Do routines, responsibilities, and extra-curricular activities dominate your relationship with your kids? With families having less free time than ever before, it’s easy to forget to have fun with our kids. What if we told you there was “super glue” for families? When we take time to inject a little joy and connection into our day, we empower kids to act like children who know they are loved and secure.
Parents often want to know how to prevent problem behaviors, or make sure their kids don’t make poor choices, as they grow toward independence. As we’ve interacted with countless families over the decades, we think that one of the best, proactive, ways parents can protect their kids’ hearts is to build an identity of, “Our family knows how to have fun together!” Even though kids may struggle through the teen years, families that laugh and have fun together seem to work through difficulties more easily. They come back to solid, caring relationships over time. We’ve seen time after time that joyful connection is the super glue of families. This weekend we’d encourage you to set aside time not just for a Valentine’s date, but for play, either one-on-one with a child, or as a whole family! To get you started we’ve included some of our favorite Jackson connection ideas. We also drew on the creativity of the Connected Families Insider’s Team to put together a list of engaging activities with kids that can rebuild joy and affection in a family. Enjoy!
Some of Jim and Lynne’s favorite connection ideas as they raised their kids:
- Mud sliding!
- Do an affectionate prank together.
- After dinner, scrub the table clean or cover with a plastic sheet. Then pile with scoops of ice cream and toppings. No plates or bowls allowed. Just spoons!
- Take a ball of string or yarn and make an “affirmation web”. Hold the starting end of the string, toss it to another family member and then say something encouraging about that person. Repeat until the yarn is gone or kids are losing interest.
- Play hide-and-seek or night games with your kids.
- Plan a special dinner with fancy dishes and sparkling juice for the kids, while you talk about what you’re thankful for.
- Put on a 50’s playlist and start dancing, or teach your kids the polka or Macarena. (Why do we have to wait for a wedding dance to have that kind of intergenerational fun?!)
- Use a special affirmation plate at dinner which rotates around the family each night for a few days. This helps kids learn that it’s okay, and even fun, when someone else is on the receiving end of encouragement.
- Have a Nerf war, newspaper ball fight (or snowball forts and fight if you live north) …of course with plenty of whooping, hollering and dramatic “injuries” when your kids score a hit.
- Make silly t-shirts and wear them someplace really fun!
- Look for opportunities to affirm any kindness or honoring attitudes you see.
- Take, print, and display pictures of your fun to refresh kids’ memories. Invite them to tell a relative or friend all about it.
- Bring the presence and love of God into your time together. “How do you think Jesus feels when we have fun together?” or even, “Jesus is here with us now. What do you think He might be thinking?” The Bible tells us that God loves to bless those who love Him by filling their mouths laughter and their lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21).
Looking for more engaging ideas for your family? Check out these “super glue for families” ideas from our Insider’s Team to better connect as a family or with your child one-on-one:
One-on-One Connection Ideas:
From Heather in Minnesota:
My 4-year-old and I made homemade playdough together (easy!) and then opened a pretend restaurant.
From Jennifer in Illinois:
Having carpet picnics with my child by putting down a towel on the carpet and having a meal while watching a movie. We also connect in all the small moments like after-school pick-ups.
From Chris in Colorado:
I took my 8-year-old son to my grandparents’ former house in town; we knocked on the door and met the people who lived there now, and got to talk with them about the house and neighborhood, and my memories spending time there as a kid. Before we started my son thought it was going to be boring and wanted to do something “entertaining” instead, but in the end he really enjoyed it and it has become a special memory for him.
Other one-on-one ideas:
- Reading aloud together (even as they get older!)
- Outdoor fun (skating, sledding, surfing, hiking, exploring, etc.)
- One-on-one dinner date
- Bird watching and nature photography
- Knitting classes together
- Board games and card games (Stratego, Dutch Blitz)
- Craft projects (Needle felting, finger painting, water colors)
- Keep a collection together (coins, stamps, feathers, rocks, etc.)
Family Connection Ideas:
From Chris in Colorado:
With the rest of the family as an audience (there are 6 kids in the family) we use the fact that getting attention is something everyone likes. So we set up fun improv games (can easily find lists for these online) or instead of just reading Bible stories we give the kids roles while Mom or Dad narrates, the kids get to act things out or say their lines, sometimes using simple props. Sometimes we’ll add in sound effects (YouTube has some great ones!) or lighting to show day and night, storms, etc. These require VERY little prep and are free!
From Caroline in Indiana:
Playing the National Park board game called “Trekking” together.
From Katie in Tennessee:
My husband started a monthly dinner at a “sit-down” restaurant with our boys as they approached adolescence. They would learn and utilize the appropriate social manners and the agenda would include a discussion of each person’s highs and lows and a prepared joke. They named it M.E.D. Club (Maniacs Eating Dinner) and my husband takes minutes in a special notebook to remember each meeting. It is a planned intentional time to build relationships while modeling that male relationships can include both nurturing and fun.
Other Family Connection Ideas: (for more check out The Opposite of Worry: Playful Parenting.)
- Use driveway chalk to create an imaginary town where each person creates their own house and there are stores and places to go.
- Have a heart connection weekend where you are “off-the-grid” with all electronics put away, including TV and can enjoy each other in 3-D.
- Go on a “see-where-it-leads” adventure. Get in the car and at each corner let kids take turns telling the driver which way to turn. See if you can be a blessing to someone along the way.
- Look through pictures and photo albums.
- Go to the public library together- reading areas, free activities, etc.
- Have a tea party, or let the kids plan and execute a meal as they are able.
- Serve a meal at a homeless shelter or pack meals somewhere like Feed My Starving Children. (If where you live does not have FMSC there are often similar organizations where you can pack food for children around the world.)
- Go bowling as a family.
- Go to the movies together or watch a movie at home together with snacks.
- Go to an indoor or outdoor waterpark and participate WITH your kids.
- Do fun outdoor activities. (Sledding, walks, ice skating, boot skating, neighborhood pool, etc.)
- Explore a museum together.
- Try fun taste tests or eating/cooking challenges.
- Have breakfast for dinner!
While quick “fly-by” connections are great, (and super glue for families can come in many forms) it’s also important to intermittently do something more in-depth to connect as a family. The more out-of-the-box and engaging a connection activity is, the more kids will remember it and the more it sends the message – “I love you and delight in you, and that’s FUN for me.” Don’t let the “taskmaster” rob your family of the laughter and joy that Jesus wants for you! Ask God to guide you in strengthening your relationships with playful affection and joy as you seek to lead your family with grace.
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