Schedule Time to Play with Each Child in Large Families

Sunday, January 13, 2013

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Playing with your children is one of the best ways to connect to your children.

Last year I wrote about how to how to devote unstructured playtime with our children.  Now, that I have four children, I don't have as much time to play with my children.

When our family first grew to include more children, I found it impossible to spend time playing with each child alone.

It upset me that I couldn't share this special time of play with each child.  I knew that our first daughter, who was accustomed to lots of attention from me, missed it.  And I realized this would be an amazing way to bond with our new children.

I tried different ways to figure out how to make Mommy-Child playtime work, until I developed a routine that works for us.

How to Develop a Parent-Child Play Routine in Large Families

  • Start Small - I give each child 5 minutes of unstructured playtime with me almost every day.  I feel this is the amount of time I can depend on the other children not interrupting Mommy playtime. As my children mature, I hope to increase the time.  
  • Choose a Location - We have our one on one playtime in the backyard.  This is a place where the kids play more independently and cooperatively, and I can easily monitor the other children's safety without it taking away the special playtime from the child I am playing with.  
  • Pick a Time - Initially, I tried Mommy-Child playtime after dinner.  I found that our children are more needy at this time of day, and the playtime was always being interrupted by another child.  Now, playtime with Mommy is in the afternoon after snack time.  We have this playtime almost every day, and I find the consistent routine has made it easier for my children to adapt to it. 
  • Develop a Discipline Plan - I explain to the children that when Mommy is playing with one of their siblings during special playtime, they are not to interrupt our playtime.  I give examples of what interrupting looks like such as fighting with another sibling, trying to talk to Mommy, or following around Mommy and the other sibling. When one child interrupts, I enforce a logical consequence.  That child loses a minute of playtime with Mommy because they took away playtime from their sibling.  I explain it's not fair for them to make their sibling lose her special time with Mommy.
  • Expect Some Trial and Error - It took awhile before I figured out a way to make one on one playtime work for our family.  Families with kids who play well independently may find it easier to fit parent-child playtime into their daily schedules.  
  • Choose an Activity for the Other Children - My other children are engaged in unstructured outdoor play while I play with their sibling.  They have learned to play independently fairly well, and it is something they can focus on without needing my attention.   This means I can devote my attention to the child I am playing with at the time.  You may need to pick a different activity for your children if they don't play well independently such as reading, coloring, or building with blocks.  
How do you make time for one on one free playtime with your children?  What routines work for you?

Sunday Parenting Party Features About Spending Playful Time with Children

This post is linked to It's Playtime and the Weekly Kids' Co-op.


Kristin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love reading about the way you're adjusting to your growing family! You are a fantastic role model for other moms.

Stacy of KSW said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

this post makes me so happy, you totally rock at the big family thing ... just like I knew you would!

The Monko said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

this is a great post. I don't have a large family (only Goblin) so I haven't needed to consider this but reading it made me reflect on how I'd do it if I had more and I am sure it will be helpful to those who do. I'm featuring it on SPP this week

Jennifer Fischer said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post and tips. This is something (even though I only have 2) that I am having to make adjustments with and address now since the boys are now in the habit of napping at the same time, rather than at different times. My 3 yo plays independently rather well, so that helps but it never occurred to me to use our outdoor playtime to focus on some one on one time with each of them, and I realize it is a great idea because outdoors is one of the few places that the baby (1.5 yo now) plays well on his own.

tricia said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is great advice even for little families! I find that it is rare that we seem to have time to play with just I've learned I must carve that time out....So cool to see how your life has changed instantly! :)

pricklymom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hi Rebekah! Can you share how your plan has been working out since you posted last week? In my endless reflection, I realize that I need to spend 1:1 time with each of my boys but I just don't know how to start. Do you do the 5 minutes per kid every day?

I know you follow me on FB (and I thank you for it!) so you know I've decided to split the boys up into separate bedrooms. I'm hoping the 1:1 bedtime opportunity can help ease the boys into the idea that we need special time with no interruptions (the fear of the interruptions is what is holding me back from implementing a daily 1:1 time).

Rebekah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@pricklymom It goes well most days. We still have days, like today, where one child has a temper tantrum and I just can't work out doing the one on one time.

Yes, it's five minutes each day for each child. So it takes about 30 minutes total including transitions.

Playing in the child's bedroom would be another place to have that special time especially since your boys are now in separate rooms. You might have to prepare them for staying in their room without coming out though. One of mine particularly has a hard time with staying in the room so the bedroom doesn't work well for uninterrupted time for that reason for me. Make sure they are pottied before you start.

Bekka Joy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Even though my second is only 7 months old both my hubby and I try to get one on one time with both of our girls each day. Even if it's only a few minutes, we're aware of both their needs and the need to have that special time! Thanks for your helpful tips! x

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