Family bonding has significant physical and mental health benefits for everyone involved.
In fact, from the time children are infants, it's important that they spend bonding time with their parents.
"Infancy is a crucial time for brain development," according to Robert Winston and Rebecca Chicot's study, The Importance of Early Bonding on the Long-Term Mental Health and Resilience of Children. "It is vital that babies and their parents are supported during this time to promote attachment. Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent and resilient adults."
Likewise, a wealth of research suggests that, when families spend quality time together, children are dramatically less likely to engage in dangerous activities down the line. More research shows that, when teens spend more time with their parents, they're less likely to skip school and less likely to get in trouble with the law, too. As such, their academic performances improve, they have fewer behavioral problems and they have increased self-confidence.
For parents, bonding can help to decrease stress and improve happiness. In fact, research supports that spending leisurely time together as a family can improve family bonding and overall family satisfaction.
So how do you spend time together as a family? Here are nine family bonding activities you can do today.
1. Cook a meal together.
Cooking meals together can be a great way to bond, especially if you make the time to then enjoy that meal together when it's all finished. You can even use simple recipes like homemade chicken carbonara or a cheesy taco skillet that you can easily do together.
2. Go for a hike.
Get outside and get active together to release endorphins. There's no better way to bond than by doing something that naturally makes everyone happier and healthier, especially in the great outdoors.
3. Hit the beach with games.
Studies show that being by the blue water — whether that's an ocean, a river or a lake — make people more relaxed and ultimately happier. It's as simple as that. So take your family out for a beach day, if it's warm outside. Or the lake if it's cold (because lakes are still beautiful in the winter!). Bring some games to keep you all active, like frisbee of ladder golf.
4. Take a baking class.
Who doesn't love indulging in freshly baked cookies or pie? Especially when it's made by you? Take a baking class with your family so you can all learn how to make a dessert together, or make your own and taste test each other's cookies, cakes, pies or other desserts.
5. Visit an escape room.
Escape rooms are a super fun way to bond with your family — and they really put you to the test. You're locked in a room with several hidden clues that guide you out. You're basically forced to bond and put your brains together in order to escape, which adds an adventurous element to the whole experience.
6. Go to a concert.
Does your family love music? Whether or not you share the same taste in music, attending a concert together can be fun. Get tickets for the whole family, so you can go and sing along together. If someone in your family doesn't know the music, you can introduce them to it in advance of the concert and share stories about what the songs mean to you. This is a great way to get to know each other on a deeper level and then have some fun.
7. Attend a sporting event.
Is your family big into sports? Go to a game together! You can all suit up in your sports team's jerseys and gear, and get there early for some tailgating, too. There's no better way to bond than by rooting for the same team!
8. Go for a bike ride.
Go out for a bike ride to get active with your family. If there's a beautiful park nearby, you can head there. Or if there are some calm, quiet backroads in town or in your local area, ride around those. You can even bring a picnic basket and blanket along so you can enjoy a lunch break during your bike ride, where you'll get to spend more time talking to each other, as well.
9. See a movie.
Go see a movie that's appropriate and exciting for all age groups — both the children and the adults in your family. Look for something rated PG or PG13, for example, and stay away from rated-R movies. It's not often that people actually go out to the movies any more, since most can be later streamed online. So make it a special occasion!
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding family bonding activities.
How do you promote family bonding?
You can promote family bonding by planning activities like the aforementioned ones to do together. You don't need to spend all of your time together, which can actually have adverse effects, but you should make an effort to spend a good, healthy chunk of time together. For your family, that might mean making sure that you eat dinner together every night of the week, or it might mean that you cook together once a week. It could also mean anything in the middle, doing any activity that feels right for your family. The point is to spend quality time together as often as you feasibly can.
What are the benefits of family bonding?
There are tons of benefits of family bonding, according to the aforementioned studies. These include both physical and mental benefits for children and their parents. Children, for example, tend to have fewer behavioral problems and get themselves into far less trouble in school and with the law when they spend more time with their parents. And parents who spend quality time with their children tend to have less stress and feel overall more satisfied with their lives than parents who don't do too much bonding with their children.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.