10 free ways to relax and bond with your child

At a glance

  • It’s important to connect with your child regularly.

  • Even on a very busy day, you can find easy ways to bond.

  • Pick your favorite activities and find time to do them together.

Day-to-day stresses can make it hard to find time to have fun together — but it’s important for every member of the family. Try these free and easy ideas for relaxing and bonding with your child.

1. Connect daily.

Take time out every day to connect with your child. Keep it positive and focus on non-academic skills, accomplishments, or qualities. (You don’t want it to come across as nagging.) Communicate in the way your child prefers. You could...

  • Send a text saying how much fun you have listening to your child practice playing an instrument. Or just text that you’re looking forward to seeing them for dinner later on.

  • Talk on the couch about an upcoming school dance.

  • Keep an ongoing email exchange running about the highs and lows of school.

  • Write small affirmations (“You can do it!” “Have a wonderful day!”) on sticky notes and put them in your child’s lunchbox or gym bag.

2. Read together.

It can be fun to share a story with your child. Let kids choose a print, digital, or audiobook for the two of you to read together or that you can read aloud. The content and length of the book aren’t as important as the shared time. Discuss your favorite characters and scenes, and how you each might have changed elements of the story.

3. Break a sweat.

Regular exercise reduces stress, plus it can also improve moods and make hearts healthier. Set a regular time to walk, hike, swim, ride bikes, or play sports. Or take a dance or exercise class together. Let your child choose the activity and keep it fun.

4. Cook up a good time.

Nutritious food fuels our brains and our bodies. Getting kids involved in preparation might even make them excited to sit down to dinner!

Depending on their abilities, you can ask kids to help select recipes, make lists, shop, prepare, or serve a meal of their choosing. A younger child can start with one recipe that becomes a “specialty.” Look for ways to increase your child’s role over time. And be sure to compliment the chef!

5. Plan dates.

Take turns planning monthly dates for just the two of you. Consider events like theater performances, lectures, movies, concerts, and sporting events. Or try local attractions like farms, museums, and zoos. You can look online for information about free local events. Arranging and experiencing each other’s plans can feel great for both of you, especially if you focus on what the other might really enjoy. You may need to help your child look for ideas, but the dates will still be special.

6. Do good.

Volunteering isn’t just great for the community — it’s also good for the volunteer. Research proves that volunteering can reduce stress and snuff out risky behaviors like substance abuse and smoking.

You and your child can choose an organization and activity that speaks to both of your skills and interests. (Maybe stuffing envelopes for local advocacy groups suits you better than working in a soup kitchen.) Browse websites like VolunteerMatch.org for ideas.

7. Hit the road.

Driving with your child can provide ample opportunity to relax, talk, laugh, sing, and just be together. Your child may find it easier to open up in the car, too.

Choose an exciting destination, but one close enough that you won’t feel worn out by the time you arrive. Plan for regular stops and pack appropriate distractions. Before hitting the road, get tips on how to help your child pack for a trip.

8. Learn to meditate.

Meditation can be a powerful tool for both you and your child. Research shows it decreases stress, anxiety, pain and depression. It can also improve your mood and boost self-esteem. Choose a method that works best for both of you. You could...

  • Take an in-person, parent-child class.

  • Read or listen to a book about meditation.

  • Watch an instructional DVD or video.

Set a regular time daily to meditate, either in the same room or in different rooms. This way, you won’t have to put up the “Do not disturb” signs!

9. Set a serene soundtrack.

Are you and your child together during a particularly stressful time of day? It might be the drive home from appointments or the hour between afterschool activities and dinner. Think about turning on a soothing radio station. Listening to classical or other calming music can reduce negative emotions.

10. Bust some moves.

When you sense you both need it, crank up some tunes and just dance. Your child may want to change the music (that’s OK!) or make fun of your moves (again, totally fine!). Hopefully your child will join your dance party. Grooving and shaking can release tension in your bodies and cause serious laugh attacks — and who couldn’t use that?

Key takeaways

  • You and your child can find an easy, free way to connect daily.

  • Choose activities you’ll both enjoy and keep it fun.

  • Relaxing, volunteering together, or just goofing off will bring you and your child closer.


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