Try These Creative Ideas to Help You Bond as a Family Right Now

Social distancing can be challenging and isolating, but being home with family can also be a meaningful way to deepen connections and spend quality time together.

Leszek Glasner/ Shutterstock
Leszek Glasner/ Shutterstock

Even amidst the unprecedented challenges — physical, emotional, financial — that the coronavirus is forcing us to face, this time also presents us with the opportunity to connect with loved ones in new ways. If you’re social distancing at home with your family, your new normal may have inspired you to take on fun or meaningful activities while you can’t leave the house.

We asked our Thrive community to share the different ways they’re bonding as a family at home. Which of these will you try with your family?

Cook dinner together

“Now that we’re all at home, we’ve been prioritizing family dinner. We’ve been cooking our meals together while listening to music, and as we cook, we take turns picking the song. I’m the only cook in my house and I’ve never had the time to teach my kids to cook. So now, I’m teaching them to make all of their favorite recipes. We’re even writing the recipes down on little cards in a combination of our handwritings. I hope they keep these recipe cards forever to remind them that something good can blossom even in difficult times.”

 —Michelle Jolene, blogger and coach, Miami, FL

Take a tech-free walk

“My fiancé and I work in separate rooms during the day, and once the workday ends, we bond by getting outside and clearing our heads. We put our phones away and go on a walk to either pick up food from a local restaurant, or just to get some fresh air. Spending some time outside of our apartment is a non-negotiable for us and allows us to de-stress and reconnect after work.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Start a family movie night

“My wife and I are introducing our boys to our favorite movies. This week, we’ve watched The King and I, Singing in the Rain, Candleshoe, Bad News Bears, and a perennial favorite, Ferris Bueller. It’s movie night every night at our house during this time, and that’s OK. It’s great to see their reactions!”

—Jill Reed, writer, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Get creative by using less

“We have been making a list of fun things to do with less — whether it’s planting a garden, having a bonfire, or cooking more creatively with less ingredients. We’re even talking about how to utilize all the food we have in the refrigerator, and how to use less paper.”

—Lisa Hawkins, dating and relationship coach, Asheville, NC 

Have a family picnic

“My husband and I have brought back a tradition from my childhood: indoor picnics! It’s so much fun to get away from the couch and the dinner table, and spread out on the ground with a cozy blanket. We get a variety of easy finger foods so we can each have a little taste of everything, and we even pack in a picnic basket to make it feel authentic. Some nights, we even include candles and a bottle of wine.”

—Kristin H., freelance writer, Stephenson, VA

Institute a weekly “fancy dinner” night

“On Friday nights, we are having a ‘Family Fancy Dinner,’ where we dress up in our best clothes, put on makeup for the one time that week, set the table with our fanciest dishes, and cook a gourmet meal that we linger and laugh over! Everyone is involved in the prep so we can feel a sense of accomplishment when we sit down together. We even add a little candlelight, music, and dessert!”

—Eve Mayer, author and consultant, Carrollton, TX

Play card games

“We’re playing lots of card games and board games to pass the time and have fun as a family. Recently, we’ve been playing a lot of ‘Unstable Unicorns’ and ‘Azul.’”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Take on new hobbies together

“While the circumstances are scary, this time to slow down and connect as a family without distractions is a gift. We’ve been enjoying more walks around our favorite nature trails, more time cooking and eating together, finding old family recipes to bake together, and trying new activities, like virtual guitar lessons and yoga. We’ve also been giving back to charitable organizations facing critical needs and involving the kids in random acts of kindness in our community.”

—Sonya Kerr, writer and digital consultant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Make time for humor

“We’ve found it helpful to joke about light subjects — like how my fixation on germs is coming in handy now, or how to hug someone from a six-foot distance. We are also discussing important issues so that we are not suppressing feelings around safety and world events. All of the things we need to do we are taking seriously and also making light of it so it doesn’t burden us.”

—Lisa Hawkins, dating and relationship coach, Asheville, NC 

Play indoor sports 

“We’ve been getting active indoors by playing Kinect Sports together every evening. It’s a good way to have fun and get some exercise. If we’re feeling energetic, we’ll play baseball or football. Otherwise, we play tennis, golf, or darts. We’ve also mended and cleaned the trampoline in the garden. The children are enjoying bouncing on it in the warm weather!”

—Roz Andrews, freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, Newark, UK

Make breakfast for another family member

“Spending quality time with my family is something I value, but our typical conflicting schedules don’t allow us to enjoy each other’s company as often as we would like. With social distancing, I love that I have the time to cook a delicious breakfast for my parents each morning. My mom and I also walk together in the afternoons. Spending time in nature has been refreshing for both of us!”

—Brie LaPrell, student, Buffalo, NY

Grow a garden together

“Our family recently purchased a house outside of New York in the Catskills, which has become our shelter for the Coronavirus outbreak in the past weeks. We find calm in these times by working in our yards. This week, my husband and our daughter spent time together raking the yard and getting the garden ready for spring. It was a good opportunity to bond as a family and get some exercise outdoors.”

—Ruth Shin, founder and CEO of PropertyNest, Brooklyn, NY

Introduce your kids to nostalgic games

“We have two girls at home, and we’ve been doing all kinds of jigsaw puzzles and playing some old-fashioned games from when we were kids. The favorite at the moment is the game where the kids take turns to list items (say, animals, countries, musicians) having to use the last letter of the previous word as the first letter of the new answer. It’s harder than it sounds!”

—Stuart Mitchell, writer, Melbourne, Australia  

Start a meaningful email ritual

“Our extended family is spread throughout the country, so we’ve started an email ritual each day, where one person is assigned to send an email to the whole family. There are no rules set for the length or content. My job is to print them out each day for my mom, who is also a grandma and great grandma. She isn’t online at 91, but she’s not left out! We do have a rule that when it’s your day to send the email, you also have to call grandma. She loves it all! This exercise has been fun, touching, and has brought us all closer together.”

—Bobbe White, speaker and author, Quincy IL 

Do you have a creative ritual or activity that helps you bond as a family at home? Share it with us in the comments!

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