15 ways to connect with your child every day, even if you work
These tips are ideally suited to a child aged from 0 to 6 years old, although many can be applied to older children.
There is a lot of research on the amount and quality of time that parents spend with their children and how it affects their relationship and future outcomes. "It's about having a warm, physical connection, talking to them, playing with them, being responsive to them. You don't have to be at home all day to do that," says Dr Markham. "Children have to feel they get enough of you, whether you're in the house or not."
Oxytocin is a chemical in the brain released during times when a person feels love and connection. It has been shown to help parents bond with their children, adding a sense of trust and support between them. This bond most likely helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions.
Are you looking for ways to connect with your child while they have fun and learn?
As a science teacher for over 10 years I've created this science experiment template to do science at home with your child and teach them scientific terms like Hypothesis, Materials, Results. You can download it here, it comes with a free lava lamp experiment too.
Based on the research and ideas about finding times to connect with your child one on one, look into their eyes, hug them and listen to them…
Here are 15 times of the day when you can find a few minutes to talk, engage and enjoy the connection with your child.
- When getting your child out of bed in the morning – start the day with a big kiss and cuddle, tell your child you missed them, ask how they slept (even if they can’t talk you can talk to them as though they can). Tell them what the plan is for the day, e.g. going to have breakfast, then get dressed, then daycare.
- When changing their nappy, this is a great time have a little chat, tickle, sing a song with your child. It’s also a great time to give them a big cuddle when you put them down on the change table (or floor, or mat) and again when you pick them up.
- When making and eating breakfast. Even if they are too young to talk, you can ask them what they’d like for breakfast, toast or weetbix for example and they will likely respond in some way to you (they may point). You can tell them about what you are going to have for breakfast, and then you can sit down together at the table while you feed them and eat your breakfast together. You can also play peek a boo, and hide behind the bench/table to make your child laugh.
- Random dance time – after breakfast, while packing bags if you aren’t running late. I like to put a song on and dance around the kitchen holding my child and singing to them. They usually laugh excitedly and find it very funny if I spin them around and sing.
- When getting them dressed – similarly to the time changing their nappy, it’s a good time to have a tickle, talk about what to wear, what colour are their socks etc. You can also get in a little cuddle at this time. This is one of my favourite moments, as I get to hug my child with just his nappy on and hold his whole body close to me as he’s standing on the change table (he’s just turned 2). I always make sure to be the last to let go and sometimes I notice he hugs me for quite a while, maybe a minute or two. I feel very connected to him in these moments and always think about how he’ll be a teenager one day and these hugs might not happen anymore.
- When walking out to the car – Take them by the hand (or carry them depending on their age) and count the steps together or have a look at the flowers in the garden or the clouds in the sky. Have a quick chat on the way to the car.
- When putting them in the car and doing up their seat belt. This is a good time to connect, talk to them about their hands and arms and what you are doing. Pick them up and give them a squeeze as you put them in the car. Say clip! As you clip in up the seat belt and they will tend to copy you. When you get them out again is a good time to give them a little kiss and cuddle too.
8. When dropping them off. Get down to your child’s level and say goodbye, give them a hug, say have lovely day, ask them who they are going to play with today.
9. When picking them up. Pick up your child, tell them you missed them, and give them a huge hug and kiss. Ask them about their day, what did they have for lunch, did they create/draw/paint anything, who did they play with, did they go outside?
10. When giving them a bath in the evening. This is a great time to have an extended connection with them. Kids need to be supervised in the bath, so it’s a great time to get a few minutes with them. You can play with ducks and boats in the bath, use bath crayons to draw on the bath and your child. Your child will find it very funny if you “hide” below the level of the bath and then pop up.
11. When giving them dinner – similarly to breakfast time, you can discuss what you’ve going to have for dinner. Talk about the colours of the food, why they are healthy (e.g. carrots are good for your vision, protein helps build muscle).
12. When brushing their teeth – You may do this in the bath or at a different time. You can talk to them about their teeth and all the parts of their mouth they need to brush. It’s a good chance to get down to their level and look in their mouth and their little face.
13. When getting them into their pyjamas. You can talk to them about what a nice day it was, something nice that happened today or if something not so nice happened how tomorrow is a new day. Again a great time for a kiss and cuddle.
14. When reading a book before bed. – This is a really nice time to connect, ask your child to choose a book and read together. If they are quite young but can talk you can ask what’s happening on the pages, what animals they see, you don’t have just read the the words in the book.
15. Having a bottle – if your child has a bottle before bed, you can hold them in your arms and get them to relax. This is a good time to sing softly to your child, look into their little face and enjoy them. You can even just hug them and breathe deeply holding them close. When two humans hold each other closely for an extended period oxytocin is released which feels great. If you're lucky they might fall asleep in your arms. On the rare occasion it happens now to me, I always wonder if it's the last time.
16. When hopping in to bed. – Finish off the day with a little chat if they are old enough ask how they are feeling, talk about what will happen tomorrow (e.g. kinder, weekend, a party). You may want to have a little night time ritual such as doing round and round the garden on their hand, or laying with them for a few minutes.
Connecting with your child every day will build your bond with them, and these will become moments that you will treasure and reflect back on when they grow.
Comment below, What's your go-to way to connect with your kids?