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Want to know the secret to a happier family? Strong family bonds. We’ve heard the advice a million times. Build strong family connections and life will become a lot easier. But family bonding time doesn’t always happen naturally. Busy schedules, and the demands of our lives, make it hard to know which way to turn.
The good news is that building those bonds is easier than you think. In this post, I can show you 12 essential practices that will help you build the family connections you crave.
Estimated reading time: 20 minutes
In a hurry? Here are our top 6 favorite family bonding activities.
- Enjoy some collaborative art projects that are guaranteed to help you connect.
- Learn how to use some simple secret codes. Teach them to your kids and send coded messages back and forth.
- Do something kind together. Working with your children to help others makes memories and builds connections. Here’s a list of suggestions for different ages.
- Enjoy some family activities that are designed to encourage a positive attitude in your kids. How’s that for a win?
- Use daily positive affirmations to encourage your kids. Here’s 70 suggestions to help get you started.
- Find easy ways to spend time with family. Make a list, so you are always ready to go. Here’s 26 suggestions to help get you started.
Building Family Bonds: The Ultimate Guide.
I held my squiggly 3-year-old on my lap. We were at a wedding and he was fidgeting. I hugged him gently and I whispered into his ear.
“I am so lucky to be your mum.” My son immediately stopped fidgeting, leaned into the hug, and relaxed.
Ah those sweet moments of connection with our children that make our hearts melt. They make all the hard work of parenting worthwhile, don’t they? One of the best things about living in a family is that you get many, many opportunities to build those family relationships and connect with your kids everyday.
Are you ready to find out more about strengthening family bonds? Use the table of contents to jump straight to the section you want.
- Building Family Bonds: The Ultimate Guide.
- What is a Family Bond?
- How Do You create family Bonds? 12 Essential Practices
- Watch for the Invitations to Connect
- Take Advantage of the Small Moments Throughout the Day
- 30 Quick & Powerful Ways to Bond with your Kids Every Day
- Create a family Mission Statement
- Hold Family Meetings
- Schedule Time For Family Fun
- Make and Maintain Traditions
- Turn Off your Electronics When You Are With Your Kids
- Eat Meals Together
- Do Something Kind Together
- Do Chores Together
- Laugh Together (A Lot)
- Work On Communication
- 101 Family Bonding Activities
What is a Family Bond?
Simply put, a family bond is the strong connection that exists between family members. A close family bond creates a safe place in an uncertain world. It is built from myriads of positive experiences that begin when we are a babies and continue throughout our lives. It gives us a belief in ourselves and the strength to go out into the world.
Family bonding occurs when a family spends time together meaningfully. It can come in small moments of connection during the day. It is built when you spend time with your kids laughing over something silly, cuddling, and learning how to play their favorite games. Daily rituals of eating meals together, stories, hugs all contribute to that sense of connection. When children are asked what they really want from their parents. They give the same answers time and again. Your children really love being with you. All they want is your time. They just want to spend time with you.
Ready To Have Fun With Your Kids? Sign up and you’ll receive an email each day (for a week). each one contains a simple activity that you can enjoy with your kids.
How Do You create family Bonds? 12 Essential Practices
Watch for the Invitations to Connect
When I look back on my boy’s childhood, I see how often I was invited to give the gift of time. They wanted to spend time with me. I am so glad that I accepted their invitations. They wanted to share their world with me. What a gift.
The invitations will come in all kinds of ways.
- Read me a story
- Can we play (insert name of game)?
- Will you play with me?
- Can you help me with my Lego?
- Giving you a blow-by-blow description of the book, they are reading.
- Talking excitedly, about the things that excite them.
- Ranting about the things that really upset them.
So, whether you are invited to help put together a Lego model, make a fort in the bush, dress up and have a tea party, or listen attentively as they tell you about their favorite book in excruciating detail- the wonderful truth is that your children actually want to be with you. Every-Single-Day. All you have to do is show up.
It has been noted that actions speak louder than words. Truth is, I have found that during many situations in life, words are just noise… and actions are the ONLY things that speak.
Take Advantage of the Small Moments Throughout the Day
We often think it’s the huge, epic events that will make all the difference in our parenting. But actually, it’s the small things that add up to make your kids feel valued. And when we do those, we’ll feel like better parents.
