As a caregiver, your days are action-packed from morning ‘til night. Between driving the kids to school, grocery shopping, and putting dinner on the table (not to mention taking time for yourself!), it can be easy to lose sight of spending quality time with our children.
Family bonding time is a crucial part of a child’s life. It can build their self-esteem, encourage open communication, and create a lasting emotional bond between you and your kids so that they feel safe to be themselves in any environment.1
Whether your kids are still in pull-ups or they’re in the hoodie-only phase that pre-teens can’t get enough of, we’re breaking down family bonding and providing 9 healthy family bonding activities for all ages to help you establish fruitful connections and lasting memories with your children.
What Is Family Bonding?
Some would define family bonding as the time you spend with your loved ones—and they wouldn’t be wrong. But what exactly does that entail.
While family bonding time is about connecting with kids and those you love, it’s more than that. A healthy bond creates an environment of mutual respect between you, your partner, and your children.2
Some of the characteristics of healthy family bonding can include:
- Being open-minded about your child’s interests – Your children may not always want to participate in the family bonding games or activities you’ve planned. Rather than insisting on participating in family game night, you can go with the flow and ask them to choose what they would like to do instead. This demonstrates healthy parenting habits by showing your open-mindedness about how they feel and the activities that interest them.
- Offering an inclusive and safe environment – Your home is often your child’s safe space. Offering them a place where they feel comfortable typically makes it easier to talk and connect during your family bonding activities. If their safe space is in a setting other than your home, try moving your fun activity to that location to make them feel more at ease.
- Providing privacy and boundaries – One of the main goals caregivers hope to achieve by incorporating family bonding activities is to have meaningful discussions that give them a peek into the inner workings of their child’s mind. If your child feels comfortable speaking on a certain topic, excellent! If not, it’s okay to give them their privacy as you navigate setting boundaries with kids. In time, hopefully, they’ll feel trusting enough to share more with you.
- Creating joyful memories – Family bonding also involves sparking joy in the activities you do to create lasting memories. As you’re getting ready for family bonding time, select an activity that promotes mutual joy and moments of interest for every family member involved. This can help foster a healthy connection and help you discover commonalities unique to your family.
Family Bonding Activities By Age
Some family bonding activities are enjoyed by children of all ages. Family movie nights or going for a short afternoon hike are pursuits that toddlers and teens can usually all get behind. But other family fun activities are better suited for specific age groups.
Here’s a list of 9 family bonding ideas by age that can help create a healthy relationship between you and your kids.
Family Bonding Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Often the most lively of the bunch, your energetic and intrepid 1- to 5-year-olds are sure to enjoy some of these younger children-approved family bonding activities:3
- Have a dance party – Whether you’re trying to help them jump their jiggles out before bedtime or sing their favorite nursery rhyme, you can’t go wrong with an impromptu dance party. You can even plan a more extravagant dance party ahead of time. Bring out the imaginative microphone for karaoke and dance and let them be the star of the show—but don’t be afraid to let loose and get in on the action, too!
- Build a lego creation – You can get on your child’s level with this activity, which shows them that you value the activities they love. Preschoolers can bust out the lego box and work with you to create a masterpiece (toddlers may enjoy trying Lincoln Logs). While you build, try having a conversation that focuses on them, like their day-to-day activities and interests. If they don’t want to speak on a particular topic, respect their boundaries and ease into something else. Remember you don’t have to have legos to be creative. You and your child can have fun by identifying safe house items to build or play with, too!
- Read a book together – Toddlers and preschoolers are the perfect age to instill a love of reading. Our Otter board books have a special focus on family bonding and are an excellent option when you’re working on, well—family bonding. Join Otter as they learn about building and nurturing connections with others. It’ll remind your child that they belong and they’re always loved, whether you’re together or apart.
