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Top 5 Tips for Spending 1-on-1 Time with Your Kids

Sibling free time with kids mom daughter

“Moooom! She’s doing it again!”
“I am not! She started it!”
“Nuh uh! It’s her fault!”

Ah, the joys of siblings. Best friends one minute and arch-rivals the next.

Seeing the special bond between my girls is one of the greatest joys of my life. But, even though they think the sun rises and sets on each other, there are plenty of days where the sun doesn’t seem to come out at all.

Sigh. So, what’s a mom to do?

Whenever my girls really start getting on each other’s nerves (and trust me, since the pandemic started, that’s way more often than before), I try to find a way to spend some time with each child one-on-one. Even with social distancing in place and changes to many activities, it’s still possible to find ways to do something special.

Plus, taking time to do something with your children one at a time (or, intentionally setting aside time to do something special with your only child) helps you build memories and grow the unique aspects of your parent-child relationship. It can even help reduce sibling rivalry (even temporarily…) But, how do you find the time, and when you do, how can you make it fun for both of you?

Here are the top 5 tips for successfully spending sibling-free time with your kids.

1. Make it Special

No matter which activity you choose to do with your child, the key to a successful time is finding a way to make each child feel special with individual attention. Ideas can include designating a certain day/evening per month that is just theirs, choosing activities or locations that are reserved just for your special time together, and/or even giving the time a fun name, like “Mommy & Me Night.”

One on One time with kids mother son

2. Find the Time

The trick with sibling-free time is, of course, finding how to fit it in. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Go for quality time over quantity of time. As with so many things with kids, it’s not how much time you spend with them, it’s making the time you do have count. Try aiming for a reasonable, set amount of individual time (such as one activity per child, per month), and then adjust as needed. Your undivided attention can go a long way toward spending quality time with kids.
  • Look for the “in-between” times. Try to find points in your daily schedule, such as alternating nap times, downtime after dinner, or a time you use to catch up on other things, and occasionally use those for your 1-on-1.
  • Allow an occasional late night. Letting older kids stay up a bit later than usual, maybe on a Friday or Saturday evening while their sibling turns in early, is a great way to find some extra time.
  • Trade with a friend. Consider trading off sibling time with a friend. Watch your friend’s child(ren) while they have time with one of their kids, and then swap and let them do the same for you. (Depending on how you’re interacting with others during the pandemic, you can always save this idea for a later time.)
  • Make an everyday errand fun. An errand like grocery shopping is hardly the highlight of most people’s week, but add a little creativity, and it could be! You could turn your shopping list into a scavenger hunt, look for shapes and colors on the shelves, or let them help you at the self-checkout. If you get your groceries delivered, create a game that involves getting the groceries sorted — and maybe even put away! (Ok, so some kids will grumble because it’s really a chore, but it’s worth a try!) Take just one child with you when you run errands and add in a surprise stop for a fun treat.
  • Trade-off sibling time. If your children are old enough to occupy themselves for a period of time, consider trading off spending one-on-one time at home with them. If possible/appropriate, maybe set up your individual activity in a separate room and reserve an activity just for those times together, such as working on a puzzle or playing a certain board game.
  • Make meal time special. If time and budget allow, taking your child out for a meal, or even a small snack like ice cream or a donut, can be the perfect way to connect. Designating a spot for those times together can be a great way to make your child feel special. Or, if you like cooking or baking, test out a new recipe together and then enjoy eating the results!
Father Daughter sibling free time

3. Try Out Some New Ideas

Many activities you can enjoy one-on-one with your child here in Lakeland are completely free and require minimal preparation. Check out some additional ideas below.

