Having fun with your children

Plan some together time. Our family has a ‘special night’ each week to look forward to together and the kids help decide how the time is used.

Turn chores into a game so they are done when the kids are awake, and you can put your feet up when they’re asleep. Failing that, let them watch TV while you’re doing the chores!

Having fun and spending time with your children can make them feel special. It can make you feel good too.

It doesn’t have to be for long stretches. It may not be possible every day (especially if they aren’t with you every day). But it’s good if it’s consistent and as often as you can manage.

Our blog on ‘activities for kids’ is good for getting started. We put it together to help with lockdown, but it has lots of ideas you can try anytime, including crafts, books, enjoying nature, learning and much more.

Health and exercise

Being active is good for children’s health and wellbeing. Joining in is good for yours too. Being active isn’t just about feeling fitter and more energetic – it’s about having fun. The benefits last: children who get enough exercise are likely to feel better and more confident. And to sleep better too.

Children need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day, which means they should get 30 minutes of exercise outside school hours. This should include three sessions a week of activity that strengthens muscles and bones.

Being active doesn’t have to cost. Take a ball to the local park or sledge on a bin bag. It doesn’t even mean having to go outside (although it’s important for our mental and physical health to spend some time outside). There’s loads online and on games consoles.

  • Encourage your children to be active. This NHS site has lots of ideas for keeping young children active, including disabled children.
  • Make up your own exercise routine for your children or get them to try P.E. with Joe.
  • Make up an obstacle course with whatever you have lying around and set it up in the garden or at the park. You’ll find ideas online – here’s one way of doing it for wee children.
  • Make food fun while keeping it healthy and cheap. It’s great to cook together whatever age your children are. Teenage children could do a meal a week for the family – nothing wrong with pasta and a tin of tomatoes with some grated cheese on the top, or a baked potato or toast and beans! Single parent Jack Munroe has great ideas for cooking on a bootstrap. This BBC site has ‘10 tips for cooking with kids’.
  • When you’ve gone through a separation or loss, you may feel an extra sense of guilt about your children and overcompensate with treats and food. Keep an eye on food labels for the amount of sugar, salt and fat, and try to cut down on these ingredients. That doesn’t mean putting your children on a diet. It just means not giving them lots of sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. Too much of those is bad for children’s health, wellbeing, sleep, concentration and behaviour. This NHS site has fun ideas for healthy meals for children.
  • Food can be a source of conflict. ‘Pester power’ (when children pressure you to buy things) is difficult when you’re trying to make ends meet. Eating together as a family can bring you closer together but not always, for example if it reminds you of an empty place at the table. If there are difficulties between you and your children or between siblings, family meals might not be much fun for anyone.
  • Things to try are letting your children invite a friend for meals; involving your children in meal planning and preparation; keeping mealtimes calm and friendly (no lectures, questions or arguing just because you’ve got them round the table).

Useful links

  • In our health and wellbeing pages we have advice on how to take care of your body, including eating well, keeping active and sleeping well. This could help you with ideas on how to do this with your children too.
  • Change4Life from the NHS can help you and your family be more active. You can sign up for a weekly newsletter with tips, easy ideas and fun games to help get you moving more.
  • ParentClub from the Scottish Government is for parents and covers all kinds of issues. There’s a section all about food and eating, with ideas for different age groups, including how to manage fussy eating, and a meal planner you can use to help keep on top of things. 
  • NHS physical activity guidelines for children of all ages.
  • NHS advice for healthy-weight children.
  • There are some tips on food habits (for you and your children) and minimising arguments about food on this KidsHealth website.

Outings and activities

Taking your children out and about is a great way to spend time together. It gives all of you the chance to explore what’s around you or further afield, learn together and have things to talk about. Doing fun things together helps you build up your relationship with your children and vice versa.

It doesn’t have to cost.

  • You could take your children out to the park or the beach or even your garden for a picnic.
  • You could go to free events for parents and children or do activities together like clean-ups in the local area.
  • There are lots of free places to go like museums and galleries. Other places which usually cost are free on ‘Doors Open Days’.
  • If you’d like to try growing your own food, you might enjoy having an allotment and working in it together. You could just grow some cress inside on a windowsill.
  • There’s lots you can do at home too: watch a film or box set or read a book together; do crafts (playdough and drawing can be as simple or as complicated as you all fancy); do Lego, games and jigsaws (you can get these in toy libraries or cheaply in charity shops and swap with other parents).

You could tie any of the above in with whatever they are doing at school. Schools are keen for parents to be involved in their children’s education. This info from the National Parent Forum of Scotland explains more about ‘wider achievement’.

Useful links

Playing and learning

Play is so important to children’s wellbeing that it’s a universal children’s right. Play is one of the most important ways in which children learn, whether it’s social skills, concentration or as the basis for what they do at school.

Children like playing games and being silly. So do adults when they get half a chance. Having children gives you that chance. Playing with your children helps you connect with them, and it develops their relationships with each other. This is really helpful if your children fight a lot. When you can turn more difficult things, like tidying up toys, into a game, it’s more likely to get done without a fight or tears.

Some things you can do with and for your children are:

  • Play games using simple things like balls, skipping ropes, empty bottles for skittles, items lying around the house or outside like boxes, pieces of wood, blankets to crawl under, sheets to make tents
  • Encourage them to take turns when playing games
  • Time yourselves walking, skipping, running, and jumping to make it fun
  • When out and about, distract your children by looking for or counting things like numbers on doors, coloured houses, spot the tallest tree, colours or types of cars, Christmas trees …
  • Use rotas and include fun things like walks, games and other activities as well as chores and schoolwork. There are free templates online (search Google) and you could easily make one with your children and some paper and post-its’
  • Children like routine so it’s good to make the routine fun

Useful links