Bonding Breaks and Activities
Break out of the boredom and build strong bonds with your kids — in 20 minutes or less.
When our kids were little, it seemed like I could come up with a gazillion ways to keep them busy and entertained. And get my little mommy-child bonding fix. We’d whip out the Play-Doh. We’d make more rubber-band bracelets than we could count. We’d get kooky and crafty, and they’d let me read them books for as long as we could keep our eyes open.
But now that they’re 8 and 11, I have to compete with Google and Xbox. And, oddly enough, fidget spinners. Finding ways to bond these days is about as easy as getting my fanny out of bed and up on a treadmill. And if it’s not hard enough, they’re getting even older, heading into Tweenville. We’re not even at the moody, brooding, pretending-not-to-be-related-to-me phase of our relationship yet.
But coming off of Summer, I know all too well that my kids are also in that “I’m SOOOOOOO bored” phase of life — where if a gadget or screen is not within arms distance at all times, they might just very well die from five seconds of downtime. Having a few fun and creative activities at the ready is not only a good way to pull their eyes away from the intoxicating blue light, it’s a great way to break out of the daily routine, and create a stronger family bond.
Having a few fun and creative activities at the ready is not only a good way to pull their eyes away from the intoxicating blue light, it’s a great way to break out of the daily routine…
Studies have shown that creative interaction and being present with your kids have benefits for both parent and child that can last a lifetime. Here are some activities you can try that have brought us closer together …
Go old school.
Sometimes the easiest way to bond with kids seems almost too easy. My eight-year-old can be happy just playing “Keep it up” with a balloon – something I remember loving when I was a kid (with a few added rules and score-keeping to keep it interesting). Reach back into your childhood playbook, and I bet you’ll dig up a few quick-and-easy things to share with your kids. Hide-and-seek is still a winner. So is building a card house. Or just make something up. On a rainy day a few years ago, my son and I made up “The Immediately Game,” where we sit across from one another on the floor and have to “immediately” hit a soft ball back and forth, without stopping or catching it first. It’s still a go-to when we’re bored — and he still finds it challenging, and hilarious.
Get some “Vitamin N.”
In “Vitamin N (for “nature”): The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life,” author Richard Louv says we are living in a society that has grown away from nature, and suffering from “nature-deficit disorder.” He suggests “500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health & Happiness” for all ages, from things like rock art, catching fireflies and cloud-spotting to things you can do in tandem with gadgets, such as geocaching (which is similar to a treasure hunt that uses GPS). The benefits of a strong nature connection, he says, go beyond boosting creativity. It also increases mental acuity, reduces obesity and depression, and promotes health and wellness, and simply having fun.
Studies have shown that creative interaction and being present with your kids have benefits for both parent and child that can last a lifetime.
Walk down memory lane.
My daughter went through a phase where she was endlessly curious about our family’s history, and even created a family tree online (www.ancestry.com). There was a lot she uncovered that I didn’t know, either. When’s the last time you talked to your child about your own childhood, or looked through family photo albums together? Do they know what your parents did for a living? Where they grew up? What their hobbies were? How they parented their kids? The stories of our lives and about our ancestors create instant bonding opportunities with our children by tying our pasts and presents together.
One of my all-time favorite memories with my kids is when I came home from a girls’ weekend and was serenaded with a song they had written for me. Granted, their Dad is a musician and helped them create a pretty impressive rendition with a guitar and toy piano, but it was a wonderful way to bring everyone together in the name of love and creativity. The good news is, you don’t have to be a musician to get artsy in this way. Try a family painting where everyone contributes to a blank canvas. Or re-create a favorite reality show. My kids love playing “Chopped” from the Food Network, where we give them a few ingredients to work with and then taste and judge their crazy concoctions. Be creative with what your family is currently in to — that’s what it’s about, after all.
Experts also say that connection provides a sense of security and helps build the resilience kids need to roll with life’s ups and downs
There are, indeed, a lot of ways to do something fun — and different — with our kids, even as they get older. In the age of technology, we may just be a bit out of practice in thinking beyond the screen. But taking a few moments to break and bond, in almost all ways, helps our kids stretch their knowledge, skills, thinking — even their vocabulary. Experts also say that connection provides a sense of security and helps build the resilience kids need to roll with life’s ups and downs. And that’s a break we all could use.
“We Missed You” — written and performed by the author’s children, in their ultimate family bonding break