Inside: Use these 13 ideas to connect with kids in meaningful ways in under 5 minutes.
“Don’t pick your nose at the dinner table.
“No, you can’t run naked in the front yard.”
“Dancing on the table is not ladylike.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of everyday parenting moments.
The structure and routines, rules and consequences…it’s the stuff we have to do to prepare our children so they become people who are kind, well-adjusted, and independent.
It’s not always the fun part of being a parent, but we do it because it comes with the job description.
But of course, our job as a parent requires far more than simply providing rules and structure.
It requires we reach out and connect with our kids on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
It requires us to take the time to check in with our kids and really get to know who they are.
And we can connect with our kids in meaningful ways in under 5 minutes with these ideas.
Why Connecting with Our Kids is Crucial
When we take the time to connect with our kids, we make sure they’re really doing okay today.
It’s also a way to prove our love to our kids, to show them we really do love them.
Yes, it may be obvious to us we love our kids. But we need to make it obvious to them.
Our eyes need to light up when we see our children so they know they’re cherished and adored and loved.
Even if they are picking their nose at the dinner table. Again.
We need to show our kids we’ll always be for them. Ready to love them, no matter what.
Because that’s how they’ll feel secure enough to take chances, to become more independent, to make mistakes in life.
That’s how they’ll learn to be truly happy.
It’s how they’ll be bully proofed.
And it’s one of the fastest ways to reduce sibling rivalry and jealousy.
13 Ways to Connect with Kids in Under 5 minutes:
Connecting with our kids doesn’t have to take a lot of time to be meaningful and beneficial.
Related: 12 Family Bonding Activities at Home
1. Create a secret handshake that’s just between you two
It can be simple or elaborate and you can use it to “say” ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ or ‘I love you.’ I would tell you my secret handshake, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy by my daughter.
2. Create a hand signal that means something special
It could be a wink, a thumbs up, a special sign—anything that’s just between you two. My husband and son have this thumbs up thing that they do together, and it’s pretty stinkin’ cute.
3. Offer and ask for “kissing hands”
Check out Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand book.
Or draw a heart on their palm so they know that you’re thinking of them. If they need some reassurance throughout the day to be brave or to be their best self, your heart is literally there for them.
4. Plan a date away from home
Sneak away for a donut date. Go watch airplanes land or greet trains at the station. Hang out at McDonald’s.
Whatever they would love and find meaningful as time with you.
5. Seek out and engage in activities that you both love to do
You may both enjoy assembling jigsaw puzzles or watching sci-fi movies or singing karaoke. Bust out the puzzles, read some Harry Potter together, or channel your inner Madonna.
6. Play High/Low or Happy/Sad every day
Ask them what their “high” for the day was or what their “happy part” was. It may surprise you.
And then ask about their “low” or their “sad part.” That one might really surprise you.
You’ll have more insight into their day, and more insight into them.
7. Create theme nights and get silly
Here’s a chance to create memories that you will all remember forever.
It’s a great way for siblings to connect and it’s also one more night where you’re not counting down until bedtime.
Some of my family’s favorites: Game Night, Breakfast for Dinner (in our pjs, of course), Pizza and a Movie Night, Picnic in the Park Night and Family Walk Night.
8. Get a list of conversation starters to have meaningful conversations
You can use them at dinner time or during long car rides or while you’re camping out in yet another doctor office.
You’ll get to know them deeper than just what’s their favorite color.
“What would you do with a million dollars?” “If you had to give away all your toys but one, which would you keep?” “If you could have any wild animal for a pet, which would you choose?”
Or have meaningful conversations about friendship and kindness and bullying prevention.
9. Play the Penny Game at dinner
Pick a penny and recount a real story that happened in the year printed on the penny.
You’ll be sharing family history, old and not so old: retelling stories of their births, your first date and your grandpa’s booming ice cream truck business when he first came to America.
My kids beg for this game at dinner because they love hearing about our family’s history. Their history.
10. Start a journal for you each child
My daughter and I sneak it under each other’s pillows before we go to bed.
I wrote to her asking what she can do to be kinder to her brother. She wrote back wondering why she can’t have dessert after breakfast.
It’s been 9 years since we started it and she just put it back on my pillow.
11. Sneak a note into their lunch box or their backpack
I’ve been known to write on a banana (which my kids then refuse to eat, so as not to destroy my note.)
Or be creative and tuck in a good ol’ fashioned joke:
Cows go who?
No! Cows go ‘Mooooooo.’
12. Give them a massage
I know it sounds weird, but as I’m tucking my kids into bed, I’ll sometimes massage my kids’ hands or feet.
They’re so relaxed and in such good spirits, we can often talk about the hard stuff. Like who’s being mean to them at lunch and why they really hate math.
All it costs me is 5 minutes less of TV watching and a squirt or two of my fancy lotion.
P.S. My mom did this for me at bedtime and I still remember how much I loved that time together.
13. Crawl into their bed with them to chat quietly about their day
Don’t end this sweet little ritual with their elementary school years. Amazing truths will be told when their guard is down and their little—or not so little—body is snuggled next to yours.
My thirteen-year-old loves it when I crawl into bed with her still.
Related: How to Connect with your Teen
If we skip these sweet moments, we’re missing out on the gift of knowing—truly knowing—a little soul, with all their quirks and their fears, their likes and their dislikes.
If they feel connected to us, they’ll open up to us so we can learn why they’re violently scared of balloons or why they have a deep and passionate hatred towards carrots.
The 5 minute rituals that we sneak in between enforcing table manners and insisting that they try one new green vegetable will let us connect with them on a deeper emotional level.
Because that’s what they’ll remember. That’s what they’ll cherish. And that’s what they really crave.
And just for a minute, you’ll get to put down your rules and your routines and be fully present with a kid who really needs to know how special they are to you. And that they matter.
And most importantly, they are loved.