parenting tips, parenting, mom and son

I pulled the van into a parking space and glanced at the clock. We were unusually early—my husband and son wouldn’t be out for a few more minutes. I instinctively reached for my phone and tapped the Facebook icon.

"Mommy, can we play a game while we wait?" my 5-year-old asked.

I had a choice to make. I could connect with my virtual “community” via the little screen in my hand or connect with the flesh-and-blood little girl in the backseat. For once, I put down the phone. The next five minutes were a gift—to me as much as to my daughter.

I wish I could say I always make the choice to pursue relationship in those little "given moments," but too often I let them slip away. While I regularly lament my lack of time to connect with my kids, I miss dozens of little opportunities every day.

Of course, we all need to set aside good chunks of quality time with our kids, but that need for deep, sustained connection doesn’t mean the little moments don’t count. They do. In fact, these small but meaningful moments can help form a continual bond that our busy schedules rarely allow. Date nights and family vacations are important, but most of life is made up of little moments—so keep your eyes open and find the little opportunities to connect.

Consider these 10 ideas to connect with your kids in 10 minutes or less:

1. Have a 5-minute tickle fight.

Follow it with a 5-minute "cool-down cuddle" or breathing exercises. My kids beg to do this with Daddy almost nightly. It’s a great way for them to connect physically and to burn some energy before bedtime!

2. Read a book or poem together.

Designate a reading spot and keep reading material handy. Work your way through a book one chapter at a time, or keep a selection of short readings handy—an array of picture books, a collection of short stories, or a book of short poems.

3. Play "What’s Your Favorite?"

Be sure to include some fun categories such as favorite way to travel, day of the week, book character, superpower, memory or joke. Make a chart of your family’s favorites and see how many you share.

4. Turn on a favorite song.

Throw an impromptu dance party. Take turns choosing songs!

5. Play "20 Questions."

Choose a person, place or thing, and see if your kids can figure it out by asking no more than 20 yes-or-no questions. This is a great car game!

6. Assemble a simple puzzle together.

Or build the tallest tower you can out of blocks.

7. Play "What If?"

Take turns dreaming up hilarious alternatives to the way things are. "What if you were 10 feet tall?" "What if we could swim in air?" You can also draw a picture of your dream world or make up a story about it.

8. Get help with a task.

Do a chore together, prepare a snack to share or write a note to someone.

9. Give your child a back massage.

Your child might want to give you one, too! In the meantime, talk about your favorite ways to relax.

10. Name five things you love about each other.

This can be serious or silly! Think about both the important character qualities and the endearing little quirks that make each family member special.

Not every day affords us a window for sustained quality time with our kids. But every day God gives us countless moments to connect—moments that make up the ties we treasure.

Article courtesy of ParentLife magazine.

Kelly Mikhailiuk is a stay-at-home mom and editorial freelancer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Taras, and their four young children.