The Best Ways to Connect in Just 10 Minutes with Kids of All Ages

by Alissa Marquess on January 3, 2014

To start this year, since so many people would like to have more patience or more connection with their kids, I am sharing a small piece of my online course, Everyday Connections.  You can join the wait list for next time time course is held right here.

Special Time - Special time is a simple concept with big results.  The good news is this doesn’t even require boat loads of patience.  All “special time” means is putting aside ten minutes a day to connect with each of your children. NOTE:  it doesn’t have to be perfect – I know I rarely manage to do it with each of my three kids every day, but even when I keep it up sporadically they love it.   And if you’ve got one child in particular who is out of sorts you can strive to do it with them if no one else.

How can just ten minutes together have an impact?

The short time period is what makes Special Time so powerful.  We can find ten minutes in our day.  We can focus for ten minutes.  We can listen to conversations about Minecraft or My Little Pony for that short periods of time.  For ten minutes we can be patient and truly present, and our kids thrive on our presence.

Connecting with kids 10 minutes at a time - list of ideas for each age

Ten minutes is enough to get you started, to give you moments of joy with your children that lead you to want to create those moments more often.  When you’ve had a terrible week and you feel angry or resentful, ten minutes is enough to begin bridging the gap that has occurred between you and your child.  When you regularly connect 1:1 with each of your kids you will begin to know what really makes THEM feel loved as an individual – and you can do this just 10 minutes at a time.

My Favorite 10 Minute Activities for Connecting With Kids

Opportunities to open a dialogue with your child can happen when you’re working on a project or doing a chore together, going on a walk, or taking just one child on an errand.  Here are a few favorite topics for each age group:

  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – reminiscing together: just a simple recount of the day or of a favorite family event can be enjoyable.
  • Little Kids – likes, dislikes and learning about who this young person is; pretend play scenarios – making up a story together
  • Big Kids – asking about things they care about but you’re not usually excited to talk about – giving just 10 minutes to say “yes” to talking about Minecraft or a recent movie for instance; asking them to teach you about something they’ve learned – all the better if you genuinely don’t know the answers

Family Contributions
Certain things just have to get done.  Sometimes you can ask for company while you’re working on a chore without expecting help, and you may find yourself enjoying the work more.  You may even get unexpected help.

  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – These youngsters usually do want to help out.  Here are ten fun chores for toddlers or preschoolers.
  • Little Kids – Many young children love the repetition and simple satisfaction that comes with folding clothes or ironing.
  • Big Kids – Asking for company while you’re cooking or hanging laundry can give you both a chance to catch up during which younger siblings might be less inclined to interrupt.

connecting with kids - nature

Nature and Outdoor Activities
If you have no backyard, just going on a walk around the neighborhood or even taking a drive so that you can get out in the woods for some time in nature can give you a chance to breathe and feel more peaceful.

  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – Just heading outside is usually enough entertainment – talking about what you see, looking for signs of the season, going on a walk together are all simple ways to connect in nature…with any kids really.
  • Little Kids – We’ve loved this book about making fairy houses (Amazon affiliate) and have spent hours in our back yard collecting materials and making little homes for the fairies and their friends.
  • Big Kids – Bird watching, caring for a garden, and learning how to train a dog or care for another animal all work well for outdoor activites for older kids – along with any of the previous suggestions.

Arts, Crafts and Making Things
Not all kids are crafty, but most love things like having you fold a paper airplane or fortune teller for them.  For parents and kids who do enjoy crafting, it can give a nice side-by-side activity that allows for conversation without pressure.   Check out this interview with Artful Parent Jean Van’t Hul for ideas on how to you can connect with kids through art and fit it in, even with a busy schedule.

  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – painting and drawing together – my toddler loves when I trace her hand and mine so we can color them together
  • Little Kids – working on art journals together – CWK has a selection of  kid art journal prompts;  trying out all sorts of crafts to go with the seasons, or to go with your interests.
  • Big Kids – this is a great age to share one of your hobbies with your child if they’re interested, or try out something they like – things like the currently popular Rainbow Loom.

Doing arts and crafts with my kids has meant that I need to have a lot of ideas around so I can use what I have on hand – I don’t go for complex!  We’ve loved our copy of  The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity bu Jean of the Artful Parent.  I also made this list of 20 Arts and Crafts you can do With Just the Basics.

Sensory Play and Exploration
Most kids can’t resist play dough, water, or running your hands through a sensory bin.  Adults are often more calmed than they might expect by the same sensory experiences.  Without the need for a finished product parent and child can play together and not worry about getting it wrong.  I’ve made a  if you want easy inspiration.

  • Toddlers and Preschoolers – running fingers through something like cornmeal dough, or trying out one of these creative bathtime ideas
  • Little Kids – playing with play dough, or try one of the ideas on this printable list of sensory activities
  • Big Kids –  playing with clay or maybe cooking together and kneading bread dough; another thing for kids who like physical touch can be doing neck or hand massage

connecting with kids - games

The range of games that work with your kids will change as they get older.  Card games and board games bring our family together every week.

Here are our favorite card games for younger kids (though older kids like these too) – no reading needed.

And here are our picks for board games with recommendations for toddlers to teens.

Reading together
A toddler will happily curl in your lap, a preteen may join you for a retelling of a favorite from their childhood, or may enjoy sharing their favorite comic with you.  Here are 5 tips for connecting with kids though reading.

