Ask any parent how things are going and you’re likely to hear some version of “we are staying busy.” Whether you think busyness is a disease resulting in families being over-stressed and not spending enough time together or you see the productivity as a good thing that is benefiting your brain, few will dispute that we are, in fact, a busy people. The good news is that it appears that quality time with our kids trumps quantity. While I’ll always advocate for slowing down and savoring those precious miracle moments with our loved ones, I understand that some days are just so packed that there are only a few spare minutes with which to connect with our kids. For those days, here are 15 ways to connect in just five minutes or less.
1. Gather your child in your lap and read a short story. Of course, this is much easier to do with little kids who still fit on your lap, but if your child is older, sit beside him and read a chapter of Percy Jackson out loud. By making this a daily ritual, you’ll spark a love for reading and spend some quality time together every single day.
2. Offer a heart-felt hug and be the last to let go. This article by Marcus Falicetti outlines why we need at least eight hugs per day. Lots of good comes from a hug, and it doesn’t even take five minutes!
3. Give full, undivided attention to your child and start with saying, “These next five minutes are all yours.” Ask them about their day, how they’re feeling, or what they’re interested in most right now. Make eye contact and listen attentively. We do that so little these days because everybody is checking their devices or multitasking and only giving partial attention. Five minutes of full attention will go a long way in strengthening your connection.
4. Meet their strong emotion with empathy. Sometimes this is inconvenient or even downright tough, and our first reaction is often to shut it down quickly. When we can sit with our children through their big feelings, they get the message “I matter” or “I’m understood” and that fosters a deeper connection to us.
5. Play a game of Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, or have a drawing contest. Keep a small notepad in your vehicle or purse for on-the-go fun. Make use of the time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office by playing one of these games together and you just might feel less exasperated by your wait and more connected with your child.
6. Have an impromptu dance party. Inject a little fun and spontaneity into your day by turning on a good dance song and sliding around the kitchen in your socks.
7. Tell each other jokes. Laughter equals connection.
8. Stuck in the car? Play a car game like “I Spy” or “Twenty questions.”
9. Special time before bed is a lovely way to end the day. Lie beside your child or sit at the end of the bed and just spend a few minutes talking or giving a back rub.
10. Roughhouse and wrestle around a bit. Give piggy back rides or horsey rides, swing them around, and chase them.
11. Visit their world. Get involved in something that your kid is interested in, like Minecraft for instance. Ask questions. When we show kids that we care about the things they care about, they feel connected.
12. Do a chore together and make it fun. It has to get done anyway, so you may as well use the time wisely and play while you work!
13. Become journal buddies. Whether you just use a composition notebook or buy a journal like Journal Buddies: A Boy’s Journal for Discovering and Sharing Excellence or Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter: A No-Stress, No Rules Journal, writing back and forth is a great way to connect with your child.
14. Spend those 5 minutes outside playing tag, looking for bugs, or collecting leaves. Play hopscotch, blow bubbles, or jump rope. Hula hoop, toss a ball, or walk the dog. You get the idea!
15. Break out the photo albums. Looking back at old memories and cheeky baby smiles is an instant mood booster and a great way to spend quality time with your loved one.
**This article was originally published at Creative Child Magazine.