Working Parents Guide: Spending Time With Kids

Discover child care tips for working parents in our guide. Learn how to balance responsibilities and nurture connection with family.

Whether you’re a single parent, working swing shifts, or working from home, finding time to connect with your child while also getting through the daily grind is never easy. It can take careful planning, a splash of creativity (finding those hidden opportunities to connect with your kids), and help from a support system. 

On top of that, creating a harmonious balance between professional obligations and family life isn’t a one-and-done. Instead, it’s something closer to a tightrope walk, requiring you to make constant little adjustments and refinements as you work your way toward your goal. 

Here, we’ve put together some of our favorite tips and tricks to help busy working parents keep their balance and find hidden time even when juggling a busy work schedule. 

Establishing Effective Routines

A consistent daily routine might be the most crucial life hack for working parents. But how do you establish a routine that works? Getting your schedule organized is the first step. 

Create a Family Calendar

If you don’t already have a routine visual schedule or family calendar, it’s time to start one. Consider it your secret weapon and your best friend rolled into one. Yep, it’s that powerful. 

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Decide on a format – Digital, whiteboard, magnet board, bulletin board, or good old paper—whatever your family’s needs, there’s a calendar style that will work for you. Consider having two versions: A large, simple daily schedule for your toddler or preschooler and a digital or whiteboard version for older family members to track detailed schedules. 
  • Choose a location – Whatever format you choose, make sure all family members know where to look for the daily and weekly events. A central hub will keep you all on the same page (literally and figuratively).
  • Use color-coding – To help track different obligations, use colored markers or stickers assigned for work, school, family, medical, etc. Alternatively, use a different color for each family member’s events. 
  • Use symbols – For younger children or visual learners in your family, use symbols or pictures alongside events to make your calendar easier to process. Repositionable stickers or magnets make it easy to create a set of reusable symbols for typical events like catching the bus, sports, meal times, etc.

Knowing how to create a daily schedule for kids can help with transitions between activities to prepare them for the day. With your schedule mapped out, the next step is to incorporate time into your daily routine to connect with your child. It doesn’t have to be as rigid as setting a specific time to spend time with each other. One of our favorite ways to build connections is to get kids involved in the kitchen. 

Meal Planning and Preparation

Meal planning is helpful for busy working parents, and it’s also an activity that can easily include your kid. Here are some ideas to get your child involved:

  • Create a menu – Scrolling through new recipe ideas online is just as overwhelming as browsing TV trying to decide what to watch. Instead, keep all your family’s favorites collected on a reusable menu. Let your child decorate the menu with colorful drawings and stickers. Post it in the kitchen, and have your child help with choosing meals during your weekly planning sessions.
  • Shop together – Grocery shopping might seem like a bore, but it can be a perfect opportunity for quality time with your kid. Show them how to choose fruits and vegetables. Talk about the taste and smell of each kind of produce. Put them in charge of bringing items back to the cart while you “drive.”

Kitchen tasks and household chores like basic prep, cooking, and clean-up are also golden opportunities for bonding, as well as learning. Your little sous chef will delight in being given special tasks like:

  • Getting ingredients out of the fridge
  • Washing veggies
  • Stirring and pouring
  • Simple prep (snapping green beans, husking corn, etc.)
  • Mixing salad ingredients in the serving bowl
  • Setting the table with safe and non-breakable items (spoons, cups, napkins, etc.)
  • Simple cleaning: sweeping, wiping, dusting

Quality Time 

With so much to do and so few hours in the day, it’s important for working parents to consciously carve out some time to connect with their children. And if you have more than one child, it’s also important to find dedicated moments for all of your young children. 

If the idea of fitting meaningful one-on-one time into your overstuffed day has you anxious already, never fear. Quality time simply means time together—it doesn’t need to be a complicated event. Kids can find joy in everything from bathtime to washing the dishes as long as you’re present, engaged, and interacting with each other. 

