Bond with your kids over these fun things to do together, creating memories that last a lifetime. Lots of ideas for things to do at home or outdoors as a family.
I have to be really careful about spending "quality time" with my kids.
I work from home, and I have since 2011. I homeschool my kids, and I have since 2010. We live and work and school in the same space.
Being in the same space is NOT the same thing as spending quality bonding time together. It just isn't.
Recently, I've gotten into a couple of really good tv shows on Netflix (Jane the Virgin and New Girl, if you're wondering), and I've been trying to sneak in an episode or two after work, before bed.
Unfortunately, this means that my kids are watching YouTube or playing video games themselves, and – while I think laughing at a really good tv show counts as self care – I feel incredibly guilty about not making time for my kids, especially when I have worked all day and have had barely a 5-minute conversation with each of them.
The struggle is real.
Even if you do spend time together as a family, you may not feel like you’re really connecting. So many of us spend our time working, then there is homework, care for elderly relatives, church commitments, and other responsibilities that pull our attention away from our kids and our families.
But also? It can be really hard to come up with truly fun things to do with our kids. I mean, does sitting on the couch and watching the same show on tv even count? (Probably not.)
Taking time to bond as a family goes further than just spending time together. Sure, everyone loves movie nights or just relaxing sometimes, but it’s important to plan fun activities that you can do with your kids. It's during these times that your family members can get to know each other and learn to work together as a team.
18 Fun Things to Do with Your Kids
1. Cook Meals Together
It doesn’t have to be every night, but plan to cook together regularly. Your whole family can work together to create a meal plan (check out this meal planning system for ideas on how to do that), then each family member can work together to prepare the meal.
Even small children can help in the kitchen using these tips.
You can choose to make family favorite recipes that have been passed down from older generations, talking about who gave you the recipe and why you love it.
Or you can choose from the 350+ recipes I've shared here on my site. That index contains everything from appetizers to main dishes and sides to desserts, and many are awesomely kid-friendly.
Another fun way to cook together is to take a cooking class online. We discovered Chef Ali of Cooking Farm to Table in 2020, and we have taken very nearly every single class she's offered in the last 10 months. Her classes are phenomenal and she is single handedly to blame for getting my Allie interested in cooking (and she now wants to be a chef when she grows up!). Chef Ali has 2 classes almost every Saturday. Her 11am PST class is open to all kids and her 2pm PST class is just for Girl Scouts. (An "awesome adult" is required to be in the kitchen for 100% of the time that you're in Chef Ali's class – but isn't the point of the cooking class to do something fun with your kid anyway?)
Chef Ali is so awesome and makes such awesome recipes that we have made a special 3-ring binder notebook just for her recipes. We go back to them time and time again and make something from that notebook at least once a week. Chef Ali is the very best.
Another fun idea is to try a cooking class on Outschool. One thing I've heard people complain about where Outschool is concerned is that anyone can teach a class, so sometimes the teachers are not very good. I can vouch for every single one of the following teachers. (We have paid for every class we've ever taken, and none of these teachers asked for my recommendation.) Our favorite Outschool cooking teachers include Born Baker (a team of professional bakers), Angela Foster (her "Magical Cooking" classes are Harry Potter themed!), Teacher Lydia, Lisa Taylor, Christine Benta, and Arianne B Joynt. If you search for any one of them using the search bar on the Outschool website, I promise you will have an awesome class with an awesome teacher and a tasty recipe that you'll be able to make again and again. (Sign up for Outschool through this link, and you'll get $20 towards the cost of your first class!)
2. Eat Together
Try to eat as a family together around the table as much as possible. If you can’t do it every night, do it as often as you're able.
When you have young kids, trying to get them all to the table and eating at the same time can feel like a herding cats, but I promise that it's worth your time and effort.
When you have older kids, it seems like every night someone has an activity to get to, and you might be tempted to swing through the drive thru instead of preparing a meal.
There is so much research that eating together is beneficial for your whole family.
If you're not sure how to make family dinners a fun time for your kids, try the Would You Rather cards in this family fun pack. My kids love them!
