Life has become so busy, but creating time to connect with your kids is essential. Kids NEED connection.
They are biologically wired to require secure attachment and when they don’t get it, chaos reigns. When the need for connection is met kids become more patient and are better able to self regulate and learn.
If frustrating behavior and chaos has become the norm in your family, consistently scheduled special time may be the answer.
What is Special Time?
Special time is a simple concept with big results. The best part? This doesn’t even require boat loads of patience or tons of time.
“Special time” with your child involves setting aside ten minutes a day to connect without distractions in a way that allows them to lead the play and interactions.
NOTE: it doesn’t have to be perfect – I know I rarely manage to do it with each of my three kids every day, but even when I keep it up sporadically they love it.
And if you have one child who’s going through a particularly challenging time, prioritize spending special time with them.
How can just ten minutes connecting with your kids have an impact?
The short time period is what makes Special Time so powerful.
For ten minutes we can be patient and truly present, and our kids thrive on our presence. Ten minutes is enough to get you started, to give you moments of joy with your children that lead you to want to create those moments more often. When you’ve had a terrible week and you feel angry or resentful, ten minutes is enough to begin bridging the gap that has occurred between you and your child.
When you regularly connect 1:1 with each of your kids you will begin to know what really makes THEM feel loved as an individual – and you can do this just ten minutes at a time.
Grab this free printable to keep a list of ideas for special time as a visual reminder to make it happen! Easy Activities for Special Time Printable List
10 Minute Special Time Activities for Connecting With Kids
Let’s talk about some examples of what special time activities could look like for different ages.
Talking with your kids can happen when you’re working on a project or doing a chore together, going on a walk, or taking just one child on an errand.
(We have a whole page dedicated to Conversation Starters if you need some prompts.) Here are a few favorite topics for each age group:
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – reminiscing together: just a simple recount of the day or of a favorite family event can be enjoyable.
- Little Kids – likes, dislikes and learning about who this young person is; pretend play scenarios – making up a story together
- Big Kids – asking about things they care about but you’re not usually excited to talk about – asking them to teach you about something they’ve learned – all the better if you genuinely don’t know the answers
Working together on family chores gives kids that chance to find their value in the family, to be empowered and know they can make a difference.
You can also ask for company while you’re working on a chore without expecting help, and you may get an unexpected worker who is happy to have a chance to chat with you.
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – These youngsters usually do want to help out. Here are ten fun chores for toddlers or preschoolers.
- Little Kids – Many young children love the repetition and simple satisfaction that comes with folding clothes or ironing.
- Big Kids – Asking for company while you’re cooking or hanging laundry can give you both a chance to catch up during which younger siblings might be less inclined to interrupt.
Nature and Outdoor Activities
If you have no backyard, just going on a walk around the neighborhood or even taking a drive so that you can get out in the woods for some time in nature can give you a chance to breathe and feel more peaceful.
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – Heading outside is usually enough entertainment.
(Check out this list of our favorite outdoor toys for the early years) or take a walk and talk about what you see, look for signs of the season, drag a stick in the dirt.
- Little Kids – We’ve loved this book about making fairy houses (Amazon affiliate) and have spent hours in our back yard collecting materials and making little homes for the fairies and their friends.
- Big Kids – Bird watching, caring for a garden, and learning how to train a dog or care for another animal all work well for outdoor activities for older kids.
Arts, Crafts and Making Things
Most kids will love things like having you fold a paper airplane or fortune teller for them. Crafting is a great side-by-side activity that allows for conversation without pressure. (Check out this interview with Artful Parent Jean Van’t Hul for ideas on how to you can connect with kids through art and fit it in, even with a busy schedule.)
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – painting and drawing together – my toddler loves when I trace her hand and mine so we can color them together. Younger kids also get a kick out of “destructive art.”
- Little Kids – Try doing a kid art journal prompt together, enjoy a craft to go with the seasons, or try our doing BIG art.
- Big Kids – this is a great age to share one of your hobbies with your child if they’re interested. You might also look into a craft kit that you can do together. Older kids may be into knitting, drawing, learning to sew or whittle.
Doing arts and crafts with my kids has meant that I need to have a lot of ideas around so I can use what I have on hand – I don’t go for complex!
- We’ve loved our copy of The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity by Jean of the Artful Parent.
- I also made this list of 20 Arts and Crafts you can do With Just the Basics.
Sensory Play and Exploration
Most kids can’t resist play dough, simple water play, or running your hands through a sensory bin. Adults are often more calmed than they might expect by the same sensory experiences. Without the need for a finished product parent and child can play together and not worry about getting it wrong.
(If the mess is an issue, try out these tips for enjoying and containing messy sensory play.)
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – running fingers through something like cornmeal dough, or trying out one of these creative bathtime ideas
- Little Kids – playing with play dough, or try one of the ideas on this printable list of sensory activities
- Big Kids – playing with clay or maybe trying out a kitchen activity like cooking together or kneading bread dough. For kids who like physical touch try doing neck or hand massage.
(Find all of the Sensory Activities for Children here in our sensory section.)
The range of games that work with your kids will change as they get older. Card games and board games bring our family together every week. Here are some of our favorite games for families:
- Board games for toddlers
- Board games for preschoolers and card games for families with pre-readers
- Board games for elementary age kids: that teach science, that support executive function, math board games, reading board games, fun social skills board games
A toddler will happily curl in your lap, a preteen may join you for a retelling of a favorite from their childhood, or may enjoy sharing their favorite comic with you.
(Try these 5 tips for connecting with kids though reading.)
- Toddlers and Preschoolers – simply read and cuddle together; also try looking though wordless picture books and telling the story together.
- Little Kids – extend the stories you’re already reading with one of these 12 easy ways to make reading an interactive activity.
- Big Kids – As kids get into tween and teen years it can be fun to both read and discuss the same books. Series we’ve enjoyed include Harry Potter, the Rangers Apprentice and Percy Jackson.
Other ideas: do Mad Libs; or share a journal like the Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms or Between Mom and Me – Mother Son Journal.
Get inspired and make your own list of ways to connect with your kids
- Choose a few of the things that work best for your kids and jot them down.
- Stick it on the fridge and take a look when you’re feeling uninspired.
- It’s totally OK to repeat activities over and over. The most important thing is to find a way to give your child the connection they need while giving yourself the permission to take it easy.
More Ideas of Ways to Connect:
- These 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child are simple and doable.
- These Experience Based Gifts for Dads include gifts that are meant for making memories.
- These conversation games are classics.
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.