Make your own list of ways to connect with you kids

Choose a few of the things that work best for your kids and jot them down.  Stick it on the fridge and take a look when you’re feeling uninspired.  It’s totally ok to repeat activities over and over – sometimes the most important thing is to find a way to give your child the connection they need while giving yourself the permission to take it easy.

When the need for connection is met kids are better able to have patience, to self regulate and to learn.  Kids NEED connection, they are biologically wired to need it and when they don’t get it, chaos starts erupting. If you would like better behavior and less chaos in your family special time may be what you need.

What is your favorite simple, low stress way to spend ten minutes connecting with your child?  Do you have any games or activities that are always winners for your kids (and if so, what are they and how old are your kids?)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet January 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

I made a list (with drawings) on a clipboard of 5-10 of my 2.5-year-old’s toys (miniature cow, dinky car, Little People figure, etc.) with check boxes and hid them around the room. His job was to find them and mark the boxes with a sticker. I folded laundry, but we chatted the whole time, giving him clues or him telling me what he still needed to find.
When I need to run an errand, I take him with me and make a checklist in the same way. He loves being in charge of remembering what we need and placing the ‘check’ sticker on the box. It’s actually enjoyable to shop with him, so it ends up being Mom-and-son time.


Emma @ P is for Preschooler January 4, 2014 at 8:25 am

These are great! It doesn’t take much time to connect with our kids. I love that you included reminiscing for toddlers and preschoolers. My daughter is 4 and one of her favorite “snuggle up” activities is to look through her baby albums.


Dawn @ PricklyMom January 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

“Showering with a chicken.”

Best. Picture. Ever. The look on that chicken’s face is priceless. :)


Elizabeth Lawson January 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

LOVE this focus on the 1:1 CONNECT with our children! The connected hearts will respond to one another in love and honor…. So much better than fear factor and so much more fruitful! We call this Keeping Your Love On with your children. Let’s see, my quick list of CONNECT IDEAS for my 6, 7 and 10 year olds. The 10 year old loves to journal. We write MOM AND ME journal entries back and forth (love letters really). She also loves to use my camera. Good connect time with her is letting her use the camera and getting her to take a few shots of the two of us or of me with the younger ones. She likes being the photographer. We all love to play FARKEL together, a travel size dice game that even the 6 year old understands. UNO card game is also addicting to us and I love how I can pull them all together at the end of the day by calling everyone to play a game together, then read a story, then it’s bedtime routines! All 3 kids love Doodle Art. That’s where you give everyone a blank piece of paper and a pencil. They scribble all over the paper. When they feel they are done, they LOOK FOR THE PICTURE in the scribble and use their crayons to outline and color the pictures! Pretty amazing art work. I LOVE doing my own DOODLE ART along with them. Guess it’s really whatever WE enjoy doing together.


maria January 5, 2014 at 12:33 am

I love this post Alissa. It answered what I need to do everyday with my four children. Thank you for all the tips given.


Beverly Word January 5, 2014 at 7:38 am

Marie,, i have twin grandsons who are totally different characters … they require differen “Granny” time and we have lots of little moments while they are w/ me.. sometimes 3 days of the weekend.. i did forward this to their mom… she sticks her head in a book and one is a cry baby but is just so he gets attention from her.. can read that like a book.. he’s like.. what ever works.. the other one has not the same needs but def has his needs.. thanks for the post~~~


Beverly Word January 5, 2014 at 7:40 am

Sorry about getting ur name wrong.. won’t do again.. promise~~ :)


Connie Cantin January 7, 2014 at 7:32 pm

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Connie Cantin


Laura January 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I just adore this post. Almost every night, my 3 year old daughter asks to do an “actibity” with me. I have taken to spending way to much time on Pinterest trying to plan cutesy activities for her that don’t always work and end up causing stress. Really, she just wants my attention. Even helping me unload the dishwasher counts as an “actibity” in her book. This list will be so helpful to me. Thanks for your perspective. And thanks for getting me out of the Pinterest rat hole. (she said, as she went to pin this post for future reference)


Karen @ the food charlatan January 26, 2014 at 12:17 am

I really love this. I’ve had a hard time being present with my kids lately. I feel inspired. Thanks for posting.


Sarah Mueller February 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

Wonderful ideas! I’ve recently been trying to do just this – 10 minutes of playtime with each of my kids. It’s shocking to me, that as a homeschool mom, I don’t actually spend much time one on one playing with them. So I’m trying to be more intentional. With 4 boys, they especially love having their own special time. Thanks for the suggestions!


Cilly March 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

I have three daughters, and they definitely have a need for one on one time. From the time the eldest was about three years old, I started praying with each child on their own before bedtime. I gather them in my arms, pray and then ask them about their day. These 10 minutes have often been the way for them to open up about things that bother them, and yes, the 10minutes have often lasted for an hour, lol! I know that my girls see this time as guaranteed and I am quite sure they feel less anxious at certain times, as they know, come evening, they can talk it over with me and go to sleep, feeling much more peaceful! I very much agree that children see one on one time as an affirmation of their parents unconditional love for them! And they are not timing us ;) but , yes, ten minutes is a good minimum daily quota to aim for. I wish that for every parent and their child!

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