3. Perform Random Acts of Kindness
Even little ones can perform random acts of kindness. These can be simple acts like opening doors or helping someone lift something heavy in the store. You can find an elderly or sick neighbor and offer to do their grocery shopping or bake some cookies for someone who needs their spirits lifted.
Check out these Random Acts of Kindness cards for lots of kid-friendly ideas that you can do together.
4. Volunteer Together
For school age kids and older, consider volunteering at a local nonprofit. You can be serving food, cleaning, prepping meals, or doing yard work. Some animal shelters will let you come in and play with cats or walk dogs. Food banks often need help stocking shelves. In my area, the Agency for the Blind needs help reading newspapers into a recorder so that people can listen to the news.
You’ll be giving back to your community while spending valuable bonding time together.
There are lots of different resources to find volunteer opportunities. One you can try is the United Way website.
5. Look Through Family Photo Albums
Look through old family photo albums and at old family photos with your children. They will learn about their ancestors, and you’ll be able to pass along family stories and history.
If you have a lot of photos that aren’t organized, work together with your kids to create an album or another organization system.
6. Read Together
For younger kids, set them on your lap and read stories, as many as they'll sit through. Let them choose stories from your shelves or from the library.
Older kids will enjoy listening to chapter books, and you can take turns reading if they're up for that. Even middle and high school like being read to.
For your oldest kids, they might enjoy reading the same books at the same time and having a mini book club. You might be surprised at the different lessons you pull from the book.
If you're not a big fan of your reading voice, consider audiobooks. My kids and I LOVE LOVE LOVE listening to audiobooks together. Our favorite series by far as been Harry Potter as Jim Dale (the narrator) does a phenomenal job of differentiating the characters with different voices. I read once that he had a cheat sheet of over 300 different characters and the voice he gave each one.
Here's my list of the best 40 audiobook series for kids and families.
7. Do Jigsaw Puzzles
Working on a puzzle means that you’re all working towards a common goal. Family time is a great time to work on a large puzzle that may be too intimidating for just one person.
If you can’t leave a large puzzle out for several days, buy a felt puzzle mat so you can roll it up and continue later.
8. Tell a Story
For a raucously good time, create a family story together in a round robin style. One person starts with the first sentence, and each person adds a sentence or two. Go around and around with each person adding a little bit more on each turn, and don't stop until you've played out every possible angle.
Then start again.
This can get really fun, and you may want to record the story with your phone so that you can write it down later. (Writing in the middle of the story will slow it down and make it less fun.)
9. Visit a New Place
Become a tourist in your own town or county by taking time to visit small attractions, local parks, and out of the way activities. You’ll be spending time together creating new memories, and you’ll have fun exploring.
10. Go on a Picnic
When my kids were little, I was totally intimidated by the idea of a picnic. All that food prep and finding a blanket and driving to a spot just felt like an insurmountable challenge.
My kids LOVED picnics, so I came up with a workaround after a good friend told me about the picnic he had with his kids. (He was a single dad at the time.)
HE BOUGHT CHICK FIL A AND TOOK IT TO THE PARK WITH A BLANKET.
So, now I go on lots of picnics with my kids. We either stop at the drive thru or we grab a pizza (from the store) and we take a blanket or go to a park with picnic tables.
My kids seriously love this kind of picnic because we almost never eat fast food anymore, so it's a treat in more ways than one.
If you really want to stay away from fast food, you could definitely prepare a simple dinner together as a family. Think cheese cubes, apple slices, and sandwiches or something similar. It doesn't have to be fancy.
No matter what food you intend to eat, simply pack it up and take it to your favorite park or lake. Don’t forget to take a blanket or something to sit on.
After you eat, take a walk or play together at a playground.
11. Stage an Art Night
Spend time together creating art. You can have a free art night where you get out all of your supplies or have a themed night where you try an activity from Masterpiece Society. (I've used quite a few of these, and they have all been really excellent.)