Yes, our days are full and our to-do list are long. But we can start with those small family moments of attention and love. It’s that simple!
30 Quick & Powerful Ways to Bond with your Kids Every Day
- Greet them with a hug first thing in the morning.
- Mention the things you appreciate about them. Do this OFTEN!
- Tell your child one thing you really like about him or her.
- Each morning great them with a smile, a hug, and a word of affirmation.
- Make some time to catch up when everyone gets home.
- Rub noses with your child
- Have a silly face competition
- Give them a hug
- Tell a story from your childhood
- Rub your child’s back
- Watch the sunset together
- Say, “I’m so glad I got to be your Mom/Dad.”
- Brag about your child when you know they can hear
- Make up a secret handshake
- Smile when your child comes into the room
- Make silly noises when helping them do something
- Tell a really corny joke
- Make eye contact when they talk to you.
- Give a high five
- Catch your child’s eye and wink at them. (This is great thing to do if you are with a large group of people.)
- Tell your child what you like about them
- Squeeze their hands 3 times (secret code for I love you).
- Blow them a kiss.
- Pretend to catch their kiss and hold it against your heart.
- Whisper words of affirmation into their ears when you tuck them into bed.
- Say them again when you give them a hug.
- Send them a text.
- Laugh at their jokes.
Download my free Little Book of Connections from the library. I’ve gathered together 14 really simple ways of connecting with your kids into a mini eBook for you. You’ll find it with the e-books.
Create a family Mission Statement
Here’s the thing, a lot of us see the words mission statements and think about organizations of corporations. But mission statements can be helpful for families as well.
“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.”
In a nutshell, a mission statement helps you to figure out your family priorities. It can remind family members what they love most about each other. It helps define what is truly important to you family.
Don’t forget to try to capture the spirit of your family. Mission statements don’t need to be formal and stuffy. They can be funny and lighthearted. Above all they should be loving. The best part? Creating a mission statement together will provide some fabulous family bonding time.
Hold Family Meetings
What is a family meeting? In a nutshell, it is scheduled event that gives you and your kids the chance to sit down together. It provides an opportunity to check in with each other, air grievances and talk about problems. Likewise, it also gives you a chance to talk about vacations, create a family bucket list, discuss an upcoming holiday, or plan something special.
Family meetings are scheduled family bonding time (although any member of the family can call an emergency meeting if they feel the need). Think of them as a date to help you get organized. They are the perfect venue to celebrate success and give support or affirmation.
The biggest bonus is that each person in turn can express their views. This becomes increasingly important as you kids grow, and you have to tackle tricky subjects like screen time, curfews, and dating.
For more information on how to hold successful family meetings, check out these tips from Big Life Journal.
Schedule Time For Family Fun
We all lead busy lives but having fun together on a regular basis is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. Find simple activities that you can do together and then block off time to do them.
Playing with your kids is a wonderful way to enjoy some family bonding time. My printable Play Activity Cards make it so easy. All the activities use household items and don’t need any preparation. Download your set today.
- Don’t try to do too much. Keep it manageable, maybe once a week. If that doesn’t work, try for once a month.
- Create a schedule of fun events at one of your family meetings. Make sure to include indoor and outdoor ideas, so you are prepared no matter the weather. We’ve created a huge bucket list at the end of this post. Bring those ideas to your kids and see what they think. Ask them if they have any other ideas.
- Keep things simple. Most times the easiest activities are the best- blanket fort anyone?
- If something doesn’t work the way you expected, or interest wanes, that is ok. Simply cross that activity off the list for now and try something else.
Make and Maintain Traditions
Want to know a secret? Family traditions are a parent’s secret weapon when it comes to strengthening family bonds! They build strong connections, give kids a sense of identity and belonging, and build memories that will last a lifetime.
Traditions can be tied to a particular celebration, season, or holiday. Or they can be some daily rituals you follow. Things like
- A bedtime routine
- Snacks and chat when your kids get home from school.
