11 Ideas for quality one-on-one time with your child (and why it’s important!)

For parents looking to nurture their relationship with their children while also making them feel important, there is no better way to do so than spending one-on-one time with each child. One-on-one time not only makes your child feel seen and loved, it also improves your relationship with each of these individual little people in your life.

But as a busy parent today, it is challenging to find the extra time to spend with your kids individually between the hustle and bustle of daily life. The appointments, the school pick-ups and drop-offs, the homework, the shuttling of kids to ballet or soccer, getting a healthy and hearty dinner on the table — the list of parenting to-do’s seems to never end.  

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While there is no “easy” button to find more hours in the day or complete your to-do list for you, there are ways to build more one-on-one time with your children into your routine. By intentionally creating these opportunities in your daily life and planning for significant events, you can enjoy these magical moments with each of your children. 

The importance of one-on-one time with your child

While all family time is valuable for children and parents alike, one-on-one time allows a parent to truly engage with their children individually. 

You get to meet a whole different kid

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The child you know around other people (such as siblings, their friends, or teachers) is often a very different person when you can spend time with them one-on-one. It’s natural for all humans (child or adult) to adapt their personality to their social setting and environment.  

It is especially common for siblings to fight for their parent’s attention by acting out or acting up, which makes it extremely difficult for anyone to bond! This happens all the time at my house — the two younger daughters bicker, misbehave and try to overshadow each other when we are all together.  But spending time with each girl one-on-one, it’s the complete opposite!  They are each kind and respectful, have their own unique little personalities, and actually a joy to be around.  

This is the most beautiful aspect of spending quality time with each child, away from the influence of others; you have the chance to see their true personality shine through and to know them as the exceptional individuals they are.

Improve your connection

Just as you plan quality one-on-time time with your partner to foster connection and intimacy, you should also create time to nurture your individual relationship with each of your children.

Savor these private parent/child interactions for special moments, conversations, and jokes just for the two of you.  These times together help foster a strong foundation of trust and develop a deeper understanding of each other‘s thoughts, feelings and needs as you grow together.  

While you can easily maintain your parental bond during your child’s early years, your relationship will require more effort and compassion as they grow up.   By prioritizing these shared experiences and heartfelt conversations from an early age, parents lay the foundation for a strong relationship and open communication with their children as they enter their tween, teen, and young adult years. 

Improve your child’s self-esteem and quality of life

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As innovative parenting expert Shefali Tsabary states in her best-selling book, The Conscious Parent, “It is important to regularly thank our children for sharing themselves with us.  We can thank them for the wealth of meaning they bring into our life. We can thank them for their wisdom, kindness, passion, spontaneity, and liveliness.”

I can’t think of a better way to thank your children just for being themselves than by creating dedicated time to spend with them.  

Spending quality time with each child individually makes them feel special and valued, helping them build a positive self-image. Children feel seen and appreciated by their parents during these moments together, increasing their confidence in themselves and their abilities. 

This boost in self-esteem empowers children to navigate life’s challenges with resilience. These confident children have fewer behavioral issues and experience better mental, emotional, and physical health through adolescence and into adulthood.  

Quality one-on-one time is such a fantastic (and enjoyable) investment in your child that sets them up for a lifetime of success.

How to incorporate one-on-one time into your busy schedule

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Even if you are a big fan of individual quality time with each of your children, making it happen can be extremely difficult while juggling life’s priorities.  Here are a few hacks to find that extra quality time to spend with your loved one.

Be intentional with your time

Think about your daily schedule; what little blocks of time could you use to spend time focusing on each child?  

While an older child is in their room doing homework solo, you can spend 15 minutes playing a quick game of cards with a younger sibling.  Or when one child has basketball practice, go for a walk with another child to discuss what’s going on at school while you wait.  Using your little bits of time with intention can reap significant bonding benefits.

In addition to these small daily interactions, it is important to make a date with your child for more extraordinary one-on-one events every so often. By scheduling these special parent/child outings in advance, you can ensure you have time built into your calendars for quality time.  

Get help to keep other children entertained

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No matter your parenting dynamics — two-parent household, separated co-parenting, or single parenting — there are always ways to enlist help to keep your other kids occupied so you can focus on each one individually.

In two-parent households, create a rotating schedule to allow each parent to have one-on-one quality time with each individual child on a routine basis.  One parent can have quality time with the other child(ren), and you can focus on your one little guy/gal for a few hours.

The same approach can be applied to a co-parenting situation.  In fact, my daughters’ father and I incorporate one-on-one nights into our co-parenting schedule every so often. These rare nights to focus on one of my beloved girls are some of my favorite momming memories!

