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I mentioned earlier this month that I set a goal when I graduated at the end of April to find more balance in the roles that I have in life. As a full time working mom, the majority of my time each day is spent at the office, and there are only a couple of hours in my day between work and Bensen's bedtime. Finding time to connect with him on a regular basis is important to me so I made a goal this summer to do something fun with him each week on my day off. I put together a whole list of activities that I thought would be fun and tried to plan one a week. While those big, weekly adventures have been a lot of fun, I realized that I needed to be more intentional and find a way to connect with Bensen on a daily basis.
Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but I was all sorts of teary eyed while watching Miracles From Heaven this weekend and thinking about our Bensen and our baby girl who is on the way. I'm more determined than ever to make time with my little one (and future little ones) a high priority. Our days may not be limited that we know of and we haven't gone through anything challenging or traumatic that has made each day feel like a blessing. Even so, I'm aware of how much of a blessing and a miracle it is to have these little ones in my life and just how quickly they grow up. Bensen's first year of life flew by, and between school and work, I feel like we didn't have nearly enough fun together or time to bond and build our relationship.
Four Simple Ways to Bond with Your Toddler
Making an effort to find balance in my life and taking the time to bond with Bensen on a daily basis over the last few months has made a world of difference in my role as a mother. I may not feel like I'm doing enough still, and I maybe never will, but I know that I am making my best effort to ensure that he is happy and never has doubts that I love and care for him! Keeping these simple things in mind each day has helped me out over the past few months and I'm hoping will continue to help me make time with Bensen a priority even after baby girl arrives.
Turn every day routines into bonding moments
My very favorite part of each day is bedtime, not because it marks the beginning of my most productive hours, but because of the time that it provides Bensen and I to bond. That half hour from the time we start getting ready for bed until his lights are off and the door is shut is full of some of the sweetest moments of my day. We giggle and laugh while we put pajamas on, sing silly songs while we brush teeth, read all of Bensen's favorite books together while we snuggle, and then we share kisses, rub noses and give more snuggles before I tuck that sweet little boy in and tell him how much I love him. I missed out on a lot of bedtimes while I was in class and completing my internship, but I didn't realize just how much I was missing by not being around at the end of every day. Joe and I would switch off at bedtime every night after I graduated, but I realized recently that I have started keeping that part of the day all to myself because it has become special time with my little man that I cherish!
There are so many different routines throughout the day that you could turn into an opportunity to build the relationship that you have with your child. Bedtime, naptime, meal time, meal preparation, etc. can all provide great opportunities for that mother/child relationship to blossom.
Don't let stress get in the way of opportunities to bond
In the movie, Miracles From Heaven, one thing that stood out to me was a moment when the mother almost allowed a stressor to let her miss out on the opportunity to do something fun with her daughter. Stressful situations in life can sometimes take over my thinking to the point that I have a hard time focusing on anything but making it through that stress. Taking time to have fun with Bensen is important, and I know that he recognizes when I'm not fully present because there is something else going on. Oftentimes, shifting my focus completely to him is exactly what I need to help me breathe and I'm better able to work through the issue later on.
Enjoy the small moments as much as the big adventures
Because of the limited time that I have with Bensen each day, it's not possible for me to create something big and magical for us to do. I've found that the little moments we have together on a daily basis provide just as much of an opportunity for us to bond and make memories as the bigger and seemingly more magical moments that I try to create on my day off. A lot of my favorite activities take little to no preparation and are over in thirty minutes at the most.
Color - We just started coloring with Bensen not too long ago. One of my favorite things to do, rather than using a coloring book, is to pull out one of the large, flat cardboard boxes that our baby gates came in and color on that. We grab the toddler friendly coloring utensils, open the box up and sit on the floor together until we're bored. The same piece of cardboard can be used multiple times, it provides a larger surface for drawing so there's less risk of furniture or floor getting ruined and I have five or six of those boxes stored away, so we'll never run out.
Water Play - Bensen loves all things water! That kid gets so excited when we put him in his swim diaper, fill a big kitchen bowl with water, grab a measuring cup and wooden spoon and take him outside. He will splash in the bowl for a good half hour, or until the water gets dumped. He bangs on the bowl with the spoon and pours water on his head with the measuring cup. It's quick and easy clean up and perfect for these warm summer days/evenings. We also love to fill up our kiddie pool with a couple of inches of water and cool off there, or run through the sprinklers while Joe is watering the lawn at night.
Music - Another one of Bensen's greatest loves in life is music. Whenever he hears a song, whether it's on the tv, radio, coming from our phones or live, he stops to listen and dance. After dinner, we love to sit on the piano bench together and pound out a duet, play with one of his musical toys or turn on the radio and have a spontaneous dance party together. I've had fun introducing him to new instruments, styles of music and classic songs. Music is one of my passions and being able to share that with Bensen from such a young age makes me excited for the bonding that music will bring us in the future.
Share a Treat - We love introducing Bensen to new foods, but new treats are especially exciting. Cookies, ice cream, smoothies, milk shakes, donuts, etc. are all better when I'm sharing them with my favorite little boy. And I'm probably better off because I'm not eating the entire thing myself. Recently Bensen has discovered a love of straws and drinking out of big kid cups. I bought him his own little straw sippies that won't spill, but even if it's filled with the same thing that we have, he thinks that it tastes better coming from the straw that I'm using. He gets so excited when I offer some of whatever I'm eating to him, but especially when I offer him a drink out of mommy's cup.
Explore - Experiencing the world all over again through Bensen's eyes is one of the most exciting things. Each day I take time to explore my surroundings with him. We look at pictures on the wall, watch birds out the window, find different plants and animals on our walks and learn new words, sounds and skills on a regular basis. I have the opportunity to teach Bensen new things about the world that he lives in and see his face light up with wonder. I hope that he never loses that excitement for life!
Celebrate the little things
At the end of the day, when you feel like you haven't done much to build the relationship that you have with your child, think back and focus on the little moments. Some days I only get an hour of time to spend with Bensen because of traffic, long commutes, early bedtime for him or other life responsibilities. These are the days when I miss my buddy the most and I can't help but feel bad that we didn't get to spend time together. I think back to the beginning of our day and smile when I remember the animal noises that we made when I was getting him ready for the day before I went off to work and he went to grandma's. I can't help but laugh when I remember the dance moves that he was doing in his chair while he ate his dinner and I had the radio playing while I made dinner for Joe and I.
All of the little moments that I spend with my child pay off. I feel more bonded to him now than I ever have before, especially after a few months of life getting in the way of that time. If I skip a night of our bedtime routine or a day full of play because of another commitment, I feel like I'm missing out on precious time, even though I know that time for myself or on date night with my spouse is just as important as the time that I spend with my little one. It's all worth it when Bensen gives me little kisses, comes to me for snuggles and comfort when he's hurt or upset, and shares his sweet smiles and infectious giggles with me. I hope to continue to build simple traditions that provide opportunities for me to bond with each of my children and create a strong relationship that will last a lifetime.
Miracles of Heaven and the story of the Beam family is full of love and inspired me to make time with my family even more of a priority. You never know what life is going to bring your way, so make the most of every moment that you have together! When you buy Miracles From Heaven on DVD, $1 of your purchase will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network. I purchased my copy of the movie from Walmart and it was a great movie to enjoy as a family on Sunday!
What are some of your favorite bonding activities with children and why is that time important to you?