  • Create your own book club. Make your time together a literary adventure! Pick a special reading spot, preferably somewhere you don’t always go. It can be under a tree in your yard, a particular park bench, an area of the library, or even a table at your favorite sweets shop in Lakeland.
    • For a young child, encourage him to identify letters/letter sounds, colors, shapes, and more as you read to him. You can even ask him to “quiz” you, too!
    • With older kids, try taking turns reading out loud, and talk about things such as how the characters felt in the book, what you might do if you were a member of the story, and even what you think the characters did after the last page ended.
    • Reading with a teen might be more challenging, but you can definitely make it work. Read a book that your teen enjoyed, and then discuss the story together. Then turn the tables, and challenge her to read one of your favorites.
Mother Daughter reading time
  • Find a show you both enjoy, and only watch it with each other. Many of us have found ourselves in front of digital entertainment more often than we did in pre-pandemic times, so why not use this to your advantage? Enjoying a show together works especially well with stories that build on prior episodes, or contest-based shows, but find what works for you. Remember the idea is to make this a way to interact with your child, so make it a point to watch together and chat as you go along.
    Example: My oldest daughter and I loved the Carmen Sandiego reboot on Netflix…the intriguing plot line kept us guessing and creating theories right up until the end. My youngest loves the show Sugar Rush, so we enjoy discussing each team’s creations as the show progresses, and trying to guess who will win.
  • Choose a local activity you haven’t tried before, or revisit an old favorite. We have so many indoor activities right here in Lakeland that you’ll never run out of things to do! Or, embrace the great outdoors and start a brand new adventure exploring Polk County.
  • Record a performance. All the world’s a stage…or at least your living room can be! Record videos of jokes you like to tell each other, write a play and act it out, or sing silly songs. Save these as fun memories to look back on. (And no, you don’t have to share them on TikTok!)
  • Get creative. Whether you head to a local make and take art studio or just do some good old-fashioned crafting or coloring together, making something with your child gives them a tangible souvenir to remember the fun you had together. You could even add your creations to a scrapbook or keepsake box to make it easy to revisit your memories.
  • Be scientific. Harness your inner Einstein and try out some fun STEM experiments and activities! There is no shortage of ideas online, so start a search together based on your child’s areas of interest. (Bonus: this can help kids learn how to do online research and open up discussions for online safety).
  • Get active. Let your child teach you how to do their favorite recreational activity, such as dancing or playing soccer. Likewise, if there’s an activity you enjoy, such as going for a run or biking, take him along with you and let the bonding begin. Or, look into a new exercise you can do together. For example, doing yoga at home can be tons of fun! (I personally recommend Cosmic Kids Yoga…it’s cute, fun, and free!)
  • Play with your child. Whatever it is that they like to play, do it with them. Let them teach you how to play their favorite video game. Dress up their dolls and have a tea party. Or, let them lead you in the construction of a Lego world, a village of recycled boxes, or of course, the ever-popular blanket fort.
Father Son bonding time

4. Let Them Take the Lead

What you do when you spend time with your children will, of course, change as they grow. Giving them some autonomy in the choice of what you do together helps foster independence, confidence, and trust. Likewise, letting them take the lead in conversations during your times together can set the foundation for a trusting relationship, so that as they grow, they may naturally feel more comfortable talking to you about a variety of topics.

Father daughter one on one time

5. Keep it Simple

The most important thing to remember when making plans with your child is to choose something that works for the two of you. It doesn’t need to be “Pinterest perfect,” elaborate, or expensive, and it certainly isn’t meant to be stressful. Rather, it’s a time to give yourself permission to pause from the craziness that can consume our days, and focus on the amazing young people that we have been entrusted to raise.

Motherhood + Parenting Guide

Check out our Motherhood + Parenting Guide for more articles on motherhood, social groups, 1-on-1 time with kids, and more.

About the Author: Stephanie Curl, Contributing Writer

Stephanie is a writer and editor and has worked in the marketing field for her entire career. She has lived in Lakeland since 2005 and loves the family-friendly activities and sense of community that Lakeland offers. Stephanie is married to her high school sweetheart, Edward, and they have two young daughters. She loves classic literature and anything related to Harry Potter…and she’s always up for another cup of coffee! 

Stephanie Curl