As a single parent, enlist help from family members, neighbors, and other trusted adults.  Ask the parents of your children’s close friends if you can take turns hosting sleepovers to allow you to focus on your other child for a night.  Create special time with one of your children while the other(s) are at dance class or hockey practice.  

Creating time to focus on one child and ensuring your other children are cared for is challenging. But with a bit of planning, bartering, and determination, you can make this bonding time happen.  And I guarantee it’s worth the coordination to be able to give your child your undivided attention for a little while.

One-on-one time ideas

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Whether you have a quick 15 minutes at home to spend with your child or want to plan an exceptional occasion, there are endless ways to create quality time.  Check out the list below to get a few ideas.

Make task time “fun” time

Find ways to spend extra one-on-one time with your child during your daily routine tasks.  Not only will this be a great bonding experience, it’s guaranteed to be more fun than the usual daily tasks!

1. Run errands

Bring a kid along as you shuttle to the grocery store, dry cleaners, or post office.  Create quality time in the car by singing your favorite songs together or playing a fun, family-friendly podcast (we love Family Roadtrip Trivia!). 

2. Chores

No one loves folding laundry or doing the dishes, but mundane chores are always more fun with some help. Turn chores into a game by setting a timer to accomplish the task; use the remaining time to do something fun together.

3. Homework/studying

Helping your child with their academics is a great way to stay up to speed on their schooling and provide an easy way to get the inside scoop on what’s going on socially.  Share your own funny (maybe embarrassing) stories from your school years to see if you can find any common ground.  

4. Cultivating hobbies

Does your child have a specific sport or extracurricular activity you can participate in?  Practice lay-ups with them before basketball tryouts or recite lines for their upcoming school play.  Share activities you both enjoy to build your relationship while helping them reach their goals.

Finding everyday moments

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Look for little pockets of time to have some quality moments with your child.  These seemingly small occasions may seem insignificant, but often it’s the small things that make for the best memories over time. 

5. Take a walk

Take advantage of a trip to the mailbox or exercise the dog by making it a group effort.  Make an extra lap around the neighborhood to spend a few additional minutes bonding with your young one (and get in those steps!).

6. Play a game or do a puzzle

Games and puzzles are always a great idea in my book!  Grab a deck of cards, your trusty ole game of Uno, or a classic board game (we’re big Monopoly fans in our house) to chat and bond with an added dash of competition. My 9-year-old daughter adores doing these beautiful wooden puzzles; it’s a fun, quiet activity we can share together and display after it’s complete!

7. Listen to music 

Take turns picking songs and have an impromptu dance party! We love using our Amazon Unlimited music subscription to tell Alexa to play any song, anytime.  This is one of our favorite activities in our house, making some of the more mundane daily tasks (such as #2 – dishes and laundry) much more fun! 

8. Create a routine

Create a “just you two” routine for one-on-one time with each kid.  Use bath time as a natural time to talk with your younger children while they scrub up, or create a nighttime routine with your older children to catch up while they prep for the next day.  

Plan a special occasion

Plan a unique event with each child every so often (once a month, every quarter, or whatever your schedule allows). Make plans together to do something you will both enjoy and put it on the calendar!

9. Date night (or day)

Plan a date with your special young love. Get dressed up and make dinner reservations at a nice restaurant. Catch a midday matinee, complete with popcorn and treats.  Go bowling and eat hot dogs, and rock those rental shoe selfies!  

10. Sporting event, play, or concert

Is your kid obsessed with baseball? Do they know all the lyrics to Hamilton? Or maybe they’re a huge T Swift fan (like the rest of us)?  Spoil them with tickets to see their favorite team or performance for a fun-filled event you can share together.

11. Museum or performance

Does your child have a passion for science or the arts?  Plan an outing to immerse yourselves in the subject they adore.  Take your aspiring astronaut to the planetarium or your prima ballerina to the ballet. Plan a one-on-one adventure that your child is not likely to forget.

Of course, this list is just the tip of the iceberg — you know your child best! Get creative and find different ways to create quality time together.  

Make every moment count

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No matter how you spend your time together, one-on-one time with your child is a priceless investment in their emotional development and your parent/child relationship. And in today’s hectic world, it is essential to remember that quality time together will always triumph over the quantity of one-on-one time. It is the depth and intentionality of the interaction that truly matters, not the number of minutes.

So whether you squeeze in a daily one-on-one game of Guess in 10 with each child or have the flexibility to plan a monthly date, the most important thing is that you make the time purposeful and enjoy getting to know each unique young individual.  These conversations, laughs, and memories created together are the ones that will mean the most in the years to come. 

Do you plan one-on-one time with your child? What impact has this had on your parent/child relationship? How do you fit this quality time into your schedule? We would love to hear your advice in the comments!

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