When you think about self-care, you might immediately think of luxuriating in a bubble bath or curling up with a good book…in other words, solo activities. But with the whole family confined under one roof right now—and probably all equally needing a little R & R—you might be wondering how you can unwind together. Piling the whole brood into the bath probably will not be the Zen-like experience you were hoping for…however, that does not mean self-care and family time are mutually exclusive! There are lots of activities you can do together that not only build your family bond, but also help you collectively relax.

Go for a Family Walk

Yes, adults enjoy fresh air, but children do not just like it…they need it. While you will want to take extra precautions when you venture outdoors right now (avoid crowded areas, maintain two metres of distance between yourself and others), a daily walk might be just what your family needs to feel refreshed and restored. In fact, choosing a time to stroll when your neighbourhood streets are most empty could add to the fun: Consider an evening walk before bedtime. Use it as an opportunity to point out sights they might not see during the daytime (like the twinkling stars and gleaming moon). Or, if your kids are early birds, try to catch the sunrise, and make a memory you will never forget!  

Practice 'Magic Breathing'

Though your little ones likely are not going to be up for a marathon meditation, they can still evoke a sense of peace with a few sloooow breaths. I like to teach toddlers what I call magic breathing…and it is something parents can do as well!

Here is how to do it: At a time when your toddler is already a bit relaxed (before a nap or after eating) let your him watch you as you slowly inhale through your nose (silently count to 5) then slowly exhale through your nose (for another silent 5 counts). Make a little whooshy sound as the air flows in and out, and never hold your breath. Then, say, 'Breathe with Mum.' Start by leading him through a couple of fast breaths (2 counts in, 2 counts out), using your whooshy sound and hand motions to guide him.  

You may want to designate a 'magic' place to practise magic breathing. Include 'magic' pillows to sit on, and make the space extra-special by taping pictures of 'magic' butterflies, trees, or scenic locales on the wall. Soon, just sitting in this 'magic' place will remind everyone to relax and breathe.

Storytime

Reading feeds your child’s brain…and in addition to making your toddler smarter, it gives you a sweet opportunity to snuggle close and join your hearts. When done at the end of the day, storytime can help the whole family feel close, slow down, and ease into bedtime. As a bonus, I find that telling stories with a moral is a great way to sneak in lessons about character (I call this planting seeds of kindness).

Play Together

One of the biggest myths of childhood is that play is just frivolous entertainment for kids. Active play is actually more important than academics during the toddler years, and—here is the real surprise—play is important for adults too! Play thrills a toddler’s senses, helps him master movement, sharpens thinking, builds self-confidence, stimulates the immune system, and even improves sleep. And when Mum or Dad gets down on the floor to play with their kids, they benefit as well. Researchers are finding that play is a stress-reliever and contributes to overall wellbeing for adults. So, go ahead and pick up that toy truck or put on those fairy wings and start playing in the name of self-care! 

Share Daily Peaks and Pits

Creating an environment where your family can honestly express their emotions is so important during stressful times, and feeling understood is a crucial aspect of self-care. But when you sit around the dinner table, you may find that your kids clam up as soon as the words, how was your day? come out of your mouth. Instead, make a game out of sharing. With 'Peaks and Pits' (sometimes called High/Low or Roses & Thorns), each member of the family will take turns sharing the day’s Peak (the best part of the day) and Pit (the worst part). Routines help kids feel safe, happy, and smart, and making this practice part of yours has the added benefit of starting a conversation that could bring you closer together!

A version of this article originally appeared on Kidspot.

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