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5 Tips for Bonding with Your Child

 

No one is born knowing how to be a great parent or caregiver. We learn by staying curious and trying different approaches. During the first five years, fostering a strong bond with your child sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy and supportive relationships.  


Mom playing with blocks with small daughter.

Let’s explore five tips to practice at any developmental stage. These will help build a strong connection with your little one.   


 

 

1. Be Present 


Parents holding hands with baby

Infants and toddlers thrive on undivided attention. 


It can be hard to set aside time with a busy schedule, but by engaging in simple yet meaningful activities like playing, reading or singing, you’re building a foundation together.  


Put your phone away and turn off the TV for a distraction-free environment. If you love to take photos, put your phone in airplane mode. This will allow you to continue to snap pictures without the disruption of a text notification or a phone call. 


Try to include these bonding moments in your regular schedule:  


  • Sing together during bath time 

  • Share stories about your day while in the car 

  • Cook dinner together and share positive stories from your childhood 

As they grow, involve your child in conversations about their feelings, hopes and worries. 

 

2. Practice Responsive Parenting 


Mom holding baby


Responsive parenting means consistently responding to your child’s physical and emotional needs. 


This practice builds a secure relationship and fosters trust. 


A baby’s brain rapidly develops during the first three years of life. Research shows that quality early experiences with a trusted caregiver or parent help children with problem solving, confidence, social relationships and how to handle emotions – all of which establish a strong foundation for success in school and life. 


Here are some ideas for how you can use this practice:  


  • Quickly respond to your baby’s cries to establish security.  

  • Validate your preschooler's emotions by saying things like “I understand you’re upset. I would be, too,” even during tantrums. 

  • When your child has something to tell you, intentionally stop and listen.  

Hot Tip: If you choose to sleep train, you may not be as responsive sometimes and that’s okay, too. You know what’s best for your baby. Learn more.

A child who feels heard and understood develops emotional resilience, setting the stage for success before they even begin school.  

 

3. Establish Family Routines  



Toddler reading a book


Consistent routines provide stability and are necessary for your child's sense of emotional security. From daily schedules to bedtime rituals, routines help children understand what to expect. 


You can use moments throughout your routines to spend quality time together.  

Try to make the most of the first or last five minutes of the day by holding, singing or talking to your child. If they’re older, ask how they slept and how they’re feeling about the day ahead. 


Hot Tip: Easily track your child’s activity and developmental milestones with apps like this one.  

4. Play Together 


Dad playing with toddler

Play is a child's primary job -- it’s how they learn. Babies are born learning. Playing, singing, and talking to your babies will not only provide a powerful bonding experience, it will also build your child’s language skills. 


We don’t need expensive toys to have fun or learn.  


Here are some ideas to get you started: 


Babies 

  • Sing your favorite songs to your baby. They don’t have to be nursery rhymes to be fun!  

  • Show your child black and white flashcards. High contrast pictures are easier for your baby’s eyes to process.  

Hot Tip: Grab a sharpie and draw pictures on flashcards yourself!  

Toddlers  

  • Dance! Movement is great for your child’s physical development and for your health, too.  

  • Use everyday items as building blocks. Try using tissue and cereal boxes or toilet paper rolls.  

  • Get free developmental toys and guidance on how to use them through the Early Birds Program

Preschoolers  

  • Use your imagination! Pretend you’re at a concert or having a tea party.  

  • Get outdoors. Play in the backyard, or visit a nearby park to enjoy nature. 

 

Hot Tip: Reading together helps your child learn new words and phrases. Need more books? Check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  

 

5. Encourage Independence  


Small child riding a bike.

As our children grow, it’s important we encourage independence while providing guidance and support. This balance helps them feel safe to explore their environment, knowing we're there to help when needed.  


Your little one might do this by:  


  • Pouring their own juice  

  • Speaking to helpers, like the doctor or a server at a restaurant  

  • Choosing their own clothes  

Hot Tip: Offer 2-3 outfit options so your child has a starting point to explore what they like. 

Doing things on their own helps your child develop resilience and learn to depend on themselves.  


 

The first five years are a time to build a healthy, lifelong connection with your child. During this time, you're also preparing them with the tools they need to face new challenges as they grow up.  


Being present, responsive, establishing routines, engaging in play and encouraging independence are the start to creating a lifelong bond.  

Remember, you’re not just raising a child – you're building a relationship that will last a lifetime.  


Need more support? We’ve got you! Take this quiz to find your next resource.




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