In your hectic, day-to-day schedule, you may feel like you’re not connecting with your kids as much as you would like. However, something as simple as reading together every night, or even just a family meal could make a significant impact on your relationship. We’ve rounded up 10 little traditions you could implement with your kids to add a special element to the bond you already share.
1. Bedtime Stories
Incorporating bedtime stories into your nightly routines with your children has been proven beneficial in a myriad of ways. It creates built-in one-on-one time between you and your child. During this time, you can also learn more about the way your child views the world. Denver child psychologist Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., says, “Because you enter her world through the safe avenue of a third party–a character–you’ll have more insight than you ever would by asking ‘So, how’s life?’”
Reading to your kids from a young age improves and builds many of their neural functions. Language mastery, improved logic skills, and even lower stress levels all relate back to a child being read to by a parent or caregiver, according to child development specialist, Dr. G. Reid Lyon.
2. Craft Time
Creating art and other crafts with your children is an excellent bonding activity, as well as another way to contribute to their development at home. Spatial and visual processing skills are often present in crafting exercises. Pattern recognition, sequence detection, and spatial rotation, skills which are all present in math and reading, can be built while crafting.
Parents’ schedules are often overwhelming, and Parenting.com suggests finding quick, 30-minute craft projects to add to your day. Creating something together on a regular basis can serve as quality bonding time, as well as a fond memory to look back on as your kids grow older.
3. Movie Nights
Watching a movie as a family is not only a relaxing way to unwind after a long day, but it can also be a way to introduce topics for discussion. Controversial issues and other difficult topics can be hard to bring up on their own, but movies tackle them all the time. Use the plot or scene from a movie to initiate the conversation.
These talks can help you to better understand where your children stand on an issue, or how much they really understand a topic. It gives you a chance to explore a teachable moment as well, where you can connect with your children on a deeper level.
4. Family Meals
Meal time can be an easy built-in family bonding part of every day. Chances are, you eat meals regularly, making this the most reliable time to add family bonding to your schedule. On top of the nutritional and intellectual benefits of eating a meal with your children, they are ideal experiences for conversation and sharing thoughts between parent and child.
According to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids who eat a meal with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. Ideally, you can use these moments to build on the relationship away from the table as well.
For an activity outside the home, consider choosing an organization or cause both you and your child care about, and become regular volunteers. This could be walking dogs at the shelter once a week, serving meals at the soup kitchen, or reading to residents in nursing homes. Whatever you choose, this is an activity in which you and your kids can bond over the shared experience of helping others.
6. Explore Educational Experiences
Does your city or a nearby city offer museums, art galleries, or any other educational experiences? If so, consider adding an outing to one or all of these places each month. You can expose your kids to other cultures and open up opportunities for discussion and expression you might not find elsewhere. Encourage your children to ask questions, and if you can’t provide the answer yourself, embark on a mission to find it together.
7. Start A New Hobby
A fun after-school or Sunday afternoon bonding activity could involve starting a new hobby with your kids. Learn to create macrame, take up golf, ride a bike, or bake a new recipe each week. If you have a regular hobby you already enjoy, you could see if your child is interested in learning and teach them the trade yourself. Working through these activities together can strengthen the relationship, and introduce a pastime you can enjoy together for the rest of your lives.
8. Take A Class Together
Similar to starting a hobby at home, you could pursue a class at a local rec center or library. Browse through all of your options, and settle on something that sounds interesting to both of you. This could be a dance class, an art class, learning a foreign language, or even picking up a new musical instrument. Again, like the other hobbies, this experience can be something you both enjoy for years to come.
9. Make Your Own Book Club
Reading together can go further than bedtime stories with your toddlers. Continue the tradition even as your children enter junior and high school. Structure it like a book club, and choose a selection of books to read and discuss throughout the year. You can read individually and meet at certain times to talk about what you read, or even read aloud together.
This activity is intellectually beneficial in many ways–it can help teach new vocabulary to your kids, or improve their critical thinking. But also, like choosing certain movies for movie night, certain books can help you explore difficult or controversial topics with your children.
10. No-Tech Nights
Aside from movie nights, all of our suggested activities are non, or very low-tech. With the prevalence of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices in everyday life, it’s important to take some time to “unplug” with your kids–both for the kids and parents! Better discussions happen when eyes aren’t glued to screens, and you’ll find it easier to enjoy each other’s company without the interruption of texts, calls, emails, and notifications.