I am a mom of three (5 years, 3 years and a newborn). I have all my kids at home (no childcare), a full time job, and I homeschool. I don’t have family help, a nanny or housekeeper, and more and more I’m having to find creative ways to spend individualized alone time with each member of my family. Although family time is a blessing, it’s also important to have time set aside with each child. Here are some creative ideas for all the busy parents out there looking to find a way to spend one-on-one time with each of their children.
Here comes the eye roll. I know… nap time is the obvious solution. Well, what if you don’t have a nap time to use? I don’t… I work during my children’s naps. I also work before they wake in the morning and often in the evenings when they go to bed, 7 days a week. There is no extra time to move work around (I never work during times they are awake) and since I work 7 days a week, I can’t push off work to another day. My solution may be a bit annoying, but it is the truth. My children are my joy and the greatest gift imaginable, and if they were not here (I don’t know, say if they all died in a car crash, God Forbid) I would do anything just for a few extra moments with them. So, although, I don’t ever have the option to skip out on my job, my solution… sometimes it is more important to take your 3-year-old to the grocery store while your other children sleep (on days my husband’s home) and just pray everything works out. I know if you’re in the same situation as myself, this is a hard pill to swallow but sometimes in life you run out of options.
Something close to a nap.
If your children don’t nap, a nap time solution won’t work for you, but something close might. Having separate quite times for each child is a great solution for many. During one child’s quite time, alone time can be spent with another. I believe a daily quite time is a wonderful routine to implement no matter the circumstances. It’s important that children find comfort in downtime. Life can be overstimulating and chaotic. I have never wanted my children to be uncomfortable with silence or learn life is boring if it’s not moving at a feverous pace. There are many different ways one can set up quite time. Here are some suggestions:
- Daily quite time works best.
- For young children, 6 years and under, the room should be dimly lite or off.
- Soft music playing can be nice
- If you would like your children to rest their eyes, then I think it appropriate to retrieve them yourself, but if your children are permitted the time to spend quietly playing or allowed to partake in a calm activity, then I suggest the use of a sunrise alarm clock. The alarm clock will alert your child quite time is over with warm light. Giving a child the independence and understanding that quite time is not over until the alarm goes off can be helpful in setting up expectations. Allowing an older child the freedom to be a little more grown up may also give them some extra fulfillment. The sunrise alarm clock can also be used for a child who rests or naps, but is far less crucial. Side-note: I also suggest the use of a sunrise alarm clock for parents who are having trouble during nap time with children who require a nap due to age or for personal need, as well as with early risers.
It’s just not an option.
If nap time or quite time solutions are just not options in which you can spend alone time with your other children or significant other, different bed times often work. For example, if one child’s bedtime is at 7:00pm another could be at 8:00pm. You’ll have alone time in the morning with one and the other in the evening. For some parents this answer can seem like a rough thought. You probably need a break at the end of the day and may be thinking you just need them to all be in bed the same time. I hear you, but sometimes the greatest gift you can give is time and remember all this finagling will only last a season. Side-note: If you have very light sleepers or other issues with sleep this may not be a solution that would work for you. If having at least 2 hours of extra kid time a day seems too much to handle, especially if you’re already getting little sleep, try 20 minutes of alone time.
Group “alone quality time.”
The paragraph title may seem like an oxymoron and that is what it is. Sometimes in life we have to figure out the impossible or just do the best we can.
Babies on finger foods/toddlers: In todays society I think eating family meals together is fundamentally important and grounding, but there is nothing wrong with setting family meal times aside for the morning and evening. If you have older children that need your individualized attention in the early afternoon, and your baby or toddler often interrupts, you may want to try giving your little one lunch separately. If your baby or toddler isn’t a fussy eater, it may give you the time you need. I am not suggesting one should set up lunch and walk away, but to allow your little one to lunch independently of you in a high chair (if small enough) alongside what you are doing. Hopefully, their little face will be full of food instead of distractions.
Bath time: This is an odd suggestion, I know, but bath time is always a quite time for us. If your house feels chaotic and you need or want to have a chat with one or more of your children or read them a book (if they’re old enough for this in the bath) have everyone take a bath together. Don’t introduce toys, just some warm water. I install dimmer switches in my bathrooms and often implement the lighting to wind everyone down. Side-note: Bath time is also a great time to clean the bathroom. Second-side-note: If you don’t use bath time as part of your bedtime routine, use bath time during the mornings or afternoons to settle everyone down.
Activities: I haven’t used this trick in a while, but when we were just a family of four and I felt like my eldest needed some extra attention. I used rice art to give my youngest a quite activity while my eldest and I did something special. What’s rice art? Pour rice in a rectangular shaped tray. Your toddler can use his fingers to draw pictures, then shake to make new again. Clean up is easy too. Any spills just need a quick sweep. Side-note: Rice art can be used as a fun way to practice the alphabet or spelling words.
Book-on-book: My eldest has always been enchanted by books being read to her, but when my 3-year-old was just a baby she threw a wrench in our special time together. She would tear at the pages and beg to hold the book, disrupting our special time. Back then, I didn’t have another part of the day we could implement our reading time together so here is how I made it possible:
- I bought board books when possible, then I won’t have to fret over crabby fingers ripping the pages. For example my children love the Gruffalo Series by Julia Donaldson. All the books are available as board books.
- I have often bought more than one format of each book. Giving my youngest a board book for her to follow along in while I read the hard cover to my eldest. Dr. Suess is another author that has books in every form.
- Take it outside when the weather in nice. I have a large secure backyard where I don’t have to worry about little ones running off. We all enjoy bringing a picnic blanket outside and spending alone time there, just reading. When little ones get bored, they can just run off instead of making the experience not pleasurable for others. It’s fun and often less crazy when new scenery is introduced. Side note: The Gruffalo Series also has activity books to take outside.
- Introduce tents! Changing up environment usually modifies behavior.
Baby carriers: Strapping a baby on to your back is a great solution when you need to spend time with your older child. The baby is not physically separating the two of you, yet, your youngest is experiencing closeness and bonding simultaneously.
Older children: If your older children are making it difficult to spend quality time with your baby here are some tips.
- A quite movie like Planet Earth is a great educational tool for everyone. Sit together while you hold your baby quietly bonding.
- Use activity books or a nursing backpack. Click here for more information on the AHP Nursing Backpack.
I am not the authority on any topic asked in this forum. For questions that may have medical implications, please consult your doctor or midwife. The purpose of this section of the site is to provide support, help, or a sounding board for individuals. Whether a person is going through struggles, would like to know they’re not alone, or find out which bottle worked best for my children, I will do my best to answer. There are going to be many ways to reply to all questions posted. I am merely providing my perspective. This forum is not meant for debate.