A reader asked the question recently, “How do you spend one on one time with each of your kids in a large family?”.
This question was in response to my post about what life is like when you have four kids.
This is a great question, and one that most parents have after baby #2 comes along.
We all are aware that it’s important to have time to focus on each individual child.
Kids need to know they’re not forgotten in a big family; they’re not just another part of a big unit.
Your child needs to be validated in the fact that they’re a unique, special person that God gave to you. And you haven’t overlooked that fact – no matter how many birds are added to the nest. 😉
But in the awesome chaos that IS raising a large family, it truly takes a little work to find that elusive one-on-one time.
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Below are 20 simple and easy ways to spend time with your child.
There are a variety of activities and outings for all ages, which can help you stay connected and have that special bond, even as your family grows.
Be sure to look for the free printable version of this list at the end of this post!
Finding one-on-one time: 20 simple ways to connect
1| Take turns going to the grocery store
My kids fight over who gets to go with me each week.
We do our best to rotate so that each child can have that time alone with me.
They don’t even seem to mind if we skip the toy aisle (or makeup, whatever is the case). Getting out of the house and helping mom is the main event.
You could also involve your child in the meal planning and grocery list making before you leave the house.
2| Turn appointments into fun days out together
If you have several kids, it’s likely you’ll have some type of appointment each month.
We have doctors, dentist, orthodontist, eye exams, specialists…the list goes on!
So while not EVERY appointment is a fun outing, when we have the chance, we try to schedule individual visits where we can stop and do something fun together afterwards.
You could go out for lunch, to a museum, go shopping, to the library or to the park.
3| Tuck each child into bed individually
This takes a little time, but I suggest doing bedtime individually with each child.
I wrote another post about a fun idea for bedtime stories that my younger kids really love too.
My kids really look forward to having this one-on-one time at the end of a long and sometimes-hectic day.
We either do a story, a devotional, short Bible study lesson (like this one my girls and I are working through), and then say prayers together.
Having this dedicated time gives us a chance to debrief and talk about things that matter. I like tucking them in and making them feel special and valued – before they drift off to sleep.
4| Dinner Prep Rotation
You could do this for any meal, but on occasion I try to involve just one child in the meal prep process.
One easy way to do this is to ask the child whose favorite meal is on the menu to help prepare it.
Even if it’s just a few minutes of stirring or chopping, it gives us extra time to talk as we work side-by-side.
5| Go on a walk together
My 5-year-old loves to go on walks with me around our property.
It’s not the best walking trail, through the lumpy grass and around the fence line, but it’s like a grand adventure in his eyes.
The added bonus to taking a walk is that you can check “exercise” off your to-do list at the same time!
6| Plan a yearly overnight trip
You could do a one-on-one camping trip; visit a relative (near or far), or just rent a hotel room in your closest city together.
See a play, go to the zoo or a concert or find something unique that your child has always wanted to do.
Another great thing about just taking one child is, of course, buying just two tickets is quite a bargain when you normally have to save up for these types of outings!
7| Sneak out for Saturday morning breakfast
I still have memories of Saturday morning pancakes with my dad as a kid.
Now my husband enjoys taking the kids to breakfast on occasion, since he’s the early bird.
You could do this on a Saturday morning, before school or before church on Sunday.
8| Eat lunch at school together
This is one of the easiest ways for working moms to sneak in some extra one-on-one time, when you have younger kids.
(Word to the wise: your middle schooler may or may not appreciate this sentiment.)
Surprise your child at school and spend your lunch time together. It may be a little chaotic but your child will appreciate having you there to share about their day.
You can opt to eat school lunch together or bring them a favorite fast-food meal if you really want to win the cool-mom points. 😉
9| Volunteer in their classroom or Sunday school room
Admittedly, this isn’t truly “alone time” when you’re in a classroom setting, but I still think it counts since the idea is you’re focusing on your child, apart from their siblings.
Teachers usually love to have extra help, and this is a great way to have that extra bonding time with your child.
My kids love to show me all the projects they’re working on, introduce me to their friends and tell me about their daily routines.
It’s not something I get to do as often as I’d like to, but time spent at school is something younger kids always look forward to.
If your kids are in different Sunday school classes, you can also sneak in some time together by helping or being a part of the Sunday school rotation to teach their class or help out every now and then.
10| Do a once-a-month movie night out
My husband is the movie buff, and this is usually an activity he likes to plan with the kids.
