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Making Intentional 1-1 Time With Your Kids

As our family has grown I have realized the importance of 1-1 time for everyone. We all know how important it is to date your partner, but we often forget that it is just as important to date your kids.  You know that list of “things you didn’t realize before kids?” Well this is one of them. When you have one baby you have an endless amount of time for them, but as your family grows your time is split into more and more places. My husband and I have found the more time we make for intentional 1-1 time, the fuller everyone’s cup seems to be. Full cups means happy hearts to us!

Our boys are 16m and 2.5 so 1-1 time for us may look different than your families does right now. Our 1-1 time can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 30-45 minutes, depending on the activity. I am going to share how we have chosen to make intentional 1-1 time a daily thing in the Janes Household. Overall the things we have “made” were very cheap and continue to bring so much fun each day! We usually try to have 1-1 outings on the weekend. Weeknights prove to be too hard for us to really get out and about, so our special time happens at home.

Here are the steps we found successful in making intentional 1-1 time.

Step 1: Choose a spot that will be the “special time” activity storage area. For us it is a corner in our Harry Potter closet (closet under the stairs for on the non HP nerds). We found success in having special activities for 1-1 time at home, it feels more intentional and exciting for our boys. 

This is our very unexciting and yet so exciting special corner. As you see it lives next to our vacuum cleaner. So glamorous.

Step 2: Look no further than what you have. Take a look around at the toys, books, puzzles, and activities you already own and pull a few out. I started with some puzzles, sticker books, play doh, and art activities – all of which I already owned.

Step 3: Hit up the dollar store and dollar spot at target. Even check out US Toys or any teaching supply store. Often you can find the coolest things for just a few dollars. My goal with the dollar store was to make busy buckets. This is a more time consuming prep step that took me most of one nap/rest time. Busy buckets are magical fun buckets of literally whatever you heart desires. See below for a walk through of our busy buckets. Some people prefer to call them sensory buckets/bins/activities.

  • Step 3A: I walked the aisles of the dollar store and found anything that I thought would interest my boys. Then came home and put everything out on the table to evaluate. I chose to sort things in families of similar items – rocks/beads/shells , animals/creatures, tools/scoopers etc… 
  • Step 3B: Start sorting into the buckets. I chose buckets with snap clips to close. These were $3-4 at target. After moving things around, I was satisfied with the arrangements and called it a job well done! 
  • Step 3C: Utilize the dollar store for random items as well. I also made small sorting buckets with take and toss bowls, buttons, dominos, and pom poms. This is really great for fine motor and sorting/color/matching skills. I also made a wet/dirty bucket to use outside. This will be a station to get things dirty with dirt or wet oatmeal and then clean them with soap, water, and different sponges and brushes. 


This pictures shows the process of making and the end result of our 3 newest busy buckets.


The beans and rice bucket is a staple of ours that we have had for a while. This has shot glasses, funnels, and construction trucks. The right side shows my oldest son using the ice cube tray to sort out the tan army men.


Showing the take and toss bowl sorting, the first step in organizing the dollar store haul, the dirty/wet bucket, and then a few random dollar store finds like a bug catcher and bubbles

Step 4: Decide if there is anything additional you may want. The beauty of the “special 1-1 time” area is that it is always changing and growing, you just need to start it. There were a few other things I wanted to add to our area, such as a lacing beads, a few books & a drill design set.

Most of these items we had. I ordered the design and drill set, the lacing beads, and the Usborne tractor book with the intention of using them for 1-1 time.


Step 5: Decide how 1-1 time may look for you and your kids. It could mean going to see a movie, getting yogurt, going for a walk, exploring a new park or building something. It can be anything that you and your kid would enjoy together! 1-1 time isn’t meant to be a stressful planning experience. You will obviously have to make some form of plans with your partner if you have other children. But a simple conversation can solve this planning hold up. Make sure that your partner is also engaging in 1-1 time because you each have special things to offer your children that can only come from you.

Step 6: Enjoy! This is the most important step in my eyes. Unplug. Step away from the laundry, the dinner prep, the computer, social media, texting, whatever your distractions are, set them aside. This is time that you need to 100% devote to your baby.

We hope that you find making intention 1-1 time as meaningful and fulfilling as we have found it to be. 

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