In our Make Parenting A Pleasure parenting groups, we use the analogy of “filling your cup with self-care.” If your cup is empty, you will have little to give to others. But when your cup is full, you are more likely to parent in ways that fit with what you want for your child.
The benefits of “filling your cup” can also be extended to your child. For children, CUP means: Child chooses activity. Undivided attention. Predictable. You can fill your child’s cup with quality time spent together every day.
A close, nurturing, and responsive relationship is the single most important factor affecting your child’s well-being. Through special time, you can help wire your child’s brain in ways that help them learn, grow, and thrive.
An activity we do in our parenting groups is to have parents set an intention: “I (your name), will spend Special Time with my child this week during (time of day).” This can help you be intentional about carving out special time during the day to play and engage with your child. The time of day you choose for your special time is up to you. You may want to consider a time of day when your child is well rested and fed, and when you can devote 15-20 minutes of your undivided attention.
Some experts say with 15 minutes of fully focused attention, children will feel satisfied and independent for the next half hour or so. You can think of the special time and attention you are giving your children as “money in the bank,” or positive connection you can count on as a buffer for when you need to be away from them.
For your special time, first ask your child what they would like to do. If they need ideas, you could suggest: playing your child’s favorite game, reading books together, going on a post-dinner walk in the neighborhood, or baking together. Follow your child’s lead by asking them to choose the activity and then do it the way they want to do it. Even 20 minutes of focused fun together, invests in your relationship, and goes a long way in building a solid foundation to rely on when times or situations are more difficult.
Singing with your child is a fun way to spend special time together, especially if the songs involve hand movements or finger plays. Here are some of our Parenting Educators’ favorite songs:
THREE GREEN AND SPECKLED FROGS
Five green and speckled frogs,
Sat on a speckled log,
Eating some most delicious bugs.
One jumped into the pool,
Where it was nice and cool,
Now there are four green speckled frogs.
Repeat song counting down each time.
Way up high in the apple tree,
Two little apples were smiling at me.
I shook the tree as hard as I could.
Down came the apples,
Umm, they were good!
Repeat with other fruit.
Play helps develop social skills, imagination, and creativity. It nurtures a rich sense of adventure, exploration, and discovery, and giving your child attention shows them you love them — and is also an important need for his or her growth and development.
Amanda Bedortha is the Communications Manager for Parenting Now. This article appeared in the November 2022 edition of Oregon Family Magazine.