We regularly get comments on what awesome kids we have. They’re intelligent, talented, friendly and polite. We are their parents (not their friends) so we put our priority on making sure we are raising them right. We provide tools and offer ideas to empower our children so they can stand up for themselves, learn the value of money, be ready for adulthood and more Yes, we have hiccups here and there because they’re kids. Teenage girls to be exact. Thankfully, those problems are the exception not the rule. We get along well because talk to our kids. We’re engaged with them and have been since the beginning.
Family bonding time is important to developing a good relationship with your kids while still taking their well-being into consideration. I’ve watched parents try to be friends with their kids and make decisions based on what they think will make their children happy. There are some parents I know who place a higher emphasis on their own quality time than family time with the kids. That sometimes means mom is out with her friends and dad is hanging out somewhere else while the kids are home with a sitter. If you want to forge fantastic relationships with your kids, be involved in their lives. Here are some ideas for family bonding to help you navigate these waters.
Get crafty together
For the love of glue, glitter and paint… create crafts together! Scott and the girls always do some kind of project when I’m traveling and it continues to strengthen their bonds. You can paint rocks to deliver around town, turn old chalk pieces into sidewalk chalk paint or make something that supports your hobbies. Of course, there are also traditional crafts like crocheting, embroidery and sewing.
Find common TV or movie interests
Before you freak out about me saying you should sit in front of a TV or big screen together, hear me out. If you watch shows as a family, it gives you something to talk about besides school. You also can discuss plot lines, favorite parts and share excitement about upcoming movies or TV episodes. Even when your kids are young, you can find some show that you both enjoy watching. If you aren’t a fan of current children’s programming, find a timeless classic like Tom and Jerry or Little House on the Prairie. You could even watch some current hobby or cooking show. Movies are easy regardless of your child’s age because even features targeted at children have subtle content and Easter Eggs designed specifically for the adults in the crowd.
Play video games together
Yes, video games are a good form of family bonding. We’ve played a variety of titles together on the XBox and Wii including Mario Party, Viva Pinata Party Animals, Fusion Frenzy, Mario Galaxy, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Super Mario Bros. Scott and Madison bond over a shared love for Overwatch or No Man’s Sky and play games like Diablo as well. They regularly strike up conversations with each other about the latest game updates and strategies. You could even host an outdoor video game tournament!
Whether you’re baking cookies, making sushi or preparing an entire meal, time in the kitchen is not only quality time but you’re also helping your child learn a critical life skill. A side bonus is that kids are more willing to try foods they otherwise wouldn’t be excited about. Start with something easy when they’re little then when they get older they can help research new recipes!
Share a hobby
Find a hobby that you can share with your kids. If there’s something you’re interested in, chances are there’s a hobbyist group, collector’s club, Meetup event, activity or opportunity to participate in. You could start a collection of some kind such as rocks, stamps, coins, Disneyana, sports collectables, comic books or diecast cars. Engage in some kind of activity such as model building, photography, gardening, metal detecting or cooking. Simply find something that is interesting to both kids and adults and learn about it or work on it together. The choices are endless!
Attend a convention
If there’s a hobby you’re interested in, there’s a good chance there’s a convention for it. Some are small and local while others are national. Off the top of my head, I can think of several conventions we’ve taken the girls to over the years. While most are focused on activities for adults, there are always activities targeted at welcoming young collectors and hobbiests into the fold. We’ve found children’s activities at the National Hot Wheels Convention, coin shows, sports memorabilia conventions, rock and mineral shows, board game conventions and car shows.
Exercise as a family
A healthy family is a happy family. Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes. When the girls were young, we played soccer and Frisbee in the street in front of our house. You can walk or go jogging, play a sport together, do strength training or even take dance classes together. You can spring for a gym membership or find inexpensive or free activities outside the gym setting. My personal favorites are long walks and family bike rides!
Visit a museum, zoo or aquarium
There are children’s museums all around the country and those make a great start for family time in this type of environment. Expand your horizons as your kids get older. Visit museums of all types including art, music, history, cultural and casually walk through the displays. Talk about what you’re feeling, seeing and learning. Take this same approach as you stroll through zoos and aquariums. Read the signs, learn the history and talk.
Cheer on a sports team
If you have a local minor league team, buy tickets and regularly attend as a family. Minor league events typically offer opportunities for kids to get involved. We’re fortunate enough to have a minor league baseball team in addition to a minor league hockey team! Tickets are affordable so it’s something you can do regularly without breaking the bank. You can also watch professional teams on TV together. In addition to attending a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, the girls have learned all about football and join Scott and I to cheer on our favorite teams and players each week. We’ve watched the Olympics and enjoy a variety of sports including hockey, baseball (Go Cubs!) and football to name a few.
Attend a concert
Pick a concert and attend. Don’t get hung up on the type or level because music concerts are gold. Let this sink in for a minute. Memories are often tied to our senses so any type of musical performance is going to create memories. We’ve attended a variety of concerts and performances with the kids including Weird Al Yankovic, Blue Man Group, Katy Perry, 2 Cellos, Gaelic Storm, Piano Guys, Yo-Yo Ma, Rocktopia, I Love the 90s, symphonies, bands and even school-level performances.
Go on a road trip
Find a place you want to visit and plan to go. Discuss as a family what everyone wants to get out of the experience and everyone becomes emotionally invested in the trip. But it’s not just about the destination, it’s also about the journey. Make plans to stop along the way and see historical landmarks, beautiful scenery or visit unique stores. Laugh, be silly and be adventurous. Most important: create memories and enjoy finding common interests to talk about in the future.
Visit an amusement park or water park
Weeeeeee! Family trips to amusement parks and water parks are sure to create happy memories. Plan the trip together. Discuss which rides and attractions are on the priority list. Go on the scary rides together. Don’t be afraid to get wet on the water rides together. Make use of the time as you stand in line… together. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) While planning a trip to Disney often requires you to budget time as well as money, you can make it a shorter trip by visiting regional parks.
Take a cruise
If you plan carefully and in advance, you can find affordable cruises or special promotions on cruises. Attend the shows. Learn to make towel art or sing karaoke. Add ice cream to hot chocolate for a late night snack. Dance, swim, explore and relax. Make the most of your cruise by planning for time both on and off the cruise ship. Of course, be lax with your normal rules. Bedtime? No thanks! Eat your veggies? Meh. Check out these tips on what to pack for your cruise.
Attend Family Space Camp
Trips to Huntsville, Alabama have always been part of our life because that’s where Scott’s family lives. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that we had the opportunity to attend Family Space Camp. Lasting only a few days, it’s a short experience. But I cannot emphasize how cool it was. We learned about being astronauts and space exploration. We participated in team activities, shot rockets, ate in the mess hall and stayed in the dorms on the premises.
Play board games as a family
Last but not least, plan regular game nights. Or game days. Or game weekends. Simply put, play board games. Invite friends or neighbors. Find a game meetup. Attend game conventions. Steve Jackson’s quote is one of my favorites because it sums up what I feel. Not only do games teach kids so much, but they allow families to bond and that’s the best part of all of it.
You don’t need to incorporate all these ideas, but the more you do together, the stronger your relationships will be. It’s important to remember that kids need to be part of the discussions, the planning and the conversations. It makes them realize they are part of the experience and not just along for whatever mom and dad have planned.
What is your favorite way to bond with family members?