ages 2-5 ages 6-8 ages 9-12
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Wherever you see this key, the activities have been carefully selected for the age groups listed.
Autumn is rich with the wonder and excitement of new classes, friends, teams, and lessons. Amidst all the action, it’s easy to lose touch—but to your kids, family time is more important now than ever, according to psychologist Dr. Patti Zomber. The good news is that connecting as a family can be as simple as leaping into a leaf pile, horsing around in the family room, or sharing jokes and laughing together at the kitchen table.
Family time gives kids the emotional support they need to dive happily into each day and the reassurance that they’ll have Mom or Dad’s help with any challenges that come along. Dr. Zomber suggests using kids’ interests as a springboard for evening connecting times. One mom she knows took that advice literally, setting aside 15 minutes a day to jump on the trampoline with her 7-year-old daughter. Now both can’t wait to jump into this time of having fun and talking about their day.
“The best way to support kids with school pressures,” Dr. Zomber says, “is to make your home a place to relax, seek refuge, and find comfort.” Sometimes that means scheduling time to kick back and dream together. Other times, it means canceling other commitments to be together and chill out.
“In my family,” Dr. Zomber recalls, “sometimes we would drop everything to go out for ice cream.” Her memories of laughing over ice cream with her dad still boost her spirits on busy days—and have inspired spontaneous getaways with her own children as well.
Breaking up the routine with something fun and unexpected gives kids a sense of belonging, and that makes life’s pressures seem more manageable again. “Everyone needs that,” Dr. Zomber says. “In the end, making time to be together reminds everyone that family is the most important gift they have.”
family time through the ages & stages
School days send kids off in exciting new directions—but their compasses always point them back home. Here are ways to connect with them at every age:
ages 2 to 5
Emma, a thoughtful 4-year-old, attends preschool every day, then comes home and teaches her mom everything she learned, followed by a big hug. Kids this age are all about physical contact. Even with your dozens of daily demands, make time for hugs. Also consider establishing a bedtime routine. Encourage your child to choose a favorite book or movie that the two of you share each night while you cuddle.
lunch love letters
ages 6 to 8
Seven-year-old Rachael looks forward to the notes her mom tucks into her lunch box. This type of activity helps remind your active child that you're always there for her. Let your young student know that even though your busy lives keep you apart for hours during the day, you’re never far away.
ages 9 to 12
Eleven-year-old Kevin makes sloppy joes for the family once a week. It’s his favorite food, but it’s also his way to participate in family activities as an older kid. Preteens’ intellectual and emotional worlds are expanding, and while that’s exciting, it also can be a little scary for them. When you get a spare moment together—whether it’s sharing a meal, riding in the car, or waiting in the orthodontist’s office—encourage your older child by asking questions, listening, and affirming. You’ll create a connection that will last a lifetime.