These twenty-one family bonding activities will bring your family together and build cohesion – often while having fun!
It’s a modern-day scene: after work and school, your family runs around to kids activities, errands, quickly eats dinner, the kids complete their homework, and before you know it, it’s bedtime.
Research shows that a strong parent/child relationship is essential for children’s wellbeing and behavior. But in our hectic lives, trying to find time to bond as a family can be challenging. Which means we have to be more intentional than ever to make it happen.
Here are twenty-one bonding activities your family can do together:
Sometimes family bonding activities can be special outings, but they don’t have to be. Even everyday or weekly activities can help bring us closer to our kids.
Have a family game night
Playing board games as a family can be a fun way to spend time together. It also brings out everyone’s personality, starts unexpected conversations (and goofiness), and can help kids work through self-doubt and confidence depending on the outcome of the game.
If you’re looking for suggestions for the best family games for all ages, look no further than this list! These games have been tried and tested and get top ratings from a family that does little else with its free time besides playing board games.
Spending time outside is beneficial for everyone – adults and kids alike. It can lift moods, create a sense of wonder, and provides the perfect space to burn energy and be active.
During the summer, families can go swimming, go on a hike (and geocache), go camping, spend time on a boat, or visit an outdoor attraction such as a zoo. Even a simple picnic can bring the family together or on special occasions, attend an outdoor concert together.
In the winter, if temperatures reach freezing and below, ice skating, skiing, sledding and snow tubing are fun family activities. Or even just simply building a snowman when it snows. Hiking can also happen in the winter, although snowshoes may be necessary at times.
Get the Kids Outside is a great resource for inspiration and ideas for getting kids and the family outdoors.
Cook or bake together
Cooking or baking with kids is always a fun activity. Kids enjoy participating in something grown-ups typically do – especially when there’s a delicious reward at the end!
Besides, teaching kids to cook is a life skill that will set them up for success later in life. Knowing how to cook leads to healthier eating and it often saves money over prepared meals or takeout dinners. Additionally, cooking can become a relaxing and creative pastime after a busy day.
See related: Teach Kids to Cook by Age and Ability
Hold regular family meetings
Coming together once a week for a meeting is one of the best ways to bring more cohesion to your family.
Family meetings provide a forum to work together on challenges the family, siblings or a family member is facing (for example, not cleaning up dirty dishes or keeping a shared bathroom clean). It’s also a time to discuss family rules, make sure everyone is aware of the family’s schedule, and plan meals and any special family outings.
Children also gain numerous life skills during these meetings such as learning to collaborate, communicate, and problem-solve with family members. And family meetings that allow children to play a part in family dynamics, as opposed to being bystanders, give them a sense of belonging and purpose that builds self-esteem.
See related: Family Meeting Toolkit
Eat dinner together (whenever possible)
Eating dinner together has been shown to be beneficial for family bonding and children’s self-esteem. Sharing meals while sitting around a table provides the perfect opportunity to spur conversation and get to know one another better. Kids feel a greater sense of security and belonging when family meals are routine.
Need a few prompts to get your dinner conversation started? These 125+ Family Conversation Cards can help. Each one contains a lighthearted question any family member can answer. Kids will have fun learning more about their parents while parents are bound to discover something they didn’t know about their children.
Do chores together
Doing chores together might not seem like a logical family bonding activity. After all, chores certainly aren’t associated with doing something fun and enjoyable.
But the teamwork it takes to get a house clean can build family cohesiveness…if chores are presented to kids in a way that’s empowering and builds their sense of belonging. (Click here to see the best way to introduce chores to your kids). And chores can be a bit more fun if everyone works to music or kids know a fun family activity follows the clean-up.
Research also shows that doing chores as a child leads to greater academic, emotional, and professional success. See: Why Kids Need Chores to Be Successful in Life to learn more.
Doing volunteer work as a family often exposes kids to the world outside their home and community. It also teaches kids life skills such as working as a team, interacting with people different than oneself, and problem-solving. Volunteering has also been shown to improve the happiness and self-esteem of those who do it. And it lets kids know that they can make a difference when they hear about problems and societal issues in the news.
If you’re looking for volunteer ideas for your family, this resource should help: 4 Family Volunteer Opportunities: Bond While Doing Good
Organize special outings
Special outings, either as an entire family or one-on-one with a parent and child, can be a great bonding opportunity, often creating lasting memories. Outings can include trips to a museum, aquarium, historic site, bowling, or doing an activity outside. It can also be as simple as taking your young child to a playground and getting ice cream afterwards.
With our busy lives, it can be easy to forget to make time for special outings. Rather than trying to fit these outings in spur of the moment, it helps to schedule them well in advance.
Create Family Traditions
Family traditions – around holidays or certain times of the year – unite families and create positive experiences and memories.
Traditions can be as simple as eating certain foods on holidays, going apple picking every fall, or having a special cadence to someone’s birthday.
Family traditions tend to be handed down from generation to generation, but it’s a fun bonding experience to also create new traditions. If you’re looking for new family traditions ideas see: 40 Fun Family Tradition Ideas to Steal ASAP
Other family bonding activities you can do together:
There are endless ways to bond as a family. Here are twelve other ideas:
- Go camping in your backyard or at a campground
- Visit a museum, aquarium, or other cultural sights together
- Explore a nearby town
- Go bird watching together
- Go on a picnic
- Have a family movie night
- Create a family photo album together
- Work on a craft project together
- Random acts of kindness
- Do a scavenger hunt together
- Have an outdoor scrimmage
Good rules to abide by during family time:
True family bonding doesn’t happen unless we’re spending quality time together. It’s best to have the following rules when family time occurs:
No cell phones or electronic devices
This includes parents! All cell phones, iPads, and laptops should be placed in another room if an activity is happening at home. Outside of the home, everyone should agree that cell phone use should be kept to a minimum. Cell phones should only be used for essential calls and texts or when looking up directions or information relevant to the activity.
No work or homework to distract
Both work and homework need to be put on hold when family bonding time happens. Which is why the next rule is important.
Inform all family members well in advance so everyone is fully available
Let everyone know well in advance when the activity will occur so they can be prepared and free from distractions. If it’s a big outing, a week or more may be necessary. More casual activities, occurring over the weekend, could be discussed and planned on a Friday night or at a family meeting.
Kerry Flatley is the owner and author of Self-Sufficient Kids. She’s a certified positive discipline parent educator and the mother of two girls. In addition to this training, Kerry has read numerous books and articles about how to raise strong, independent kids and put these ideas into practice with her own children. Kerry also holds a BA in economics, an MBA, and a certificate in financial planning.