Let’s face it, there are never enough hours in the day. We’re busy trying to run businesses, maintain relationships, shuttle the kids to school, ballet and soccer, and if lucky, carve out a little time for ourselves. When you add in spending quality time with the littles, it’s enough to send your mom-guilt into overdrive. Fortunately for us, children thrive on the quality of time spent with them, not quantity, so knowing how efficient we can be at the rest of our lives, making a meaningful connection with your little one doesn’t take a ton of time.
Studies show that spending as little as five minutes truly engaged and interacting with your child will greatly improve their social and emotional well being, not to mention reduce the frequency of tantrums and undesirable behavior. So, imagine what would happen to your relationship if you spent a whole hour together? The next time you are aimlessly scrolling through Instagram and looking at preciously curated photos of other people’s children, put down the phone and create some of your own memories with your little ones that are right in front of you.
Here are 5 easy and meaningful ways to reconnect with your child when time is of the essence.
1. Go On a Treasure Hunt
One of my favorite memories as a child is going on nature walks with my mom. We had a favorite hike near our family campground that I looked forward to each summer. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting or interesting about the walk but we would always come up with a list of 5 – 10 items that we had to find on our journey. From a heart shaped rock to a black and white dog, the objects don’t need to be elaborate but it turns the walk into one with purpose and opens your eyes to new discoveries when you are trying to find a set list of specific things.
2. Bake and Gift
There’s something so intimate about baking with a little one and if you can get over the minor mess you’ll usually create – it’s a great way to use all of your senses. Smell the vanilla, touch the silky smooth flour, and talk through each of the measurements and ingredients as you add them to the mixture. One of my favorite recipes is this Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf from Two Peas and Their Pod. The recipe makes 3 loaves, which of course, is perfect for gifting. Have your little choose two people from their daily life to gift the loaves to. Maybe it’s the doorman, the FedEx delivery guy (my personal favorite) or the barista at your favorite cafe – giving your little the power to decide who to gift the sweet treats is especially thrilling and helps an existing relationship to blossom in their community.
3. Create a Photo Album
Pouring over old photos is one of our all time favorite activities. The littles love to see photos of me and their dad from when we were little, our wedding and everything in between. And of course, they love to look at photos of themselves when they were babies. I’ve been known to dive into our photo library for much longer than an hour so in order to limit your time sink, you can set some easy parameters. Start by going through the photos on your phone from the past month and have your kids each pick ten favorites. You can have these printed at your local photography shop and then put them in an old school photo album. If you do this once a month, at the end of the year you’ll have a personalized yearbook of 120 of your kids’ favorite memorable moments.
4. Build a Fort
Forts have been a BIG thing in our house lately and they usually get me all flustered because the littles tend to take everything in their reach and incorporate it into their creation (can you say epic sized messes?) One Saturday morning I decided to join in the planning and we actually had an amazing time. We used boxes, pillows, blankets and created a cozy little nest where we later curled up and read our most recent library picks. It was a great lesson in collaboration and problem solving and who can resist an excuse to cuddle your littles while you enjoy the fruits of your labor?
5. Timer Time
Start by brainstorming things that your little would like to do with you and narrow down your selection to ten choices. Put the ten ideas into a hat and let your little pick one at a time and set a timer for ten minute intervals. From planning a pretend vacation to writing a story to making silly videos of one another, the goal is to allow your kids the freedom to run the show. Giving your kids the control for once over how you spend your one-on-one time gives them a boost in self-confidence and the timer aspect makes the whole thing a little silly which can only end in fits of giggles for both of you. It’s a creative way to learn about your kids likes, dislikes and latest obsessions and you can share your own visions with them as well.
It might take effort to devote an entire unscheduled hour to your little ones, but once you get into the habit of doing it, you’ll find the ideas will start to flow and your relationship will take on a new element of play. It’s refreshing to step out of the traditional parenting role and empower your little one to call the shots once in awhile. You may just discover it’s actually relaxing to let loose like a kid again.