Regular one-on-one time with your kids can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Try these simple ways to make it a reality by working it into your regular routines.
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We all know the value of spending one-on-one time with our kids. There are numerous benefits, including:
- Strengthening parent-child bonds
- Cultivating connection and relationship
- Fostering trust and communication
- Supporting social and emotional skills
- Fulfilling emotional needs for attention and love
- Communicating value and importance
- Building self-esteem
Not to mention it gives us priceless opportunities in the hustle and bustle of daily life to get to know them better. This is important with all our kids, but especially so with our naturally reserved children who tend to get a bit steamrolled by more dominant or assertive siblings.
Spending one-on-one time with our kids, then, is one of the most valuable investments we can make in their futures and our relationships with them.
“Setting aside time to play with your child helps forge bonds and strong foundations for future conversations on the bigger topics. This one-on-one focused time communicates to a child that they matter to you.” – Collett Smart, psychologist, teacher, author, and speaker
Making it a reality, however, can be a real challenge, especially the more kids we add to the mix. With busy schedules and a million things to do, individualized time with our kids can seem like a herculean task. A heap of intention and a little creativity, however, makes it possible.
This doesn’t mean we have to give hours of our attention to our kids every day. Even 10-15 minutes can make a big impact! More than the quantity of time, however, your consistency and attitude are what matter most.
Your kids won’t remember the exact number of minutes you spent with them each day, but they will remember that you took interest in them, engaged with them, had fun with them, and were there when they needed you.
While there’s no right or wrong way to spend time with your kids, here are 10 practical ways to get more one-on-one time with your kids in the midst of everyday life.
10 Ways to Get One-on-One Time With Your Kids
Spending regular one-on-one time with each child can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Try these simple ways to make it a reality by working it into your regular routines.
1. Make use of nap time
Squeeze in some quality time with an older child while younger siblings are napping.
Is nap time work time for you? Me too. But I’ve found that giving my 5-year-old the first 10 minutes of his sister’s nap time is a small sacrifice to pay in productivity for a big return in his love bank.
2. Designate “stay up” nights
Pick a night of the week to let each kid stay up a little later than the others.
3. Invite a tag-along
Need to run errands? Invite one of your kids to go along with you. Even the most mundane errands can become precious quality time together.
4. Step into their world
Join them as they play with cars, build with LEGOs, color a picture, work out, shoot hoops, play video games, or any other activity they love. This one has the added benefit of showing your interest in their hobbies and passions.
5. Cook together
You have to cook dinner, right? So, you might as well make double use of that time! Not only can cooking together be a great opportunity for quality time, it’s also the perfect time to teach valuable kitchen skills.
6. Tackle chores in tandem
Almost anything can become quality time if you’re doing it together – even chores! And since they have to be done, anyway, it’s a great way to squeeze some one-on-one time into a busy schedule.
7. Take a walk
One of my favorite ways to get some one-on-one time with my kids is to take one of them on a walk with me. We talk and laugh while also getting some exercise!
8. Work on a project together
Whether it’s home decorating, auto maintenance, or household repairs, invite your kids to join you in your projects. Or join them in one of theirs! You might even come up with something new together to work on just for fun, such as building a treehouse, making a craft, or completing a puzzle.
9. Check in after school
Take turns after school fixing a snack, going through bags, talking about their day, etc. Try to give each child 10 minutes of individualized attention.
10. Look for the pockets
Look for 10-minute pockets of time throughout the day. Grab one of your kids while the others are occupied, or sit down with another when you see he/she is alone. Read a book (if you’re not a reader, listen to an audiobook), play a game, or strike up a conversation – it doesn’t matter! Just be intentional about looking for those opportunities to give your presence and attention.
BONUS: “Mommy dates”
The above ideas are simple ways to incorporate one-on-one time into the busyness of your everyday routines. But I also highly recommend taking each child on a “mommy date” as often as you can make it happen.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive – our dates are usually to the library and the coffee shop for a little treat. We also enjoy hiking at a local nature park or hitting up a playground.
We aren’t able to do it as often as I (or they) would like, but when we do, it’s magical. They are treasured times together, for sure!
Here are some more ideas:
- Catch a movie
- Go out for ice cream
- Visit a children’s museum
- Attend a sporting event
- Go to a farmers’ market
- Peruse a bookstore
- Go shopping
- Ride bikes
- Get a mani/pedi
- Visit a nature center
- Take a class together
More Activity Ideas:
30 “Mommy & Me” Activities to Do With Your Kids
15 EASY Indoor Activities for Kids (With Little to No Prep)
15 Delightful Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids
30 Winter Activities For Kids
100 Fun Family Activities for Every Season
Tips for Making the Most of Your One-on-One Time
Again, what you do isn’t nearly as important as how you do it and that you do it. Here are some quick tips for making the most out of your one-on-one time:
- Be intentional
If we leave it completely up to chance and spontaneity, one-on-one time probably won’t happen very often. As much as you can, plan for it, schedule it, and make it a routine so you don’t have to decide and remember each time.
- See it as a “get to,” not a “have to”
It’s easy to think of it as one more thing to add to your parenting to-do list, but see it for the beautiful opportunity it is. Look forward to it!
- Keep the other kids occupied
Getting one-on-one time with one child while your other children are around can be a challenge. Get the others settled with other activities so you can give your undivided attention.
- Put away devices
This probably goes without saying, but put your phone/tablet/computer/etc. away (preferably in another room) so you’re not tempted to check them.
- Reserve criticism and judgment
There’s a time for correction and training, but try to keep your special one-on-one time as positive as possible. Refrain from criticizing or judging what they say and do unless it’s something serious that needs to be addressed.
- Make it fun
The activity itself may not necessarily be fun (like the errands or chores listed above), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together! Find ways to laugh and enjoy each other’s company, no matter what you’re doing.
- Let them talk
It’s so so tempting as parents to do all the talking. But we need to keep one-on-one times from becoming monologues and lectures. Some kids may be more reticent to open up, but be patient and give them the space to do so. Ask some of these questions to start the conversation… but don’t go overboard. You don’t want it to feel like an inquisition!
Spending one-on-one time with our kids is challenging, but it’s one of the best investments we can make. Rather than heaping more pressure on our already-full parenting plates, I hope this shows that there’s no right or wrong way to get one-on-one time with our kids, and that it can be done in the midst of everyday life.
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