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Oregon Family Magazine

Making a Real "Face-Time" Connection

02/02/2015 10:19 ● By Sandy Kauten
In 2015 nearly everyone’s connected to some device – computer, tablet, phone, fitness tracker, etc., but it’s a frequent concern that people are more “disconnected” than ever due to technology. 

As parents it used to be easier to connect with our children through daily interactions like family play, games, sports, television viewing, etc.  But now, it takes a little more effort.  Each family member is often focused on their friends, social media, specific interests, and daily responsibilities.  Additionally, connecting with family members of different ages often requires a unique approach.

Here are some suggestions for connecting with children of various ages:

The 0-5 Age Group:

The little ones are easy.  If you can pair entertainment with fun and education it’s a slam dunk!  Daily reading is an enjoyable way to bond with your child, while instilling the joy of reading.  If you add finger puppets, songs and fun voices – they’ll be hooked.  Wait until they turn the tables and demand to read to you!

If you’re looking for a way to add a little exercise, Mommy/Daddy and Me swim class is a great choice.  Your child will learn a potentially life-saving skill, while spending time with you and deepening that familial bond. 

If you’re a family who enjoys seasonal activities and is looking to create traditions – try a hay ride in the fall, or horse-drawn carriage ride during the December holidays to enjoy the lights.  If you add a thermos of cider or hot chocolate, a warm blanket, songs and a little enthusiasm, you’ll create lasting memories.

The 5-10 Age Group:

In this decade most 5 to 10 year olds are using technology daily in school, which means they could use a break on weekends and evenings when there is time. 

Most children have activities, but they may not be enjoying them as much as they would with you.  Why not take a lesson with your child to learn a new skill.  Think: tennis lessons, badminton lessons, music lesson, etc.  Imagine the quality time you’ll spend learning and practicing with your child.

Not all games are electronic. Board games and cards are wonderful ways to spend an hour or two connecting with your kids.  You’ll be teaching them about friendly competition, being a graceful winner or loser, developing social skills, and how to entertain themselves when electronics are not involved.  Not to mention teaching them classics like WAR, Checkers, backgammon, Scrabble and Monopoly, to name a few!

How about spending a few hours during the weekend picking apples, pumpkins or berries, depending on the season? Not only is it educational, if you take part in the tour at a picking farm, but you can take it one step further and use your pickings to make dessert, decorate your home, or carve up creative projects.  The ultimate "2-fer" – family time the first day and a second day of fun by using one’s spoils!  

The 10-15 Age Group:

This is the tough age group.  On the lower range, they are still young enough to enjoy playing, but on the older range they are old enough to think it’s not quite so cool.  

However, not many kids this age can resist shopping, especially for that new toy, game, outfit, piece of sporting equipment, etc.  Why not make it a bonding and learning experience? Have kids save for what they want and you can match their monetary efforts and take them shopping.  Or you can have them create a budget, develop a savings plan and open a bank account while tracking their progress on a spreadsheet or using software before their shopping excursion.

If an active lifestyle is what your family enjoys, perhaps selecting a new activity to learn and enjoy each season would be the way to go.  How about snow skiing during the winter, fishing in the spring, kayaking during the summer and horseback riding during the fall?  Not only will your family bond and learn a new skill, but also keep healthy and learn to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors.

By this age, children should be learning and mastering basic household tasks.  As adults we realize they can be drudgery, and that sharing the work makes it faster and more enjoyable.  Why not teach children the same by sharing the work and teaching new skills.  Family cooking lessons are an ideal why to incorporate life skills with bonding time.  Whether you use your kitchen or a cooking class, the results should eventually be delicious!

The 15+ Age Group:

This is both the most difficult and easiest group due to the age range. Kids 15 years of age and older, are typically interested in driving.  You can spend quality time bonding with kids over studying for a permit, preparing for the road test and if finances dictate, selecting a car.  Not only will kids be ecstatic at the prospect of being allowed to drive, but you may rest a bit easier having shared the experience and knowing you did what you could to try to teach teens proper driving and safety skills. 

By this age, kids will typically only going to be in the home for a few more years.  Why not capitalize on this time by adding family travel to the repertoire?  A road trip, cruise, flight or train ride could create lasting family memories.  Pictures of your child at Disney acting like he/she is 2, or experiencing scuba diving for the first time, or taking their first plane ride is truly unforgettable.

Board games and cards are still options at this age, but bowling, darts, pool, foosball and shuffleboard could be a fantastic introduction to things adults do for fun.  In the case of bowling, a smaller alley may even allow you to keep score the old-fashioned way and you can teach your child the “lost skill” of keeping score during a bowling game.  Ever been at a bowling alley when the computer malfunctions? Most keep score sheets on-hand for just such instances.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  No matter what you select, or whether you take a technology, or not, approach you will be connecting with your child.  Why not ask your children for a list of things they would like to do.  Perhaps by implementing technology-enhanced fun days and technology-free fun days, your family will learn how to strike a healthy balance while enjoying some serious quality-time. 

Kim Green-Spangler is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger, budding author, wife and mother.  She has written hundreds of articles for various websites on topics specific to women and moms, exercise enthusiasts, small and home-based business owners and homeschoolers.  She can be contacted at www.