In today’s busy world it’s often hard to find time to slow down and just enjoy some good fun baby time. A parent who works full time may not have energy left to play with baby after a long day at the office. A stay-at-home parent with several kids and a busy household often has too many demands on their time to devote hours each day to interactive play with baby. Sometimes we let ourselves get so busy that baby is lucky just to have his diaper changed and be fed on time. Here are some ideas to help you find some good, quality time with baby so you don’t miss out on the fun part of parenting – playtime together.
The working dad.
In most households, dad has a full-time job outside the home which keeps him away 8 to 12 hours a day. This may be most of baby’s awake time. How can a busy working father find time for fathering? Here are some ways:
- Morning play time – If your baby is an early riser, make it your routine to get up a half hour before baby, get ready for work, then enjoy some one-on-one play time for a half-hour, an hour, or as long as you can before you have to leave. Morning is usually a baby’s most alert and playful time of the day. This gives you both a time to connect, and allows mom to get a little more sleep.
- Late nights with baby – You may have a baby who likes to stay up late into the evening and sleep in late. While it’s nice to relax and enjoy quiet time in the evenings without baby, if you’re a busy dad with a 10-hour job, this may be the only time you get to spend with baby during the week. Enjoy these evenings with baby. He’ll grow up all too fast.
- Bedtime routines with the kids – Instead of rushing your kids off to bed with a quick good night kiss, take a long hour to enjoy a long bedtime routine with your kids. Make tooth brushing a family affair where you all brush together making funny faces in the mirror. Play a quiet game or put together a favorite puzzle. Give your kids a bath if needed, but make it fun (see bath time for fun ideas). Snuggle in bed for a favorite bedtime story. Tell your kids a short, made-up story each night.
The busy mom.
We all feel busier than we’d like to be. If you have several kids or have another job outside the home your time and energy is going to be divided. Your baby may not get as much interactive play time as you wish you could give him. Here are some creative ways you can give baby quality time when you can’t always give him quantity time:
- Determine your priorities – So your house might not always be the cleanest on the block. You may not quite be able to keep up with the laundry. Dinner won’t be a five course meal every night. Let the little things go for a while and focus on what’s most important to you – your relationship with your kids. Enjoy them while they’re young. It won’t matter in ten years if your windows were always clean. A close relationship with your kids will matter. Find a balance between kids and your other responsibilities that you and your spouse can live with.
- Playful moments – Most babies and toddlers have certain times during the day when they are most attentive, playful, and eager for one-on-one play time with you. Figure out your baby’s best time of the day and set this aside to get down on the floor and enjoy the fun part of parenting. Use naptimes for your own time, either to get other things done or nap yourself.
- Working moms – Of course all moms are working (usually even harder than dads), and when you have another career outside the home, your time is really stretched. Make the most of your evenings with your kids. Take baby with you whenever you run errands. Wear baby in a baby sling or other carrier when you’re busy around the house. Involve yourself in the bedtime routine with your spouse, or take turns alternating nights.
The older kids.
It is valuable for older kids to develop a close relationship with their younger siblings. Preteens and older kids are the perfect age to help with baby play duty. Try not to make it feel like “duty” however. Make it fun.
- Play duty – Use the time of day when you are the busiest, such as the late afternoon or early evening, to ask your older kids to enjoy some fun play time with the baby or toddler. Instead of telling them to “watch the baby”, which can sound like a chore, ask them to make it fun. Crawl or run around, go outside in a safe area to play, get out balls and other fun, active toys. Let your kids burn off all their extra energy before dinner.
- Reading fun – Reading out loud to you is a valuable skill for older kids to practice. Let your older kids read to you before bed each night. This gives you some quiet snuggle time together. Let your younger kids listen along to cultivate a love for reading in them too.
- Outside sports – Active toddlers and preschoolers love to engage in ball sports such as kicking, running and throwing. Let your older kids take the toddler outside for some fun, energetic ball play. Take five or ten minutes to run outside and join your kids in a bit of their fun. This can make a big difference for you and them.