It’s easy to forget to have fun with your kids. Rules, responsibilities, schoolwork… and the day-to-day grind can prevent us from enjoying life as a family. That’s where intentionality comes in. You can stop and choose to take a moment to laugh and enjoy your family, but it may require planning. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 52 family bonding activities, all to inject a little joy and connection into your day.
Parents often want to know how to prevent problem behaviors, or make sure their kids don’t make poor choices. As we’ve interacted with countless families over the decades, we’ve noticed some patterns. 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!”
No matter what, all kids will experience some struggles. However, families that laugh and have fun together seem to work through difficulties more easily. They come back to solid, caring relationships over time. It is our observation that joyful connection is the super glue of families.
Some of these family bonding activities will take you a few minutes. Others are all day outings. But all of them share a single goal: laugh, have fun, and empower your kids to act like children who know they are loved and secure.
So pick the bonding activities that fit with your family, and enjoy! If there are activities that your family enjoys, we’d love to hear from you. Share them in the comments below.
Note: A big thanks to the Connected Families Insider’s Team for helping us come up with this list of family bonding activities!
Jim and Lynne’s top 10 family bonding activities:
- Mud sliding!
- Pranking: Do an affectionate prank together.
- Bowl-free ice cream party
- 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!
- The affirmation web
- You will need a ball of string or yarn.
- 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.
- Hide-and-Seek (or Sardines if running is out of the question)
- Fancy dinner:
- Plan a special dinner with fancy dishes and sparkling juice for the kids.
- Use instrumental music, flowers, and candles to create ambiance.
- If your kids are game, consider making it a black-and-white affair.
- Make the focus on what you are thankful for.
- Old-fashioned dance-off:
- 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 inter-generational fun?!)
- The affirmation plate
- Designate one plate as the special “affirmation” plate at dinner.
- Have it rotate around the family and come out at random, unexpected times.
- This helps kids learn that it’s okay, and even fun, when someone else is on the receiving end of encouragement.
- A fun fight
- Nerf wars
- Newspaper ball fights
- Snowball forts and fight
- Whatever you do, include plenty of whooping, hollering and dramatic “injuries” when your kids score a hit.
- Make silly t-shirts and wear them someplace really fun!
More family bondng activities from our community
- Put your kids in the spotlight
- 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!”
- Find a favorite board game.
- From Caroline in Indiana: Playing the National Park board game called “Trekking” together.
- Start formal meeting at your home’s “sit-down restaurant”
- 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.”
- Use driveway chalk to create an imaginary town.
- Each person creates their own house.
- Together you create stores and places to go.
- Have a heart connection weekend
- Go “off-the-grid” with all electronics put away, including TV.
- Plan fun activities (use any on this page or think of some others—we’d love to hear about them!)
- 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
- Let the kids plan and execute a meal as they are able.
- Serve a meal at a homeless shelter.
- Go bowling as a family.
- Have a family movie night—at home or at the theaters.
- Go to a water park and participate WITH your kids.
- Explore a museum together.
- Try fun taste tests or eating/cooking challenges.
- Pick another family or household to surprise with love
- Engage your kids on how to surprise them best.
- You could make signs to plaster all over their yard that say things like, “You’re the best!”, “We like you!”, or “We’re thinking of how cool you are!”
- You could wake them up to a concert and dance performed by your family.
- You could anonymously buy groceries, ring the doorbell, and disappear.
- Help your kids experience that it feels good to love others.
- Have breakfast for dinner!
- Build a fort together
- This could be with furniture and blankets, or with sticks and wood.
- Go camping together—even if just in your living room!
- Turn off the lights and tell stories to each other. Whoever is holding the flashlight tells the next story!
- Have a “tacky” day
- Wear crazy, mismatching clothes
- Take pictures wherever you go. If you’re feeling shy, just go out into nature.
- Let your kids teach you something they’re all good at
- This could mean having a video game day, or something else related to screens. Let them relish this unusual twist.
- Create a scavenger hunt
- Make a list of things in your neighborhood or community for your kids to find.
- If you need to drive, try letting them decide where to go next in the search for the items on the list. Have them practice deciding where to turn left or right.
- Play in the rain
- Get wet and dance in the middle of a downpour (assuming no lightning).
- Give your kids a budget and let them plan a family fun day
- Enjoy the things that they come up with.
- Only veto things that…
- Would not be safe
- Are not within the budget you gave them
- Might unfairly disadvantage one sibling
Tips to maximize the impact of your family bonding experience:
- 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).
One-on-one parent-child bonding ideas:
- Play pretend together
- From Heather in Minnesota: “My 4-year-old and I made homemade playdough together (easy!) and then opened a pretend restaurant.”
- Carpet picnic
- 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.”
- Explore your childhood memories together
- 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.”
- Read books together (even as they get older!)
- Outdoor fun (skating, sledding, surfing, hiking, exploring, etc.)
- One-on-one dinner dates
- Bird watching and nature photography
- Knitting or sewing classes together
- Board games and card games (Stratego, Dutch Blitz)
- Painting or coloring together
- Craft projects
- Keep a collection together (coins, stamps, feathers, rocks, etc.)
- Making and sending cards to others, such as children in the hospital or elderly in nursing homes
- Planning a menu and cooking together
- Taking walks or going for runs together
Will the effort even make a difference in your parenting?
To answer this question, here’s a video about a doctor who prescribed more connection time to a child. Take a look at how it went.
When you’re struggling with family bonding
Super glue for families can come in many forms. Don’t underestimate the value of quick “fly-by” connections.
However, it’s also important to intermittently do those more in-depth family bonding activities. Here’s a little rule to keep in mind: The more out-of-the-box and engaging a connection activity is, the more kids will remember it.
These out-of-the-box activities also send 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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