How being stuck in gridlock can translate into quality time with your kids.
When picking their child up from school or childcare, parents often ask, "What did you do in school today?" only to be met with a monotone, "Nothing." Yet that doesn't always have to be the case. Knowing what to do and what to expect from your child during these times can help increase their engagement, create opportunities for learning and ease the transition from school to home.
"The most important thing is to know your child's personality," says Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a national childcare and education franchiser. "Are your kids more energetic and talkative in the morning, or do they hit their stride later in the day? Knowing this will allow you to determine how and when to engage them, or when they might benefit more from soft music or silence."
To make the most of your commute time, Olson recommends the following dos and don'ts:
- Take advantage of learning opportunities. When you're stopped at a red light, count the number of cars that pass by, or search for a car of a certain color. You can also engage your children by having them guess where people in their cars are going, and make up stories based on what they see happening around them.
- Pack a snack. If your child has been at school all day, it might be a good idea to bring another snack if you have a longer commute (more than 15 minutes). Something as simple as apple slices and water will help stave off hunger and buy you some time to make dinner once you arrive home.
- Make them comfortable. For younger children, having something they can snuggle with, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, can help unwind during the ride.
- Have structure. Kids love to know what's coming up next. Stick to a routine whenever possible, and if you do stray from it, let them know where you're going and why. This way, they'll know what to expect.
- Force the issue if your child isn't being talkative. Sometimes children need time to decompress after being around other kids and teachers all day, or like to relax in a calm environment before school.
- Always listen to the news. Playing music that the child likes (such as songs by The Wiggles, Kidz Bop or the Jonas Brothers) can help them chill out after school. If you just can't bear to listen to their music choices, you can give them headphones -- but be careful that they don't have the volume turned up too high, which could cause hearing damage.
- Just ask, "What did you do today?" Find out from your child's teachers what they did, so you can ask specific questions. Kiddie Academy Childcare Centers provide a sheet for parents at pick-up that outlines what each class did that day. This allows you to move the conversation along and prompt more responses.
- Forget to tell them about your day, too. Kids love to know what's going on in your life, too -- what people you work with; what types of activities are part of your day. This also shows them how to tell stories and helps develop their oral language skills.