play with kids

One-on-one ideas to play with kids

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Is your family fitting in enough quality time? Not just quality time as a family or as a couple, but quality time with kids? You absolutely need time together with your spouse and as a family. But your kids also need one-on-one time with you. You need to take time to play with kids and connect with them.

play with kids

In my family, my kids crave one-on-one time with mom or dad. Unfortunately, they don’t always know how to ask for that time with us. When my husband and I are busy, it just doesn’t happen. However, we’ve started to notice this trend. When our kids get enough one-on-one time with us, they do better. They are happier. They act out less. Everything in our home runs more smoothly. And although all our kids need that quality time with us, some of them seem to need it more than others. If you are struggling to connect with your kids, play with kids, or spend quality time with them, I want to help you get it done.

How to know your kids need quality time

Every child is going to request your time in different ways. Some will come right out and ask for it. My oldest is currently a bit more articulate than his younger siblings. He is able to say, “Hey dad, I want to have a late night with you.” Not every child can do that. And even if they do tell you they want your time; they won’t tell you every time that they need you. Instead, your kids will probably ask for quality time in less attractive ways. Let’s talk about how you can know your child needs some one-on-one time with you.


If I’m being totally honest, the best way I can tell that one of my kids needs some one-on-one time with me is the way they act. They might pout or whine all. day. long. Or they might follow me around and be under foot all day. One of my kids will throw tantrum after tantrum. It’s not pretty, but it is a sure indicator that I need to stop what I’m doing and play with kids. Watch your child for cues. They are telling you when they need you stop what you are doing, even if they don’t tell you in words.

Stressful events

The day my twins started preschool I knew that my daughter was going to need some extra attention. She was scared. Her little introvert heart wasn’t sure what to expect and she needed reassurance. I played dolls with her for a good portion of the morning. We talked about being brave despite feeling scared. And you know what? She did amazing! I was so proud of her as she put on a brave face and walked into that preschool classroom holding her brother’s hand. I know that without some extra attention from me earlier in the day, she would have faltered and cried. When your child is facing a stressful or scary event, give them your time. It could mean all the difference in how they face their day.


Your kids need you during transitions. The most common transition is when your kids come home from school or another event. Be home when they get home. Stop what you are doing and listen. As a pre-teen and teenager, I would come home from school and talk to my mom every day. This was our routine. It was comforting. Then, she got a job working in the afternoons. I felt that loss of my mother’s time acutely. If you can, be there for the transitions. Other transitions might include right before school and right before bed.

Your kids also need you during big life transitions. Is your family getting ready to move? Give your kids some extra time. They need to know that you are there. You are their constant. I know it’s hard. I know big life transitions like a move, divorce, or new baby are hard on you too. It might even feel impossible to carve out any extra time. But do it. Your kids need you. If you give them what they need they’ll handle those transitions so much better.

Daily one-on-one time to play with kids

Can you fit in on-on-one time with your kids every day? Yes! It doesn’t have to take a lot out of your day. I know it might even seem overwhelming. I have four kids and I don’t always have a lot of time to play with kids. Doing one-on-one time with each of them every day sounds like a lot. And truthfully, some days it doesn’t happen. But you have to remember that one-on-one time also doesn’t have to be a huge production. All you need is a few minutes to really focus on your child. Let’s talk about how you can make that happen.

How to do quality one-on-one time with your kids

Every parent is going to connect with their kids in different ways. When, where, and how you choose to play with with kids is going to look different than how your neighbor chooses to do it in her family. That being said, here are some ideas.

play with kids


My daughter is in this sweet stage where she wants to help me cook. Anytime I head to the kitchen to prepare a meal or snack, she’s right by my side asking to help. Sometimes it’s not convenient because I’m in a hurry to get things done. But I’ve tried to let her help as much as I can. It’s our time together. We chat and giggle and she helps stir things or dump in ingredients. It’s part of our routine.

My son loves to walk to the mailbox with his dad. They tell jokes, throw balls or drive a remote-control car there and back. Those are things that we do normally, but they’ve turned into one-on-one time with our kids. Whenever you can, build that connection time with your kids into your regular daily schedule. Those routines make it easier to fit in that time with our kids, but they also make it so that it happens on a regular basis.

Make it a date

Are you doing regular dates with your kids? Let’s be honest. It’s hard to fit a date in with my husband every week. I get it! But taking your child on a date once a month can be so fun. My kids usually choose to eat someplace that has a slide or go out to the movies. We talk about anything and everything. We eat treats. It’s a good way to connect one-on-one with my kids. They get my undivided attention for a couple of hours.


Family traditions are a great way to sneak in quality time with kids. Every summer my husband takes my boys on a campout. They eat way too many smores and don’t even think about brushing their teeth. I get to spend the night doing all things girl with my daughter. We watch princess movies and paint toenails. That family tradition is something our kids ask about all year long. They love it.

Let them stay up

One of my close friends let’s her kids take turns staying up late. It’s not even a long amount of time, just 15 minutes. But those minutes are full of games and special attention. We’ve tried this in our home too. Do you need a quick reward for your younger kids? Let them stay up 10 minutes late. My kids love it, but it doesn’t require a huge time commitment on my part.

Get on the floor

Some of my favorite quality time with my kids has been when I sit on the floor to play with them. Usually, that means playing Legos with my boys or dolls with my daughter. Getting down on their level is so helpful in helping your kids feel seen. Get on the floor. Play with them. Pretend that those Transformers are shooting fart guns. Create a Princess Wedding with dolls. Whatever your kid is into, have fun with it.

play with kids

Read to them

Reading is an amazing way to connect with your kids. I have a son who is not cuddly. He has never been a natural hugger. But I can get him to cuddle in with me when we read together. I know this, and will often choose longer chapter books to read to him so we have more time to cuddle together. It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to connect with him.

Read: Seven amazing benefits of reading to your child

ideas for connection

Are you still struggling to find ways to connect with your kids? Subscribe to get this free printable of ideas for playing with your kids. All of the activities can be done in about five minutes!

How do you connect with your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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