There are also art kits that are good for both adults and kids of all ages. You could all make stepping stones to display in your flower garden or paint rocks to hide at a park. You could try Diamond Art or Paint By Number. (My kids and I have done both and loved the time together.)
12. Go for a Hike
Go on a family hike. As you’re walking, talk about what you see and what’s around you. Take lots of pictures that you can later frame or make into a scrapbook.
My family loves a local state park, and we have explored many of the trails there. There is something special about the same old, well worn paths, but there's something equally special about forging a new trail (not literally hacking through the brush, but taking a trail you've never explored before).
Don't forget plenty of water and bug spray.
13. Go Camping
Okay, I am putting this on the list because I know a lot of people love it, but I personally hate camping with the passion of a thousand suns. So take this recommendation for what it's worth and don't do it if you're not into it.
You don’t have to go to a campground to enjoy a night of camping. Kids will love it even if you’re in the backyard for one night. Your family will have to work together to pitch the tent and create a campsite and prepare meals.
Even if hate camping like me, you can still spend several hours together in the backyard with no electronics. Get yourself a fire pit (you can get a really good one for about $200) and make a campfire in your backyard. Invest in a set of sticks and use them to roast hot dogs or sausages and then marshmallows for s'mores.
I may hate camping (and oh do I ever), but I really love the time I've spent with my kids roasting cheddar sausages over the fire in our backyard. I just can't even tell you how much fun that has been.
I like to make either macaroni salad, potato salad, or broccoli salad to go with our campfire fare. It rounds out the meal and makes sure no one has to eat six marshmallows because they didn't get enough to eat.
14. Garden Together
Gardening is so good for your kids! Work together as a family to clear an area for a small garden, then plant flowers or vegetables. Your kids will learn how plants grow, how to take care of them, and for vegetables, how to harvest them. You would not believe the numbers of people (both adults and kids) who do not know how their food is grown. Make sure your family is not in that group.
15. Play in an Arcade
I'm going to be perfectly honest and admit that the only thing I hate more than camping is going to an arcade. I just can't deal with all the noise and flashing lights. It's total sensory overload.
However, my kids love the arcade (both Chuck E Cheese's and Dave & Buster's), and they beg their father to take them there periodically.
At an arcade, kids and adults can forget about the stress of daily life and just play games for a few hours. There are solo games, but try to play team games or at least play next to your kids so you can both laugh and have fun together.
Don't forget to collect your tickets and take them to the prize area for a cool trinket to remember your day.
16. Build with LEGO
Kids of all ages love playing with LEGO. For younger kids (under 6-7), use larger bricks like Duplo. For older kids, you can grab a box of regular LEGO bricks or a themed set (our favorites are Harry Potter - we have every single one ever made - and LEGO Friends). You can work together to build one large structure, or you can create mini challenges for each family member to complete.
17. Nerf War or Water Blaster Fight
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned Nerf or water squirter fight? It can be each man, woman, or child for himself or herself or you can work in teams. This is sure to get laughs and giggles from both parents and adults.
High capacity water guns are even cheaper than Nerf guns and are awesome for the warmer months.
18. Play Water Balloon Toss
Every summer, I get a mega pack of Bunch of Balloons for Allie and me. If you've never seen them, there are 35 standard-sized water balloons on the end of a set of wands. You put water in a bucket or dish pan, hook the set up to the hose and turn it on, and the the filled water balloons fall off the wands into the bucket of water. You can literally fill 35 water balloons in 10 seconds.
Allie and I usually use 2-3 sets of wands at a time, and we play catch in the driveway until we are both soaked. Grace doesn't get in on the fun (not sure why not), but Allie and I laugh and laugh and laugh and love this special time together. I highly recommend Bunch of Balloons or a knock off brand (just check the reviews to make sure you're getting good ones).
A last word
Spending time together as a family isn’t always simple or easy, but it is so worth your time to find fun things to do with your kids.
If you have a busy family like mine, plan weekly or biweekly family fun times so you have that quality fun time to bond and get to know each other better. You'll be so glad you did.