“How Activity Time Helps Our Family,” Ensign, Feb. 1983, 62–63
Several months ago I was busy with canning, gardening, a part-time job at home and many other things of which my church callings were no small part. It seemed I had no time for my children, two boys ages two and four. Caught up in my “important” work, I was ignoring my boys, who consequently went to great lengths to get my attention. However, the only attention they received was in the form of anger. Soon everyone was upset—even my husband who came home to the unpleasantness.
One day while washing dishes I began searching for a solution. I thought I had to get away from the boys for a while. And yet, even as I thought it, I knew it was not the solution. What I needed was to make being with the boys a pleasurable experience for us all.
The light clicked on. Heavenly Father hadn’t given up on me; how could I give up on my boys? By the time I was through with the dishes, I had a new and exciting plan. It would begin the next day.
Previously, we had been doing well to have everyone dressed and breakfast over by 10 A.M. That was changed to 9 A.M. After breakfast, we have an “activity time” that lasts for 1 1/2 hours. We open with a song and prayer and usually do some circle songs (such as Ring around the Rosie). Following our opening, we play with clay, color, write letters to grandparents or engage in other fun activities for the boys. The boys then watch a children’s show on television while I do my housework.
After the children’s show and a nice lunch, the boys take a nap. While they sleep, I spend time on private interests like sewing, crafting, writing, or reading. I thoroughly enjoy these quiet hours. At times I take advantage of having no distractions to work on my part-time job at home. I feel it very important that we have our own interests and develop our talents. We must give ourselves time each day for personal growth; as we do, our self-images will be strengthened, and this ultimately affects everything we touch, especially our families.
When the boys arise from their naps, they have an indoor or outdoor play period and occasionally help me with additional housework. On a fairly relaxed day, I like to leave extra time for preparing dinner or a dessert and enlist the aid of my boys.
After dinner and dishes, the nighttime schedule varies as to circumstances. I find it relaxing to get out of the house (at least once a week) to go to choir practice or an adult education class. This gives our children the special chance of being with their daddy. Of most importance is to regularly spend time with my husband—alone. Even a walk around the block proves rewarding.
Many blessings have come to us from having activity time. First, I noticed that my two-year-old felt brave enough to begin saying prayers during activity time. He soon graduated to saying family prayers. My four-year-old became much more interested in singing and he began saying prayers all by himself. I was amazed at what a little love and attention brought about!
Second, it helped me get much more accomplished. Having some structure in our day meant that I wasn’t up until 11 P.M. finishing the housework, so we got to bed earlier. We then started getting up at 6:30 A.M. to read the scriptures!
Third, my self-image has blossomed. Through the use of my private time, I have learned to enjoy sewing, have been able to complete my four-generation program, and am “dressing up” the dinner table more often.
Fourth, and most important, I have become closer to my children and am able to control my temper more. I take more time out to listen to them, because I know if I don’t listen now, they won’t come to me with their problems later on.
Activity time can be as diverse as your imagination. Your circumstances and interests will be different than ours, so suit activity time to fit your needs. Pray about it and be guided by the Spirit.
Your schedule must be flexible. However, if it is “flexed” out of shape, as it occasionally will be, make sure it doesn’t stay out of shape. Resume your schedule as quickly as possible. If you have older children, obviously they will be in school during most of the day, but you could reschedule activity time after school. Incorporate activity time during the summer or on weekends, too. If you are working mothers, you need to spend some time with your children before bedtime.
Use your family’s ages and interests to guide you in your planning. Have several options available so children don’t get bored doing the same things over and over. Your time is a small investment for the rich rewards your family will enjoy. Judith Rose Barrett, Havre, Montana