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How to make extra time to play - every day

A common complaint from many people with busy schedules is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to cross off all the things on their to-do lists. Despite the fact that we all get 24, we're often left wishing there was just a little more time to achieve what we had intended.

This can often result in frustration, particularly among parents of young children. For example, you might have hoped to enjoy an evening of playing board games together when you got home from work, only to be faced with a mountain of bills to pay, emails to catch up on and phone calls to dutifully make. Before you know it, it's their bedtime.

This can be a bad thing for kids too, as they might be more likely to drift towards computer games and the TV if they find themselves at a loss for things to do. It may result in a feeling of missing out as well - a past poll by the Family and Parenting Institute discovered that 75 per cent of youngsters in London and the south-east would like to spend more time with their mothers and fathers, while 54 per cent and 45 per cent in the north of England and the Midlands respectively felt they did not see their parents as much as they would like.

It's not just an issue for parents who work full-time either. Even stay-at-home mums and dads can find their hours slipping away as they do jobs like cooking and cleaning.

However, don't despair - our guide below could help you discover some top tips that will enable your family to create more play time.

Plan ahead

You don't need a military-style timetable, but a little forward planning can work wonders. Perhaps you could arrange to come home from work early one night a week, or do all your shopping in one day to leave the others free of top-up trips. 

Similarly, having some games or toys on-hand and ready to play with might be helpful, as dithering when faced with hours of free time can be counter-productive and might result in youngsters wandering off.

Squeeze play into the everyday

If you just can't shoehorn play into one of your days, don't despair - fit it around what you're already doing. Waiting at the doctor's surgery could be the perfect chance to play noughts and crosses or a pocket magnetic game such as Ludo, for instance.

A walk to the shops or to school that you do every day can be turned into a play experience by getting little ones more involved. Try getting them to skip until they next see a red car, or start up a round of I Spy. It'll boost their developmental skills and prevent any of the complaints about tiredness that can arise during this type of trip too.

Have shared hobbies

If you enjoy doing something like scrapbooking or playing sports in your spare time, then why not make it a family affair? You could join a club with your kids or, if you're not that good, set up games in your garden or home. A swingball is all you need to begin a tennis tournament, while a few crafty bits will keep little ones occupied for hours.

Another good winter activity is making paper aeroplanes, particularly if dad is an aviation enthusiast.

Work out what you can weed out

We all have our long-established routines and they're often quite comforting, but how many things do you do in a day just because you've always done them? If this is the case, they could be ditched in favour of play time.

For instance, you might always watch the morning news while the kids have breakfast, or check the websites of the daily papers. Addictive though this can be, you can easily stop. If there's anything vital in the news you'll find out about it anyway, plus your wellbeing could actually be boosted if you're not exposed to some of the depressing images prevalent in the media today.

Instead, you can play a five-minute game like Snap or the card version of Guess Who using the time you've saved. There are probably lots of these pockets of wasted time during the day, so take a look and see if you can whittle them down.

Make like Mary Poppins

Admittedly, we can't play all the time no matter how much time we free up. Sometimes, we have adult responsibilities like housework that can't be ignored. However, we can take a leaf out of Mary Poppins's book and include the children to make them fun.

Have a competition to see who can find the most rubbish for the bin or who can dust the most spindles on the stairs. If you need to do something non-child-friendly like bleaching, get them to sit nearby and challenge them to draw a picture in one minute.

It's amazing how much time can be made for play when you really take a fresh look at your da

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