Family Bonding Activities for Elementary-Aged Children
As your preschoolers enter the exciting world of elementary school, their imaginations take a front-row seat. You can take advantage of their creative nature with some of these family bonding activities:3
- Take turns telling stories – Take turns creating stories about any topic you want—trolls, saving a town from green gooey slime, anything your imagination can conjure. The first time around, you can start by setting the scene. Then, let your child take the reins and add to the story. Share back and forth until your story is complete. Whether you make this a nightly ritual or an annual campfire tradition (complete with s’mores), this is sure to become a favorite bonding activity for the whole family.
- Tackle a craft together – Arts and crafts are an excellent way to bond with your learner. From glitter glue to craft slime, there’s plenty to choose from. Children who’ve been introduced to Otter can work together to complete the My Family activity that ties in perfectly with your family bonding theme. After gathering markers, crayons, and scissors, you can both draw members of your family inside the heart tree. Then, they can cut out paper hearts that say “Thank you for loving me” to hand them out to family members.
- Conduct a science experiment – If you’re raising the next Albert Einstein (or simply a very inquisitive learner), they’ll surely be enthused if you suggest a science experiment. From repelling glitter with dish soap to racing balloon cars,4 you can bond with your child by participating in an activity that they find fascinating—and have a blast in the process. It also lets them know that their interests are important to you because they are what’s most significant in your world.
Family Bonding Activities for Teens
Whether you’re caring for teens or tweens (or perhaps both) these family connection activities provide an excellent opportunity to step into their world, learn more about their current likes and dislikes,5 and offer them a safe environment where they feel comfortable being themselves:3
- Play a board game – Time to dust off the board games that have been hiding in the closet. You can pick out a few of your older kids’ favorites and let them choose the first game of the night. From Monopoly to LIFE, the options are endless, and it gives everyone a taste of nostalgia and a chance to enjoy one another’s company.
- Participate in their favorite sport or activity – Do you have a future sports star in training? Whether soccer is their latest hobby or they’ve been trying to stir something up in the kitchen all their lives, try to take some time practicing with them at home. Showing them that you’re invested in their interests provides an open pathway to communication. Even if they don’t always show it, it likely means the world to them that you care. You may also consider trying a new activity together to build a connection.
- Go for a stroll – Try asking your teen to go on a walk with you—or to go biking, roller skating, or whatever they want to do to get you both outside. In addition to soaking up some vitamin D, the act of spending time outside is attributed to less anxiousness, better sleep, and boosted creativity. 6Not to mention the biggest benefit of all: spending quality time with them. If they don’t like your suggestion, you can respect their boundaries and ask them to choose a different fun family activity for you to participate in.
Add Reading to Your List of Family Bonding Activities with Slumberkins
There are so many family bonding activities to choose from—and we’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities. You can offer these (and a few of your own) creative suggestions to your children to find the perfect activity that fits your entire family.
If your child enjoys reading with you (or you’re hoping to introduce them to a lifelong love of reading), Slumberkins is here to lead the way. With engaging books on connection and plush furry critters like Otter to snuggle during reading time and beyond, you can help your child feel more connected to you and your family.
Whether you’re explaining the importance of family connection or creating open-ended discussions on other developmental topics like self-esteem or stress relief, Slumberkins has the tools you can use to confidently tackle any topic with ease. Start with our caregiver resources to explore the many ways you can help your child build emotional intelligence that lasts a lifetime.
- "The Importance of Spending Time Together." Parenting NI. 18 August, 2017. https://www.parentingni.org/blog/time-together-importance
- "Revisiting Healthy Relationship Bonds." Central Group. 7 February, 2021. https://centralargroup.com/revisiting-healthy-relationship-bonds
- "35 Best Family Bonding Activities To Be More Connected." Fun Loving Families. Updated 22 December, 2021. https://www.funlovingfamilies.com/best-family-bonding-activities/
- Staake, Jill. "60 Easy Science Experiments Using Materials You Already Have On Hand." We Were Teachers. 2 March, 2022. https://www.weareteachers.com/easy-science-experiments/
- "Enjoying Time with Your Child: Tips for Building Your Relationship." Raising Children. Updated 19 Decembeer, 2022. https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/connecting-communicating/connecting/enjoying-time
- "Health Benefits of Getting Outside." Web MD. 29 June, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-nature