- Having each family member talk about their successes of the day at supper
Related: Need more information on family traditions and tips for creating them? Read our post on family traditions
Turn Off your Electronics When You Are With Your Kids
Have you ever seen the crestfallen faces of a child as they desperately try to get the attention of a parent engrossed with their device? It is heartbreaking. On one occasion I saw a little girl fighting back tears, because she simply couldn’t get her dad’s attention away from his phone.
There is no judgment here. I do not know what was going on in this family’s life. Maybe there was a family emergency. Perhaps it had just been one of those really difficult parenting days and dad desperately needed a break. For all I knew, there was something going on at work that simply couldn’t be ignored. I get that. But I was still saddened by the lost opportunity for a wonderful connection between a little girl and her dad.
The trouble is when we choose our phone over our loved ones we are sending a message.
- You are not as important as my electronic device
- I am not interested in what you have to say
- My relationship with you is not my top priority
I know that this could not be further from the truth. But think of it from your child’s perspective. They don’t understand what might be going on in your life. All they see is that the device wins.
Read this powerful post A Letter to my sons- (the real reason I say no to electronics)
Eat Meals Together
Shared meals help children feel stable and secure. They automatically provide family bonding time. Parents can role model healthy food choices. Children practice live conversation, a skill that will stand them in good stead. It helps create community in the home and demonstrates an active commitment to the well-being of their children.
Ideally you would be able to do this daily, but I know that is not always possible. It can be any meal or even a snack. The important thing is to eat together, as a family, without any distractions.
Further reading: Did you know that studies suggest a positive link between shared family meals and adolescent health and well-being? They have been related to better nutritional intake and a decreased risk for unhealthy weight control practices, substance use, unsafe sexual activity, and suicidal involvement in teens.
Do Something Kind Together
Reaching out to help others is one of the easiest family bonding activities going. Working with your children makes memories and gives families a shared experience. It also happens to be good for us.
Did you know that giving to others makes children happy? You might think that receiving would make children the happiest. In fact, studies indicate the complete opposite. Children gain more happiness from giving rather than getting.
As an extra bonus, you get to see your kid’s empathy, kindness and generosity growing in leaps and bounds.
This Kindness & Community Kit is packed with activities to promote kindness and enhance children’s capacity to care about others.
There is no end of things that you can do together. One of the simplest activities is to raise money to make a micro-loan. You can help your neighbors, put up encouraging posters, or join volunteers in a larger project.
For more ideas- Check out our age-by-age kindness guide for busy families.
Do Chores Together
Do chores together? Seriously? Why not?
Cleaning the house and tending the yard must be done, so why not do it as a team? After all it is a great excuse to bring the family together. Besides doing chores together gets them done much faster and teaches kids to work together.
Work as a team on one task and foster a sense of togetherness. Make it more fun by playing energetic music. It can also be helpful to plan a small reward for when the job has been done. You could do something fun like go for ice cream or watch a movie.
For more on getting your kids excited about chores, read this
Laugh Together (A Lot)
Let’s face it, we can all do with more laughter in our lives. There is enough stress in the world without needing to be serious all the time. Our kids love to be silly and children’s giggles must be one of the best sounds in the world.
Perhaps more importantly, laughter provides instant connection. I call it relationship glue. There is nothing quite like a shared joke or moment of silliness.
My boys are all adults now. I love to hear them reminisce about their childhood. It is always interesting to hear things were important to them looking back. Want to know what they talk about the most? It is some of the sillier moments and jokes they shared together.
So, try to build in laughter every day. It doesn’t matter if you share some really corny jokes, watch funny YouTube videos, or read some funny books. Just encourage shared laughter any way you can.
Need some more ideas? We’ve got 15 crazy ideas that are bound to get the whole family laughing.
Work On Communication
I think we can all agree that communication is one of the basic building blocks of any relationship. In fact, communication is the basic building block of any relationship.
Family communication is particularly important because it can have a direct impact on our families. When a family doesn’t communicate well, family members can start to disengage and the bonds that bind us together are broken.
Of course, communication involves both talking AND listening. When it comes to our children, listening might just be more important.
We have all had times when we have not felt heard, or worse, been ignored. It feels awful. Conversely, there have been times when we have felt heard and understood. I know which one I prefer.
