Bonding with our children isn’t always a given – sometimes we have to work at it. We’ve been taught that this process is the most natural thing in the world – but there are numerous reasons why it’s not always plain sailing.
Whether that’s because both parents work long hours and time is short, or for other more complex reasons, we’ve rustled up seven bonding activities to inspire a reawakening of your loving and trusting connection with your babies.
Why Bonding is Important
Guiding your child in his or her early years is all about building trust between the two of you so that his/her confidence can grow and, in the long term, they can learn to function as independent adults.
From the parents’ point of view, this can be an investment not just of years but potentially decades – especially since according to scientists the definition of an adolescent has now been extended to the age of 24!
It’s the Little Things That Matter
Finding confidence for a child is all about learning what they can do, and do well, so it’s best to avoid big gestures and set small, achievable targets on the agenda. The difficulty of the task suggested will depend on the age of the child, obviously – but these ideas cover all age ranges. Choosing activities that encourage conversation and create time for this are pivotal to bonding.
When children are little, reading together is a wonderful shared experience and, even before they can read properly, picture books give rise to all the fun to be had from encouraging your child to guess the next word in a sentence. A simple gesture from you towards something in a picture as a hint will quickly be followed by the delight of a correct guess. Curling up on the settee to read with older children can also be a refreshing change from watching the TV – and you may be surprised to discover that although they may be able to read themselves, they still love being read to.
2. Do the Washing Up
This might sound ludicrous, but even the smallest children can hold a tea towel and do the drying up – and even if they only manage to dry a single teaspoon, this will give a sense of achievement if praised. The sooner they learn chores are part of normal living the better – and a dab of bubbles on the end of your nose will generate laughter while you teach skills for life.
3. Play a Board Game
The whole family can bond – and occasionally squabble – over a good game of Scrabble. It takes children a while to learn that a word can’t be created with consonants alone – try as they might! But although it can become competitive, which is always loaded with emotional ups and downs, parents can field this with by offering a little help, or even a helpful letter-swap. Bending the rules for novice players is fine because this is also an educational game.
4. Eat Together
‘The family that eats together stays together’ is a well-known expression, but in our busy modern lives, it’s difficult to get everyone around the table at the same time three times a day. We’re all guilty of grabbing breakfast on the run, and which parent hasn’t stuck a banana and a muesli bar in our child’s hand to eat in the car on the way to work? Some mornings are just like that! But if you can gather together once a day for your evening meal around your dining table, not the television, you’ll be amazed how the conversation that ensues allows your children to process the events of their day or voice any troubles they may have preying on their minds.
5. Go For a Walk or a Bike Ride
Being out and about and getting some exercise is good for everyone and will, again, facilitate conversation and bonding. Not only will it clear your heads and uplift you but give you new sights to take in and talk about – whether that’s noting the changes of the season in nature or spotting a bird you hadn’t seen before and trying to guess what it might be. Maybe looking it up together on the internet when you get home.
6. Travel Together
This could be a big trip abroad for your annual holiday, but a night or weekend camping – if only in your own back garden – can also be a lot of fun. Any new environment you put yourselves in will trigger the conversation channels, the need to ask questions and to cooperate positively with one another.
7. Cook Together
Here’s an activity where there are many aspects to bond over because we all get passionate about food. There’s the shared love of certain foods and flavours; the disagreements that crop up around these; learning safe methods of how to handle kitchen utensils; cooking for special family occasions. It’s true it may take many years for your children to learn the important tidying up aspect of activities in the kitchen, so you’ll have to be patient – but few things beat the satisfaction of cooking and eating the favourite family meal together, or surprising someone with a birthday cake you’ve made. Again, this is bonding while imparting important life skills.
These ideas are aimed at children of all ages but the younger you begin bonding activities with your child the better. Many of these ideas are perfect for those of you with a child attending our independent pre-school, Devon, this September.
For self-examining parents interested in exploring other aspects of their parenting, read our blog about mindful parenting here.