How to spend quality time with your toddler while working a full-time
A healthy work-life balance is a challenge to keep up with. And let's face it, we barely have time and energy to run around with kids after a long day of work. Many parents feel guilty that they don't spend enough time with their children.
It's a natural state of a working parent of a toddler. Preschool and family members keep company to your baby, but you want to spend some time with them too.
Numerous research studied the correlation between a child's well-being and the time parents spend with them. Childhood development experts talk about the influence of family relationships and participation in daily activities on children's well-being and self-esteem. And it's an undeniable fact that children need affection and attention from their family members to feel fulfilled, protected, and happy.
But how much is too much, and how much is enough?
We all know the golden rule of quality over quantity. So let's talk about how working parents can spend quality time with their children.
Here are 6 ways you can connect with your children as a working parent
Find something you both enjoy doing and do it together
Even if you're busy all week, schedule a few hours for yourself and your hobby on the weekends. Include your child in your activity and spend some quality time together.
If you like to paint, do a fingerpainting session with your child; play with watercolor paint and bubbles; paint similar pictures together; finish each others' paintings, etc.
If you enjoy reading, you can schedule a reading time for your toddler, which can help you enjoy your time together and bond.
Children enjoy painting and listening to stories, but if that's not something that flows like a river for you two, you can follow these steps to find a hobby for you and your baby:
- Make a list of your toddler's interests - this will give you an insight into what interests you share and what you can include in your bonding time.
- Test hobbies - don't commit to one activity. Try different things every weekend and see what works best. Allow your children to get accustomed to new activities before committing to them.
- Follow the lead of your toddler - children do everything the way they want to, so trust their instincts and follow their flow too. Remember that your child is their own person, and while you might like a particular activity, they might not find it as fascinating as you do.
- Keep a journal of hobbies - write down the activities you try together and track the excitement from both parties.
Do simple household tasks together
Doing household tasks can help children learn essential skills that will come in handy in their adult life. Inclusion in daily chores can help them grow their self-esteem and confidence. This can also boost their experience in communication and relationship skills.
Start by choosing chores suitable to children's age. If your baby is 2-3 years old, teach them how to make their bed, pick up toys and books, take care of the pet, fuss around the kitchen, and so on. With your 4-5-year-old you can set the table, cook together and put away the groceries.
Household tasks may seem like a routine chore for you, but it's quality time spent with a parent for your toddler. So enjoy the time well spent with your little one.
Plan morning and bedtime routines for you and your toddler
Childhood development experts recommend creating a routine for toddlers to help them make better sense of their daily life. If you haven't thought about a schedule for your baby, you can read all about the benefits and tips on how to create a routine for your toddler.
And, as a bonus, you can add a few more minutes to your morning routine and spend that time with your child.
Do some morning stretches together, or brush your teeth together. Spend time getting ready for the day with your baby. Talk about your daily goals and what you have planned; ask them how they plan to spend their day.
Sneak a few minutes of bonding time before bedtime too. Read your toddler a bedtime story.
Establish a family movie night
Movie nights are perfect for family bonding time. Some of the best childhood memories are made during movies and cartoons while kids snuggle up to their parents and watch something entertaining.
Schedule a movie night in your routine. You can choose what to watch together and even discuss the movie after the movie night to get the conversation rolling.
Liven up things a little bit by taking the movie night outside. Hang a bedsheet in your backyard and bring the movie night under the light of the stars.
Have a living room sleepover
New experiences are always exciting for children, even if it's just outside of their bedroom. Sleepovers, in general, are a good idea to introduce your child to a new environment, new foods, new cultures, and a different way of living (at a friend's house).
While the sleepovers traditionally happen at classmates' and friends' houses, a living room sleepover can still be a significant change in your child's routine and an additional bonding time for the whole family.
Try scheduling family time if spontaneous activities don't work for you
You can find thousands of activities to do with your child, but if the workflow doesn't allow it, you won't be able to have spontaneous sleepovers and family bonding time.
So try scheduling bonding time in your routine. Set aside an hour before bedtime or a weekend to play and interact with your children. This will make it easier for you to make sense of your time and for children to expect certain activities during the week (or the day).
Dos and Don'ts of family bonding time
While it's essential to find your flow, make sure to follow these few steps to create the most fun and engaging environment for your child:
- Set aside the gadgets - Keep your environment free of distractions. Put your phone on plane mode or use silent mode so that work calls don't interact with the bonding time with your toddler.
- Be present and interact with your child - Work can be stressful, but try to leave the workplace issues back there and be present when you're hanging out with your child.
- Make time for your children - Don't squeeze the bonding time and other activities together. Engage in the same activities as your child and have fun together.
Let's talk about the feeling of guilt for a second. Working parents talk a lot about their regret for spending time at work rather than with their children. While bonding time is crucial, you must remember that your kids learn from your example.
No matter how many theoretical lessons you give your child, they will follow your examples of behavior and adopt them. So when a child sees a working, fulfilled parent with steady boundaries, they embrace this behavior and initiate enforcing them in their lives.
Time is an integral factor for a working parent like you, but meaningful connections are about the quality of interaction, not the amount of time spent together. Keep it simple and make time for your child. And if you're looking for activities to try out together, read our article about everyday activities for toddlers.
Remember that your connection with your children has a lasting impact on them. So schedule a quality bonding time with your toddler and get ready for some fun activities.