When you think about self-care, you might immediately think of luxuriating in a bubble bath or curling up with a good book…in other words, solo activities. But with the whole family confined under one roof right now—and probably all equally needing a little R & R—you might be wondering how you can unwind together. Piling the whole brood into the tub probably won’t be the Zen-like experience you were hoping for…however, that doesn’t mean self-care and family time are mutually exclusive! There are lots of activities you can do together that not only build your family bond, but also help you collectively relax.

Go for a Family Walk

Yes, adults enjoy fresh air, but kids don’t just like it…they need it. While you’ll want to take extra precautions when you venture outdoors right now (avoid crowded areas, maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others), a daily walk might be just what your family needs to feel refreshed and restored. In fact, choosing a time to stroll when your neighborhood streets are most empty could add to the fun: Consider an evening walk before bedtime. Use it as an opportunity to point out sights they might not see during the daytime (like the twinkling stars and gleaming moon). Or, if your kiddos are early birds, try to catch the sunrise, and make a memory you’ll never forget!  

Practice “Magic Breathing”

Though your little ones likely aren’t going to be up for a marathon meditation, they can still evoke a sense of peace with a few sloooow breaths. I like to teach toddlers what I call magic breathing…and it’s something parents can do as well!

Here’s how to do it: At a time when your tot is already a bit relaxed (before a nap or after eating) let your him watch you as you slowly inhale through your nose (silently count to 5) then slowly exhale through your nose (for another silent 5 counts). Make a little whooshy sound as the air flows in and out, and never hold your breath. Then, say, “Breathe with Mommy.” Start by leading him through a couple of fast breaths (2 counts in, 2 counts out), using your whooshy sound and hand motions to guide him.  

You may want to designate a “magic” place to practice magic breathing. Include “magic” pillows to sit on, and make the space extra-special by taping pictures of “magic” butterflies, trees, or scenic locales on the wall. Soon, just sitting in this “magic” place will remind everyone to relax and breathe.


Reading feeds your child’s brain…and in addition to making your tot smarter, it gives you a sweet opportunity to snuggle close and join your hearts. When done at the end of the day, storytime can help the whole family feel close, slow down, and ease into bedtime.  As a bonus, I find that telling stories with a moral is a great way to sneak in lessons about character (I call this planting seeds of kindness).

Play Together

One of the biggest myths of childhood is that play is just frivolous entertainment for kids. Active play is actually more important than academics during the toddler years, and—here’s the real surprise—play is important for grown-ups too! Play thrills a tot’s senses, helps him master movement, sharpens thinking, builds self-confidence, stimulates the immune system, and even improves sleep. And when Mom or Dad gets down on the floor to play with their kids, they benefit as well. Researchers are finding that play is a stress-reliever and contributes to overall wellbeing for adults. So, go ahead and pick up that toy truck or put on those fairy wings and start playing in the name of self-care! 

Share Daily Peaks and Pits

Creating an environment where your family can honestly express their emotions is so important during stressful times, and feeling understood is a crucial aspect of self-care. But when you sit around the dinner table, you may find that your kids clam up as soon as the words, how was your day? come out of your mouth. Instead, make a game out of sharing. With “Peaks and Pits” (sometimes called High/Low or Roses & Thorns), each member of the family will take turns sharing the day’s Peak (the best part of the day) and Pit (the worst part). Routines help kids feel safe, happy, and smart, and making this practice part of yours has the added benefit of starting a conversation that could bring you closer together!

A version of this article originally appeared on Kidspot.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.