Why This Five Minute Playtime Hack Is Trending Among Busy Moms

Studies show that just five minutes of "special time" can help you bond with your child and makes them more likely to listen to you in the future.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated October 19, 2022
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Image: Dmitry Galaganov | Shutterstock

Moms today are busier than ever. Managing childcare, working, cooking, cleaning, extracurriculars and so much more. With all the things that moms have to do, it’s hard to find time for those things that you really want to do—like playing and bonding with your children.

Often when moms can’t devote the time they want to their child’s growth, they end up feeling guilty. But now, a new science-backed trend is helping more mothers lay down the guilt and get in that critical bonding time with their kids, even if it’s just for five minutes.

You may have heard of “Special Time” before from psychologists, pediatricians or social media moms. The growing trend refers to a type of child-led play where parents spend at least five uninterrupted minutes with their child, just listening and not leading.

After a day filled with directions and orders like “brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, hold my hand,” this chance for your child to lead the conversation on what to do not only to helps you bond but has also been proven to make your child more likely to listen to you in future situations.

“Special time becomes a tool that disrupts that cycle and increases the positive interactions, increases opportunities for play, increases opportunities for closeness between a parent and a child. And as that closeness, that attachment, that bond is building, it actually increases the likelihood that a child is going to listen or value what a parent has to say,” Roger Harrison, a pediatric psychologist, shared with NPR’s Life Kit

So how can you take advantage of this trending play phenomenon while balancing a busy schedule? It can be as simple as taking five minutes to draw, play with dolls, or cook something in an imaginary kitchen. Just join in any playtime activity that doesn’t have a wrong and right way to do things. The important part—don’t ask questions or give commands.

To maximize your “special time,” researchers point to the five points of P.R.I.D.E.

  • Praise Give enthusiastic and specific feedback as you play together, rather than a general “You are doing a great job.” Examples include, “I love the colors you are using in this picture” or “You are so good at brushing barbie’s hair gently.”
  • Reflect Verbally repeat back what your child says during playtime. This shows your child that you are listening and can encourage them to use communication skills you’d like to hear more of.
  • Imitate Imitating what your child is doing during play, like stacking Legos or building a castle, reinforces that you are going along with their wishes and they are in charge here.
  • Describe Describing out loud what your child is doing as they play shows them you are paying attention and helps hold their attention on the activity as well.
  • Enthusiasm Showing that you are excited to play by smiling, clapping or using positive words helps your child feel more confident in their abilities and more comfortable sharing them with you.

Interested in learning more about play? Check out these Different Stages of Play and How They Help Kids Learn.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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