How to Date your Kids (and why that’s so special)

Though you’ll usually find Katie posting about nutrition, cooking and great tips for a healthier kitchen, she was really excited to post on a slightly different kind of topic, but one that she is equally passionate about. I love the concept of dating your kids, and we try to make a point of doing that around our home as well, especially with Daddy who doesn’t get as much special time with the kids during the week. Though we love being together as a family, there’s something so wonderful about getting a bit of one-on-one time in as well!


Guest Post by Katie

Daddy son

Moms wish only the very best for their kids: healthy meals, opportunities to try organized sports or music or art (or all of that and more), academic challenges and experiences, friends who stand by them, a deep and abiding faith, strong health, and joyful days. In seeking those goals and trying to find the time to balance everything, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that most kids just want their parents to love them and give them time. Parents are short on time these days, but that makes it all the more important to carve out special periods of time to spend just with the family. If you have more than one child, it’s important to spend quality one-on-one time with each child individually.

We’ve only been parents of two for a year, but already we see the joy and advantages of having “special time” with Mommy or Daddy.

Here are some ways we’ve gotten one-on-one time in our family:

With the baby…
Our daughter is just one, so her special time is mostly on the swings or cuddled in the rocking chair before bed.

With a toddler…
When my son was small, about 18 mos.-2 years old, if we weren’t going anywhere on a given day, I would make sure that we had “Special Time” mid-morning.

Special Time Guidelines:
• The child gets to choose any activity he/she wants, and (within safety and reason) the parent participates, even if “not in the mood”.
• Set the timer (we did 10 minutes, sometimes 15, at this age).
• The parent is not allowed to do anything but play during this time: no answering the phone, no folding laundry, no checking the to-do list or email.
• When the timer beeps, special time is over.
• Decide upon a way to “end” the time that can be a routine. For my son and me, we had a “Special Time hug and prayer”: “Thank you God for Mommy, Thank you God for Buddy Boy, Thank you God for Special Time. Amen.”
• Go your separate ways. You can come back to playing in 5 minutes, but try to do another task for a little while so Special Time is set apart from daily life.
• Special Time wasn’t in place of regular playing, and it didn’t mean that was the only time I spent one-on-one with my son at that age. It was just a time set apart.

Benefits of this system:
• Multi-taskers are forced to focus on what’s important: their child.
• Allowing the child to choose the activity gives you something productive and encouraging to say during the day: “I wonder what you’ll choose for your Special Time activity?” or “Mommy doesn’t want to do X right now, but hold that in your head for Special Time.”
• The child knows that they’ll get some positive, one-on-one attention every day and have something to look forward to on a normal day when you’re not going anywhere fun.
• The timer makes the ending clear to all participants, and Mommy doesn’t have to watch the clock; she can just enjoy playing.
This Special Time system was inspired by Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

When balancing two children…
During Lent this year, I promised God I would give 10 minutes of “Special Time”, although not quite this systematic, with each of my kids. I had noticed (with sadness and guilt) that it was just too easy to get to the end of my day and realize that I hadn’t spent real one-on-one time with my daughter especially. She seemed to be just incorporated into play with the older child or into my cooking or cleaning. Special Time was a good routine to have. I modified it so that I just made sure each child got their 10 minutes of basic Mommy-time, and although I didn’t always set the timer, it was better if I did.

Daddy-Son time…
Before Lovey Girl was born, my husband and son would always have “boy night” when I went to my book club once a month. They cooked and ate dinner together, often in front of the TV, and played sports. It was a treasure that Buddy Boy truly mourned when his sister got too old to come with Mommy to the restaurants. We now make sure that “Boy Night” happens every so often. Here’s a great shot of the boys watching Scooby Doo and eating their dinners (that I got to witness because Lovey Girl and I just went for a walk and played downstairs to stay out of their way):

6a 00e 54f 14494b 88340120a 5432645970b 320wi Mommy-Son time…

I know my son also misses time with just Mom, because he sure is eager to be near to me and doing something whenever his sister falls asleep. I had an opportunity to take him to a children’s production that our local symphony orchestra puts on, and when I asked him if he wanted to go, I called it a “date”. He smiled like I had said “candy and ice cream”, and I knew I was onto something. He’s heard Daddy and I refer to our “dates” and knows they’re fun and special.

My son and I have gotten all gussied up twice now to go on special Mommy/Son “dates”, and he really glows in the presence of just mom. Last week we even went strawberry picking, just the two of us. Even though it happened that way out of necessity (husband doesn’t love strawberry picking and volunteered to stay home with Lovey Girl), calling it a “date” got Buddy Boy all excited about it and helped me remember to be patient with him in the patch.

So Date Your Kids!
This serves as a good reminder to me to make sure I get some one-on-one loving time with each of my kids, every day. May it also inspire you to find some “special time” or make a “date” with your kids. They’ll positively beam, and you won’t regret it!

Let’s pile up great memories in the comments: tell us about your favorite “dates” or “special time” routines with your kiddos.

Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship, where it’s all about the Baby Steps to balancing nutrition, the environment, time, and money through the eyes of faith. She gives weekly “Monday Missions” to challenge readers to make one positive change in their kitchen each week, with supporting recipes and tips to help make it happen.

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  1. I agree, it’s very important to “date” your kids. My husband and I did with our daughter when she was little and now that she is in Middle School (the age they stop thinking their parents are cool) she still loves spending time with us.

  2. I like this idea, my children are 12, 10, 7, & 5,we homeschool and dual enroll for band & art. What would yours or anyone’s suggestions be for special time w/my 4 great children. Each day? one per day? I actually had tried the one per day for ~25 min. and that seemed to do ok, I should try that again, huh? thanks, LIsa

  3. I remember my dad doing this. He told me that we were going on a date to a really fancy restauraunt and that they wouldn’t let us in unless we dressed up really nicely. Then he took me to a local pizza place. I don’t remember anyone else being dressed down. I just remember my daddy giving me the chance to dress up and spend time with him.

  4. My dad took me on occasional dates when I was young. I would get dressed up and we would go out to eat together. I remember one time he even pinned a little homemade corsage on my dress! I certainly plan on doing dates with our children when we have some; it’s very special. And I have a horrible memory, so if I remember that, it must’ve been fun!

  5. Lisa,
    I’m impressed that you could homeschool and spend 25 minutes alone with anyone! For children that age, I think just being aware that everyone gets some attention during the day is important. You’ll have to decide if your personality is such that you need the structure of rotating kids 25 minutes each day.

    I think for older kids especially, a more formal evening once a month or going out on a “random” date is most important, to have a time when they feel they can be open with you and are the center of attention. Of course, you need to build that trust and open relationship every day; it can’t just happen like magic once a month. Sounds like you’re doing awesome things, Lisa! You’ll figure out what works for you.


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