As I mentioned before, another perk is that it’s a whole lot cheaper to just take ONE kid to the movies! It’s easier to splurge on movie-theater treats this way, as well.
My kids cannot wait for their movie night to roll around so they can have that time with dad and see the movie they’ve been anxious to watch.
11| Let them stay up late and watch a movie with you at home
Sometimes movies aren’t in the budget or you may not have the entire afternoon to spend away from home.
Friday nights are a great time to let one of my kids stay up late and pick a movie on Netflix that we can watch together.
It’s not really the movie that matters, it’s the thrill of breaking the bedtime rules and getting that individual attention that makes it special.
12| Take them with you to work
Some workplaces have “take your child to work day”, which would be an easy way to plan this.
Maybe your workplace is kid-friendly and you can bring your child for even part of a day and let them draw at your desk while you chat.
In the summer or on holidays, I will have days that I will bring one of my older kids and let them help out at my office- or just hang out with me.
They enjoy getting to eat lunch together and have that time with “just them”.
13| Volunteer together
Involving your kids in volunteer opportunities has numerous benefits, but taking them one at a time can be one extra way to have that individual time together.
Younger kids can visit the nursing homes, bring supplies to local shelters or participate in food drives. You probably already have your favorite charities in mind that your child could assist with.
My oldest daughter likes to volunteer to help with fundraising events- organizing supplies and doing whatever is needed to make the event successful.
14| Find a hobby you both enjoy
My animal-loving child always wants to go fishing when given the choice, and this is a hobby my husband and I enjoy, too.
There might be pottery-making (or painting) studios that your creative child could do with you.
You could practice playing catch in the yard, building lego villages, playing a board game or riding bikes together.
15| Go alone to their sporting event
Whenever possible, my husband and I will try to arrange a sitter for the other kids so we can attend a ball game or concert or school play with just that child involved.
Sometimes we divide and conquer and just one of us attends the event.
Afterwards, we can go out to dinner together or just enjoy talking in the car on the way home.
16| Help them clean their room
Sounds like GREAT fun, right??
This might sound strange especially coming from someone who is a big proponent of teaching kids to be responsible for their own messes.
But every now and then, I enjoy having a big declutter session with one of my kids.
We find art projects that bring back memories, we sort clothes that need to be donated and declutter their bedroom all the same time.
17| Make preparing for events an individual activity
A few years ago, I started doing back-to-school shopping separately with each child.
This makes the process MUCH easier when you have several kids.
You can focus just on their individual needs and it gives you quality time to talk about their thoughts about the upcoming school year (because those lists are LONG!).
It’s a great idea to go on a quick one-on-one trip to shop for their sibling’s or friend’s birthday and Christmas gifts, too.
You could also spend that time making homemade gifts together.
18| Go for a drive
Maybe there’s a special place you and your family like to visit that has breathtaking views, or somewhere that holds special memories for you.
This is a great idea when your child has had a stressful day or you’ve been at odds with one another.
Take a drive and decompress together. They may not talk at first, but keep the conversation neutral and eventually they’ll open up.
Top it off with ice cream and odds are, a hard day can turn into one they’ll remember fondly.
19| Take advantage of nap time
If you have younger kids who still nap, take that opportunity to do a quiet activity with your older child.
You could play a board game or do a craft together. Let them choose their favorite activity.
20| Babywearing for the win!
Most of these ideas I’ve listed above involve kids old enough to walk and talk, because we assume that the youngest child usually demands the majority of our time. And that can be true!
But it’s great to think of ways to connect with the baby in the family that don’t involve just feeding and changing their diapers.
For babies or toddlers, pack them around the house in a baby carrier or sling while you do dishes or laundry.
Talk to them and sing to them as you go.
Making individual time a habit
Spending individual time with each child can seem impossible in a larger family, or it may seem like it takes a lot of planning to pull it off.
After all, one of the reasons big families are great is because there’s always something happening and someone to share your time with.
And while it’s true that spending time together as a family is absolutely critical, looking for those focused moments to make each child feel important and loved is just as necessary.
As you can see, there are many simple ways you can incorporate one-on-one time into your daily routine, with a minimal amount of creative planning or expense.
Free printable list of one-on-one time ideas
If you’d like the free printable list of these one-on-one time activities, just click on the image below to open and print the PDF.