With back to school comes homework, playdates and all those after-school activities. Sure, enrolling the kids in a team sport is great for their physical health. And getting that tutor will definitely help with their grades this year. But don’t forget the most important thing in their lives: YOU. For kids, time spent with their parents is often most critical for their mental development and well-being. And — yes — it’s reciprocal. If you spend more time catching up on work than catching up with your kids, sounds like you may need to re-discover family time as much as they do. Parenthood is hard. Family time is good. Of course there’s an element of stress and anxiety that goes along with parenthood. But there are also moments of heart-bursting joy: from the first smiles and the first steps, to the cuddles and the kisses, to the perfect excuse to let our inner child out to play. (Yes, adults need to play too!) We know parenthood can be really, really hard. And on particularly challenging days, spending time with the ‘little monsters’ to de-stress can seem like some pretty bad advice. Perhaps that’s why we all need a break from our precious little (or big) ones from time to time. But there’s something to be said for quality time spent with the people we love most. So, put away your smartphone, close your laptop, and cancel one of your kids’ classes if you have to — it’s time to rediscover family time! Swap after-school activities for family time If you want to take advantage of the benefits of spending time together, here are 7 ways to have fun with the whole family. 1. Schedule family movie night. You and your partner wouldn’t hesitate to pencil in a date night now and then, so why not do the same for the whole family? Plan it in advance and write in on your calendar to make it a true commitment. Then sneak some healthy(ish) snacks into your bag, and head to the cinema for some good old fashioned family fun. 2. Beat boredom with board games. Speaking of old-fashioned, you can’t beat a board game marathon. A great way to keep the kids entertained for hours, this sort of hands-on play is good for their brains—and yours! That’s right, many board games are beneficial for developing brains and aging brains alike. 3. Take a hike. Want to do something active with the family? Head outside and choose something season-appropriate. While a hike in the fall is a perfect way to take in those lovely fall colors, you might prefer heading for the hills (with skis, a snowboard, or snowshoes) in the middle of winter or jumping in the nearest body of water in the summertime. 4. Plan a picnic. Take advantage of this one while the ground is still dry enough to throw your favorite checkered blanket on the ground outside. Or, save it for a rainy day, and have a mock picnic indoors. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to make some homemade sandwiches, grab some healthy snacks, and throw in some drinks to wet your (collective) whistle. 5. Cook together, bake together, eat together. While researchers have demonstrated the importance of eating a meal together as a family, we say: Go one step further and prepare your food together too. Pick a lazy weekend afternoon when you’ve got enough time on your hands to ensure this won’t be a stressful event. Then teach your kiddos some valuable life skills while enjoying some invaluable quality time together. 6. Take ‘theme walks’ around the neighbourhood. With Halloween right around the corner, why not head out with the goal of rating the spookiest houses together? And when the next special occasion rolls around, make a game out of it too. Whose home is most like the Griswold’s out of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? Which neighbor wins the ‘most in need of shovelling their driveway or mowing the lawn’ award? Is your neighborhood made up of or more ‘cat people’ or ‘dog people’? Have fun with it, and your kids will be begging you to go for a walk next time! 7. Road trip! Whether you head off to nearby tourist spot for the day, or plan a weekend getaway, sometimes getting away from it all is all your family needs to re-discover how much you enjoy each other’s company. The excitement will be enough to ensure the kids are in a good mood for the majority of your time away — which will be a great mood booster for the adults too! Sure, you’re busy. But life is short. And you decided to be a parent for a reason. Spending quality time with your family is good for your kids’ development and good for your mental well-being. No more excuses — it’s time to re-discover family time!