I would like to introduce one of my favourite parenting strategies – blending.
I have become a master blender—I can blend activities to make sure that everyone’s needs and wants are met. I can blend to create a learning or fun space for my kids while I am getting a job done or relaxing.
I find blending offers many opportunities to connect with my children, hear them, and be present with them completely. As my children grow, I make changes to fit in with their needs and values at their current age.
Most activities can be blended. Just be aware of the ones that require your 100 per cent focus and place those in your calendar at a time when there are no interruptions. Once you identify the blend-able ones you can work them into your weekly scheduling.
I have grouped activities by age to get you started. There are many more depending on your area, family situation, and family interests. Get together with your family to create more ideas.
Five and under:
- Baking and cooking together. Children enjoy watching, stirring, and touching. There is something about food that brings a family together. Give them their own bowl and let them go for it. You get your kitchen tasks done and have a chat and bond along the way.
- Walking (either pram-ing it or on their little bikes). Great way to get out, exercise, and talk about bugs, butterflies, birds, and trees.
- Meet friends at the park. Big people and little people combination time.
- Reading a book. Don’t forget the all important tickle time.
- From about three years old, let them help you clean. Give them their own cloth and/or bucket of plain water and guide them through the task.
- Sing and dance together.
Primary school ages:
- Baking and cooking. Both my older children can bake and make a couple of main meals. Very helpful on make your own dinner night.
- Get out and kick a ball or play catch. Good for developing their skills and revisiting yours, and lots of laughing.
- When at sporting practise, catch up with new and old friends, take a book you have been meaning to read or listen to your music. Remember to watch them too.
- Brush your daughter’s hair and style it, play make up, paint each others’ finger nails and swap foot massages— Dads can do this too.
- They can read to you or practise their dance rehearsal while you do the dishes.
- Plan holidays, meals, and weekly activities together.
- Lots of hugs, draw monsters and aliens, and build an indoor car tunnel and ramp out of toilet paper rolls.
- Play cards and board games. Join in on their video/computer games. It can be a quick or long game—the point is to learn, laugh, and connect.
- Read with them. Have a time each week where you all lay out on your bed or carpet and read. Each one of you has your own book, it is just quiet time spent together, no talking; just learning to be in a room silently with someone you care about.
- Watch movies with them. Bring out the popcorn, blankets and turn the lights out. We have movie night every Friday and the kids love it.
High school ages:
- Afternoon snacks around the bench. Great time to chat about their day. They don’t tend to move while food is there.
- Go out to a ‘dinner and movies’ date. Go to a big people’s restaurant, rather than McDonalds.
- Play cards and board games.
- Plan holidays together.
- Just be there. The most important thing is to be there for your pre-teen and teen. Be present and withhold adult judgement. Talk to them about you and your day often. Don’t expect lots of conversation—yet be open for it.
- Extreme days out. Try rock-climbing, abseiling, swimming at a waterhole, or something in your area that is different. Their curiosity will get them wanting to join you and join in.
- Offer to do pick up and drop off to their destinations, sporting events, parties, and friends houses. Allow it to fit into your schedule as much as possible. It is a perfect time to be in touch with what they are up to, meet the friends, chat in the car (they can’t get out) and show you support them.
I make time each day for all my children to have one-on-one contact time. They know that in that moment I am just with them, for them, and not distracted by anything else. I am all ears, eyes, and heart. I ask questions to get them talking. This is the time I enjoy the most, even if it is just a few minutes.
What I like is that for that few minutes I get to look through a window into their rapidly changing world, and understand a little bit more about how it is for them.
How can you become a master blender, or how are you already juggling it all?