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December 7, 2010 > The gift of family time

The gift of family time

Submitted By Jolene Smith, Executive Director FIRST 5 Santa Clara County

We all have such busy schedules that it can be a challenge to find time to spend together as a family. But quality time is important because when parents learn and play with their children every day, it boosts a child's self-esteem and helps kids develop positive relationships. Even 10 to 30 minutes of one-on-one time per day is a good start, as long as it's part of a regular routine. Young children will benefit from the love and attention they receive during these precious moments.

This holiday season, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County encourages parents as well as grandparents and caregivers to give the gift of quality time. By planning educational and nurturing activities everyone can enjoy together, families can set up healthy routines that last through the holidays and well into the New Year.

- Start a tradition. Plan a family meal at least once a week - even more often if you can. Eating together provides a wonderful opportunity to talk with your children about their day and show them that they are your top priority. Get kids involved by giving them age-appropriate tasks like setting the table, tossing the salad, and cleaning up.

- Open a book daily. Help your child's imagination soar by reading favorite stories together. Point out fun things you see in picture books and let your toddler turn the pages.

- Host a weekly family fun night. On cold or rainy days, turn off the TV and computer, and get creative. Set up a row of chairs and role-play as a bus driver or train conductor; enjoy a game of musical chairs; or use everyday items like cardboard boxes, glue, and cotton balls to create pieces of art.

- Take a field trip. Visit the zoo, local museums, and libraries to learn about animals, interesting historical facts, and other educational topics. Make sure to call ahead and find out if there's a kids' day, and ask if free or discounted tickets are available.

- Go outside for physical activity. Go for a walk, play catch, ride bikes around the neighborhood or visit the park. It's a chance to spend time together as well as squeeze in a healthy dose of active play!

- Make every moment count. Above all, use every moment together to learn from and listen to your child, even when taking care of every day errands. Young children love to help - take your kids grocery shopping and let them pick out fruits and vegetables while you ask about favorite foods. When driving, point to colors and shapes, and ask your child to count trees or read simple signs.

Remember, spending quality time with your children this holiday season is a priceless gift - your time and attention cost nothing and mean everything. For more information on promoting your child's healthy development, contact FIRST 5 Santa Clara County at (408) 260-3700 or www.first5kids.org and www.first5california.com/parents.

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