Quality Family Time—Why It Counts

Over the course of my 23 years as an educator and school administrator, I have seen parents sacrifice a great deal to place their children in a school that will enable them to succeed. These schools have well-trained, appropriately resourced teachers who genuinely care for and challenge each child in a manner that will help them to reach their potential. However, while the school environment is important, home life and quality time spent with parents also play a significant role in the social, emotional and academic development of each child.  

Here are a list of children’s activities in Dakar, and how spending quality time as a family can encourage child development.

A ten-year study by the U.S. Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that children who had five to seven dinners per week as a family were 50% less likely to abuse drugs and 40% more likely to receive good grades in school. Other studies have shown that doing physical activity with your child can increase your child’s academic test scores, as developing the body develops the brain. One of the most valuable benefits to spending quality time with your children is the bond that you develop. And, not surprisingly, studies indicate that children who spend quality time with their parents are more likely to ask for help and confide in their parents when there is a problem. Additionally, they develop a greater sense of value as an individual.  

Children’s activities and things to do as a family in Dakar can promote emotional, social, and academic growth.

Quality time—it counts. Rushing around in a car from one extracurricular activity to the next, or simply supervising homework, will not build the connection between the parent and the child that the above studies indicated was a significant factor. Activities that are interactive and fully engage a child with their parent make the child feel important and loved. Any parent who has ever played a game of Candy Land with their preschooler understands both the challenges and benefits to these situations. 

As parents, we can model behaviors and values for our child, as well give our child the opportunity to voice their thoughts and feelings as we learn about the strengths and weaknesses of their child through shared experiences.

Living in Dakar, Senegal, children’s activities look different than they did in Canada or Cambodia. Here are some ideas that your family may enjoy as you spend quality time together, modeling creativity and flexibility as you go. 

Things to do with kids in Dakar

  • Take surf lessons together.

  • Go to the hardware store (la quincaillerie) with your child. Let them choose and buy a selection of ‘parts’ and mechanisms. Hours of fun for little fingers afterwards.

  • Find the smoothest section of street in your neighborhood. Enlist some help watching out for cars and spend some time helping your little one reach their next goal in wheeled riding—maybe how to turn better on their scooter, bike-riding without training wheels, or how to rollerblade.

  • Take the pirogue over to Ngor Island. Walk around the island, or spend the whole day splashing around and eating brochettes et frites.

  • Go to the buutik and buy bread and chocolate spread to give to talibé boys in your neighborhood. Learn their names and play a game together.

Dan Hein is director of Dakar Academy West, an international school in Dakar, Senegal. Dakar Academy offers the only fully American curriculum and English speaking program in Dakar.

Dan Hein is the director of Dakar Academy West and elementary principal of Dakar Academy Central. 

In addition to a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Arts, Mr. Hein holds a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from Cairn University and a Lifetime Teaching Certification. He has coordinated workshops on ESL Strategies in the Classroom and Multimedia for Educators.

His professional experiences include being head principal of a pre-K thru 12th campus of 340 students in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and vice-principal of a pre-K thru 5th campus of 320 students in Kelowna, Canada. In these roles, he oversaw and evaluated all faculty and staff, hired new staff, provided vision and educational leadership, developed curriculum, directed professional development initiatives, developed and oversaw the school budget, developed new courses, and much more. He also led schools through the accreditation process with both ACSI and WASC, development and moving to a new campus and adopting new curriculum.

Mr. Hein resides in Dakar, Senegal, with his wife and children, who attend Dakar Academy Central.