Don’t you find that when you feel heard, you are less angry and more open to resolving problems? Feeling heard builds trust and relationship. Being ignored destroys relationship and trust. Fortunately communication is a skill we can learn and develop. I would suggest this book and this one.
101 Family Bonding Activities
- Learn a secret code and send messages
“Secret Codes For Kids” introduces 5 ciphers. Each code has an instruction sheet and an activity page for practice. Includes tips for parents .
- Design and build machines out of Lego
- Ask one specific question about their day.
- Play their favorite game, or read their favorite book, for the hundred millionth time!
- Make some love clips and brighten someone’s day
- Tell them stories about your childhood.
- Leave love messages in their room or in their lunch box.
- Tell your kids about the day they were born
- Play Pooh Sticks
- Share a treat
- Make a blanket fort and hang out in it
- Stop for 15 minutes and play with them.
- Write a love note.
- Try an easy art project
- Raid the kitchen cupboards for pots and spoons and forming a marching band
- Have a dance party
- Plant something
- Play I-spy
- Try a science experiment
- Look at old family photos
- Go play outside
- Play a board game. You could even make your own!
- Have a staring contest
- Bake something together
- Learn how to play your child’s favorite video game
- Create some land art.
- Have an EPIC game of hide and seek
- Paint a rock
- Channel your inner witch or wizard and try some magical science experiments
- Go outside and play with a ball
- Lie in the grass and find pictures in the clouds
- Decorate a large cardboard box with paint, stickers and markers
- Play hopscotch
- Turn cartwheels
- Climb a tree and jump in puddles
- Blow bubbles
- Make mud pies
- Play tag
- Go wild with colour
- Watch a family movie
- Plant some flowers
- Make a family playlist on Spotify
- Make a toy together
- Enjoy some hot chocolate or ice cream.
- Roll down a grassy bank
- Play a pen and paper game
- Chew bubble gum and see who can blow the biggest bubble
- Build a robot
- Teach your kids how to make “interesting” noises with a hand under the armpit (yes I know, but it never fails to impress!)
- Tell corny jokes
- Make a comic strip
Includes 12 different layouts, planning pages and speech bubbles /sounds effects. Super easy to use. Just print off the pages you need.
- Sing along to your kid’s favorite songs at the top of your lungs
- Build a fairy house
- Try some indoor activities
- Snuggle on the sofa and listen to a chapter from an audio book
- Draw self portraits
- Make a time capsule and bury it
- Get out some coloring books
- Build an indoor obstacle course
- Have a tie dye party
- Learn a card game
- Make and fly paper airplanes
- Make leaf or bark rubbings
- Draw with sidewalk chalk
- Make sock puppets
- Enjoy a nature scavenger hunt (grab one for free from Pinterest)
- Make a collage using glue and pictures from magazines and flyers
- Jump rope
- Play with hula hoops
- Make some shadow puppets and perform a play
- Play some simple games like Would You Rather, Never Have I Ever or Fishbowl.
- Build a sandcastle
- Make popsicles
- Make a mess on purpose
- Use our drawing prompts
Download our free Drawing Prompts from the library. Provide lots of art supplies and get creative
- Try some nature weaving
- Have a nerf gun battle or go high tech with laser guns
- Make a yarn circle, take it outside, place it on the ground and look carefully. What do you see? Move the circle somewhere else. What else do you see? If you have a magnifying glass bring it along
- Line up dominos and then watch them fall
- Learn how to do some simple magic tricks
- Enjoy some creative playdough fun. Grab some free playdough mats to help.
- Play with face paints
- Make something from an egg carton
- Build a huge tower out of blocks
- Hold a tea party
- Have a water fight
- Work on a large puzzle together
- Make story stones.
- Play at night with glow sticks.
- Have a water balloon fight. Use refillable balloons for something more eco-friendly
- Make ice cream in a bag
- Skip rocks
- Make flextangles
- Try squirt gun painting
- Use this website to make word searches and other puzzles. Put together a family puzzle book
- Create something from cardboard tubes
- Skip rocks
- Build a small world in a cardboard box
- Brainstorm ideas for a family motto. See examples here
- Make a daisy chain
- Decorate your bodies with temporary tattoos