How Do You Get Quality Time With Older Children While Also Raising Younger Children?

Recently a reader wrote in with this question:

“How do you get quality time with older children while caring for younger children?”

This is something I intentionally think about on a fairly regular basis… how to work in time with them. As a homeschooler, it probably comes easier than it might if we were all running in different directions, but it’s still something I have to be purposeful about.

older & younger children, large families, quality time

  • When I run to the store, usually one of the older kids (12yo son, 10yo son, or 8yo daughter) will go with me. We talk about things, laugh together, make observations, listen to how their time in Sunday school went, time with a friend, or whatever.
  • When I’m sitting on the couch, my little ones (6yo son, 4yo son, and nearly-2yo son) will come for snuggles, often. We tickle, hug, wrestle, play, give zuburts, giggle, use nicknames, etc. I find that my little ones need those constant snuggles…
    but my big ones need physical “snuggles” too, just on their level. Back rubs, hugs, shoulder rubs, sitting close together while reading articles, etc. Their need for affection hasn’t diminished. It just doesn’t look like tickles/zuburts/silly nicknames so much anymore. It looks more like time spent together with purposeful reaching out and wrapping my arm around their shoulder, etc.
  • We read together, often. Kids snuggle in on each side of me. We do it as part of school, and not part of school. They sit alongside us in church and snuggle. This is not just something I do with my little ones as they’re learning to read, but with all of our children as they grow and mature. The books we read together go deeper and deeper, and it gives us a chance to sit together, connect about larger ideas, and grow alongside one another (this year, my 12 year old and I have been reading through Thomas Sowell’s classic, Basic Economics and had some amazing conversations as a result).
  • With our big ones, as they are just 10 & 12, we are slowly, purposefully, including them in our adult conversations. They hear us talk about complex things — social issues, controversies– in the culture & community, and how God views these things. We are still cautious with some topics, but increasingly, they enter into our conversations and occasionally offer their thoughts and perspective on things.
  • We play spades with them, and other games, and laugh and make memories.
  • While we are serious about insuring adequate sleep, which means firm bedtimes (even for older kiddos), they get to stay up late from time to time & we’ll spend time together… playing games, watching a video, hanging out just the 4 (or 5) of us.
  • I teach them to cook, and they have each become more competent in the kitchen and completely confident in cooking certain meals all on their own (spaghetti & meatballs, cornbread and milk). Of the older two, one of them is more bent toward meals, and one is more bent toward treats/desserts, so they each bless our family in different ways as they take on new skills. (My oldest recently remarked, while making a lemon bundt cake with a citrus glaze, “I feel like I’m on Masterchef Junior or something.”)


We try to make these things part of our daily lives… it’s not easy. It takes time, intentionality, creativity, and some self-denial on our part, but it’s a good thing to invest in our kids’ lives.

It’s like Deuteronomy 6:6-9 talks about:

“these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

This is life together… all through life, all along the way, talking about the Lord, loving each other, spending time together, knowing one another better.

It does look different as they get older (and I’m sure it will look different still as they get even older than they are now), but affectionate, enjoyable time together is still an important of our time with our children, even while we raise younger ones.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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8 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Great post. I’m still trying to figure out (a) what to do with baby when I try to read to the other kids, (b) how to read to the littles when the older ones are doing school, since that is when it works best but can be distracting for those doing school since we’re all in the same room, (c) how to find books that satisfy all age levels AND not be reading all day. We also let each of our kids stay up “late” (15-20 min) alone with Dad & Mom on weekend evenings. They love that time by themselves and never forget which is their day.

    • Jess Connell says:

      The “what to do with the baby/toddler” is an ongoing learning process. Each child is delighted by different things… but for us, that often looks like carefully using pack and plays, blanket time, quiet boxes (lacing beads /magnet toys /duplos /potato heads), pulling the toddler up to sit beside us, & utilizing snack times & nap times carefully. At times, I’ve worked in read alouds during meals, while they’re all still and have their mouths full.

      As far as reading to the littles while the bigs are doing school, having the older kids move to a reading chair in a corner, to the kitchen table, to their bed for silent reading, etc., can be some ways to tackle that.

      As far as how to find books that satisfy all age levels…well… there’s occasionally a “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” but the truth is that the more wide-spread our ages are, the more difficult this becomes. I like books like Heaven For Kids, where I can read for a bit, then set it down and talk it through at various ages, but even with books like that, the 4 year old just isn’t going to get or be into books that that 12 year old is, and vice-versa. So I think we just have to muddle through and do as well as we can. Carefully-chosen poetry and Bible reading can be good for all ages.

      I like your idea about each kid getting to stay up “late” with mom/dad. That sounds like a fun treat.

  2. Wendy says:

    Your post makes me think of the opposite of doing the things you have shared. The opposite would be to desire isolation. To want to cook alone, run errands alone & read alone. To not always have a child underfoot….. This is a real temptation for parents. Proverbs 18: 1 “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Oh man. True.

      And I will say– I don’t think time alone is always “off-limits”– as a large family mom, even as an extrovert, I find that my brain and body are in hyper-drive much of the time.

      I don’t want someone who’s overwhelmed to feel guilty for craving some occasional, solid alone time.

      A friend of mine, who homeschools & also has a large family with a large age range, said her pastor counseled her husband to carve out a 4-6 hour window every week to give her to use however she pleases. Her husband didn’t understand just how over-taxed her day-to-day life was, and him giving her that breather each week gave her a chance to jump back into those daily demands with renewed vigor and joy.

      We can’t all do that (even with a very loving & sacrificial husband, that’s not been normative for me), but I don’t think it’s wrong to desire time to yourself.

      So, yeah, I wouldn’t want this to be a call to rigidity in regard to being together every moment. We *are* to deny self, we *are* to (like Christ) have a heart that sympathetically turns toward the people around us who are needy and clamoring for our time. And yet, Christ got away for restorative solitude & prayer too.

      Thanks for furthering the discussion, Wendy. :)

      • Wendy says:

        I am personally tempted to over isolate. It is something the Lord is showing me this week, so your post resonated with my own struggle against selfishness. Thanks for clarifying : )

        • Laura says:

          I am also tempted to over isolate myself, Wendy. I am a die-hard introvert and it becomes a matter of selfishness with me. I understand you! That being said, just this last week, I felt myself literally falling apart at the seams and I honestly think it was a bit of burn-out from not making time for myself. I think as Christian moms we’re told that it’s selfish to take ‘me-time’ but for an introvert like me, it is absolutely imperative that I take some time to regroup and refresh myself by being alone. I think that is different than spending hours and hours at a spa or shopping and ignoring our kids. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong though with having some time, either each day, or each week to just remember that I’m ‘me’ as well as a mom. Even just strolling quietly around a library for an hour by myself once a week and finding a new stack of books does wonders for my soul.

          Sorry, I know this is a complete rabbit trail from what the post is actually about, but I had the same thoughts as Wendy and it’s really been on my mind lately, so I felt the need to ‘spill’ :)

      • Stephanie says:

        I really like how you explained this. Very wise words. I usually take all 5 of my kids to the store so on the rare occasion my husband is home I take advantage of going by myself. I also use a quiet time in the afternoons to get a few minutes to myself so feel recharged for the rest of the day. But at the same time I need to be cautious not to want too much time to myself and be selfish.

  1. April 29, 2016


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