What to do at night when the kids are away

It’s evening. You can finally spend some quality time at home. You know the feeling when you are too tired to go out and watching the telly sounds like a waste. 

Luckily, we’ve prepared five evening activities for mums that will not only relax you but will help you grow as a person and parent. Read on to learn why your kid doesn’t eat veggies, how poker can help you make smarter decisions and what scientists have to say about insomnia.

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Relax and Grow

Being a mum is such a blessing, but at the same time, it is among the most stressful missions called upon one. That’s why you deserve to reward yourself with quality relaxation so that you can let go of the worries, push the reset button on your mind and reap the many benefits of meditation.

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Regarding the latter: Meditation and mindfulness have grown immensely popular among people from all walks of life, and those under high stress have reported through numerous studies noticeable benefits of mindfulness. Research has even shown that these benefits are not only perceived by participants but also measurable through their vitals.

The great thing about mindfulness is that it teaches you how to work with challenging situations instead of getting worked up and making them worse.

Mindfulness is a universal concept and can work for all ages, even for kids who are now taught mindfulness at schools all over the world. And they seem to respond to it quite well like this 11-year-old American kid who wisely told the New York Times that mindfulness is “not hitting someone in the mouth.”

 

Train Your Cognition

Poker might not sound like a mum’s game, but it’s a great learning tool for many areas of life, including parenting. Playing the game develops cognitive functions that we use every day — when doing our job, when communicating with people, when looking after children.

Among these everyday skills is concentration, making choices and reading people.

So, as odd as it may sound, spending some time playing poker can be an excellent workout for your mind. You don’t even have to use real money because online poker sites allow you to play with virtual chips so that you can still reap the brain-training benefits for free.

The complexity of poker has even intrigued scientists from various fields, including psychology, math and engineering. A paper by the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta states: “Poker is a game of imperfect knowledge where multiple competing agents must deal with risk management, agent modelling, unreliable information and deception, much like decision-making applications in the real world.” The paper also adds that the card game is a “better test bed” for machine intelligence than other popular mind games, such as chess and checkers.

Think of all the parenting decisions you need to make daily and for how many of them you don’t have the whole picture. The game teaches you how to work with little information and weigh the outcomes of alternative decisions. Furthermore, poker helps you to learn to read people, which is an essential skill for parents, especially when their child is upset but won’t say why.

 

Incentivize Schoolwork and Healthy Meals

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Let’s consider two stats.

According to the 2017/18 National Child Measurement Programme, 14.2 percent of Year 6 children are overweight and 24.3 percent are obese or severely obese. In other words, over one-third of British children have unhealthy weight.

In 2016, the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA ranking placed U.K.’s high schoolers 15th in science, 22nd in reading and 27th in math.

It’s no secret that getting kids to eat right and study are two of the hardest struggles for any parent. Most of the time, though, the reason children don’t eat healthily or do their studies is that neither activity is attractive to them.

If you had to pick between going to work and doing something fun or between having a Banoffee pie and a raw banana, then what would you choose? It’s only normal that kids want the more appealing option. That said, you can use your kid-free night to come up with ideas for how to make these dreadful “chores” fun for children, so they look forward to doing them.

One of the most effective approaches is through “gamification,” i.e., making eating healthy and studying into a game where your kid competes against himself or herself to reach the next “level.” That’s how the increasingly popular health apps work — they focus on small but sustainable steps, reward positive behaviour and let users track their progress as a form of self-competition.

The bottom line is: If you spend the time to make school and healthy habits fun for your kid, then you’ll raise a more prosperous and healthy child, you’ll gift him or her good habits that will stick, and you’ll learn valuable lessons about the areas where your kid struggles.

 

Go Back to School

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Speaking of school and performance: You can use your free time to go back to school yourself. Of course, you don’t have to go to an actual school since you can find excellent courses on the web so that you can even finish in one sitting.

Online classes a.k.a. massive online open courses or MOOCs also utilise gamification to help users focus on learning rather than seeing the course as a chore. That way, you can see how the process works and apply it with your kid.

As for the actual course, there are so many topics available for you.

You can take a culinary course that focuses on preparing healthy and delicious meals. You can take some high school courses (like the ones on Khan Academy) so that you can ready to jump right in when your child asks for help with their homework. You can take a class that will help with your career or one that will teach you the basics of starting a side job, which is always welcome when you have a family. Are you looking for a hobby? Gardening? Painting? Pottery? Whatever it is you want to learn nowadays, there is a course for it.

Catch Up on Sleep

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Getting quality sleep can be a luxury with kids. But we all know how important rest is and how harmful poor sleep is for both the body and the mind. So, if you have the chance, gift yourself and your family a good sleep.

When you rest, life is a much happier place, which benefits not only you but also those around you.

On the other hand, sleep deprivation causes many disturbances to your health — from poor cognitive performance and weight gain to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. You likely already knew that, so the question is how to get a good night’s sleep?

A Forbes contributor recently published an article about what new science has to say about dealing with insomnia. He began with the spot-on observation that the problem with quality sleep is that, like healthy eating, achieving it is easier said than done, especially if your natural sleep cycle is a wreck.

In essence, the article discussed a study that compared two popular strategies: sleep-restriction therapy and stimulus-control therapy. Apart from detailing how both of these methods work, the researchers concluded that “they’re most effective when used separately.” Why not give them a try and compare the results for yourself?

 

Congratulations on finding some time for yourself! By now, you have at least five ideas on what to do with this free evening, and perhaps many other ideas have popped up in your mind. Whatever it is you’ve picked — relaxing with mindfulness, working the mind with poker, signing up for a class — the most important thing is to do something that will make you happy.

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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