out or bring in the washing or cleaning the windows might be jobs they can attempt.  

Doing these jobs together means children get to learn new skills while also spending time with their family. 

Get out and exercise together 

Exercise is important for all family members from the little ones in a front/back pack or pram – through to the older children ready to walk and explore outside.  

It could be a walk around the block after dinner or a trip in the car to a bush or beach walk where you can collect treasures together and engage without any distractions.  

Parks are great places to exercise as a family, whether it’s with a bat and ball, a kite, playing on the equipment or riding a scooter or bike. 

Grandparents playing with their mokopuna at the park.

Our top 10 tips for family time

1. Put it in your schedule 

Put family activities in your weekly schedule.

Marking your dates down on a calendar is a great idea and shows your children you make this time a priority. 

2. Aim to be fully present, mentally 

When you’re limited by time, the moments you share with your children are absolutely critical.

Make sure you’re totally present and give your child your full, undivided attention.  

That means turning your phone onto silent and hiding the work laptop away. Try not to text, answer calls or scroll through social media when you spend time with your little one.  

Redirect your attention to your child and the activity you’re doing together. It might seem difficult at first, but your child will appreciate having your full attention. 

A great way to ensure distraction-free quality time is to get out of the house so you’re not tempted by the TV in the background. When you properly connect and interact with your children, these are the moments both you and your family will treasure most. 

3. Integrate together time in your daily schedule 

Children love to help.

If you have errands to run, grocery shopping to do or household chores that need to be done, get your little ones involved!

While it may take more time in the beginning, the time you spend together will be worth it. Your little ones will learn new skills, teach them teamwork, help them learn to be responsible and give them the chance to bond with you. 

4. Celebrate special occasions together 

Make it a point to spend special days such as anniversaries, birthdays, etc., together as a family. 

Not only does this double the happiness, but it also brings the family closer. 

You can also play some family games to have fun.

These occasions can also be an excuse to meet and greet the extended family, which will give your children a chance to build their relationships with the wider whānau.  

5. Playing styles 

The way you play with your child will be different from your partner or other family members – variety is great for your child’s development. 

Children will enjoy connecting with you and your style of play so feeling comfortable you're spending time with your child and interacting with them is the most important thing. 

6. Quiet activities 

Children don’t need to be stimulated every minute of the day – get active with them when they’re fresh and full of energy and try quiet activities or songs when they are tired or grumpy. 

If your child no longer naps then a quiet activity instead of sleeping will work well to give their body a break. Try reading books together, doing a puzzle or some Duplo/Lego. 

7. Let them choose 

Sometimes we choose the activities or games we think would be fun – which is fine – but remember to give them a chance to choose what to play and how, too.  

When children are able to move around they’ll start selecting toys, games or activities they enjoy. This is called self-directed play or learning.  

What is self-directed play?

Self-directed play is simply play that occurs on children's own terms, where they are active in its creation and purpose.  

Self-directed play is important because it sets children up with creativity and problem-solving skills, whether they play alone or with others. The children might direct you and what they would like you to do as part of their game or activity. 

Remember there is no wrong way to play. 

Problem solving skills are developed through inventing new ways to play with the same toys. Unless there's an obvious safety concern, try not to jump in or interfere, let your tamariki discover things for themselves. 

8. Try to be patient

Repeating favourite activities can be boring for you, but it’s great for their brain. 

You might hear “again, again” when you’ve been playing hide and seek for what feels like all morning … and now they’re begging you for just one more game, this might also happen with their favourite books. 

While playing or reading the same thing over and over again can seem daunting for parents, it’s good to know that there’s a reason your child keeps asking for more.

It’s because their growing brain connections are stimulated by the repetition which, in turn, helps them to master new skills. 

In fact, for children, playing is how they learn best.  

Whether it’s playing peek-a-boo with your baby, answering your toddler’s pretend phone or full-on imaginative play with your pre-schooler, it’s all helping pathways in their brains develop and grow stronger. 

9. Set clear consistent boundaries

Every family will have different acceptable boundaries for playtime. Make sure you communicate these to your children and make these rules easy to understand and consistent, so they are the same all the time.  

You may need to remind children of inside and outside voices that are appropriate for noise levels. Some activities might be best for outside where it’s fine to make loud noise and bang and crash.  

If there are special rules for playing with some toys or doing some activities remind them of these before they start playing and always check for hazards, and toys that might have broken or are not safe for little hands or mouths. 

10. Listen 

As parents it is easy to sometimes give reflex listening response (‘ok’, ‘uh-huh’, ‘that’s good’) to children as we busily wipe counters, cook dinner, and think of a million things that have nothing to do with what our little person is telling us.  

We often give these responses because we assume that a child’s stories don’t require a high level of concentration.

It is important, however, to listen so that your child feels you value what they say.  

Good communication with children means listening well and encouraging your child to listen when you talk. What we model to children is what we will see them learn.

Read more about connecting with your child

Our famous play dough recipe

Play dough castle

Play dough is a great activity for children of all ages.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon food colouring

Mix all dry ingredients, add oil and boiling water with food colouring, mix well.

Store in an airtight container.

To add interest, you can add glitter for a textural change, some aromatherapy scented oil for smell.

With some shaped cutters, rolling pin and some imagination your set for hours of fun.

Need free support or advice?

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