Here are three more tips on making the most of your time:

  1. Quality time can happen in a few minutes. A bedtime story, a walk around the block, or a quick game of catch are all meaningful bonding moments that you can try to fit into your schedule. 
  2. Understand your child’s needs. Tailor your one-on-one time to your child’s interests and personality. Whether it’s building with blocks, making art, or spending time outdoors, when your special time aligns with their preferences, each moment becomes even more memorable.
  3. Share technology-free playtime. Having your full attention doesn’t just make kids feel special—it’s vital for brain development, especially in infancy and toddler years. When you have playtime with your child, set aside the screens and put your focus on shared play. Joint attention (when a child and caregiver focus on the same object, event, game, etc.) plays an important part in your child’s growing social and cognitive skills.

Empowering Independence in Young Children

Fostering independence in your preschooler goes hand-in-hand with building life skills like curiosity, self-reliance, coping with stress and frustration, regulating emotions, and overcoming challenges. As a working mom, dad, or caregiver, you have lots of opportunities to empower your child as you fit quality time into your daily routine.

  • Incorporate learning into daily activities – Organizing toys, picking up after themselves, setting the table, folding laundry—these are just a few examples of household chores that can be gamified while practicing skills like counting, sorting, and naming colors.
  • Encourage your child to take charge of self-care – Preschoolers can start learning to do daily tasks like hand-washing, combing their hair, washing their face, and getting dressed independently (with you nearby to help and guide). Building these self-care habits in children early on can help instill confidence, self-esteem, and personal responsibility.

Balancing Commitments

As every working parent knows, children have a knack for needing attention just when you’re taking a work call or finally finishing that task you’ve been trying to do all day. It’s okay to let your child know that you’re not always available immediately. 

It helps to plan ahead and have some strategies at the ready when you need to redirect your child gently but effectively. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Create a dedicated focus-time toy or activity box – Set aside a few special toys or activity sets like Slumberkins Kinspiration Kits that encourage imaginative solo play. Let your child know that this activity box is specifically for them to use while you’re working. Only bring it out during work time.
  • Use visual cues – Kids don’t have a strong grasp of time, so telling them you need an hour to work will just lead to constant interruptions to ask if it’s been an hour yet. Instead, agree on a visual signal that shows when you’re working. You could use something fun, like “Mom’s Work Hat,” that only comes out when you need to focus. Or use a red light/green light system during working hours—tape a red paper over your desk or on the back of your chair when you’re not available; green when you are. Visual timers can also be a great tool for kids to show how much time has passed.

Self-Care for Parents

Taking care of yourself in the middle of your hectic schedule might seem like a luxury, but recharging your batteries is crucial. When having a healthy work-life balance gets difficult to maintain, don’t forget to take care of yourself so you can be the best support for your kids (and also avoid burnout). Here are a few tips for easing your stress and practicing self-care:

  • Don’t try to do it all alone – It’s okay to ask for help from friends, extended family, and your community (such as local parent groups). Look for ways to share tasks, such as splitting pickup and drop-off with another parent. 
  • Take extras off your plate – Try not to say yes to everything. Joining the PTA, organizing bake sales, leading the scout troop—these are optional activities, not the key to being a good parent. 
  • Schedule “me time” – It’s not selfish to book a block of time every day for yourself. In fact, it’s a must. If you’re exhausted and depleted, you can’t be fully present for your child. It can be as little as 15 minutes, but it should be clearly delineated on your family calendar. 

Find Time for Connection in the World of Slumberkins

As a working parent, you’re doing two tough jobs, and you’re only one person. Give yourself a round of applause for that! And remember, your child doesn’t need you to be Supermom or Wonderdad, able to leap tall buildings and never miss a school function. 

Morning routines, dinnertime, bedtime rituals—these are the little moments that add up to the warm, reliable bond your child needs to thrive. 

Slumberkins can help you find more ways to connect with your child every day. Every one of our cuddly kins, books, and activities is designed to show caregivers how to build stronger family bonds through trust, love, and empathy. 


Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. Joint attention in infant-toddler early childhood programs: Its dynamics and potential for collaborative learning. 

First 5 California. How to help children develop a secure attachment to caregivers. 

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