Activities To Strengthen The Parent–Child Bond

Want to celebrate and cherish the bond with your child by doing something fun with him? Here are some awesome bonding activities to strengthen the parent and child relationship.

By Ashwin Lobo

Activities To Strengthen The Parent–Child Bond
Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. — Charles R Swindoll, American writer and educator

The relationship children share with parents plays a critical role in their development. A healthy parent–child relationship not only becomes a model for children as they grow into adulthood, but also, enriches their life with happy memories.

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To forge a healthy parent–child relationship, along with fulfilling the physical needs of children, it is also important to address and satisfy their emotional needs. Spending time with parents serves children in various ways like helping them learn life skills, develop positive behaviours and improve academic performance.

According to Arundhati Swamy, counsellor and Head, Parent Engagement Programmes at ParentCircle: “Social and emotional skills are the foundations upon which a child will learn about empathy, building relationships and learning to get on well with others. For these skills to grow, a child needs caring parents who will tune into, and meet her needs appropriately."

Partnerships create lasting bonds

Being with parents makes a child feel special and it also helps parents understand their child's point of view. Anitha, a mother of two preteens says, "After dinner, we sit down to talk about what we have done during the day. And, when I tell my kids about how I spent my day, they ask so many questions. This helps me understand how they view the world, what they think about me and what I do."

While it is important for parents and children to spend time together, what they do during that time matters even more. Sindhu, mother of 3-year-old Maya says, "We make cakes together. While I do the baking, Maya learns how to measure ingredients and her confidence grows when she shows the cake to family members."

Bonding activities for parents and child

Activities To Strengthen The Parent–Child Bond

2–5-year-olds

As children leave infancy behind, they become busy learning new things. Moving around the house, observing and exploring, picking different objects and examining them by way of touch, smell and taste helps them learn through multisensory experiences. Your role as a parent, becomes even more crucial here, notes Arundhati Swamy. 

"A strong parent-child bond involves two-way responses, where the parent initiates and the child reciprocates. This sequence helps toddlers with important tasks such as food intake, sleep, toilet training and safe movement. The child learns what he can and cannot control, develops a sense of free will and learns to do little things for himself. The toddler begins to feel bad and doubts himself whenever he does not use self-control. Unsupportive parenting can cause the child to withdraw and feel inhibited. For pre-schoolers, it is a time for exploration, adventure and play. There is purpose and direction in what they choose to do. Lack of parental care and attention during this stage leads to the child becoming impulsive and thus, attracting negative attention,” she observes.

Hence, here are a few interactive parent-child activities you can do to bond with your child and understand each other better.

1. Read picture books: Most toddlers lack reading skills; so, going through picture books together is ideal. Such books tell stories through pictures and often have minimal or no text at all. The bright, colourful pictures are sure to fascinate your little one.

2. Go for walks: Developing and enhancing motor skills is essential for young children. So, when you have some free time, hold your toddler's little hand and take her out for a walk. Point out things to her and name them for her to understand and remember.

3. Colour pictures: Grab a colouring book, some crayons and watch your preschooler do the rest. Show him the right way to hold the crayon and don’t forget to praise his efforts! Colouring helps children develop fine motor skills and the ability to focus on the task at hand.

4. Tell a story: There are few things children love more than a good story. Take a trip down memory lane and recall some of the stories you listened to as a child or come up with your own. Alternatively, you can turn the tables and ignite your child’s creative spark by asking her to tell you a story.

5. Do chores: When you’re busy with household chores and your child wants to help, you might feel that he’s getting in the way. Nothing can dampen your preschooler's enthusiasm more than being told to keep away. Instead, make him your partner by giving him responsibilities — for example, give him his own dusting cloth to clean alongside you or help you with folding the clothes.

Activities To Strengthen The Parent–Child Bond

6–12-year-olds 

Children in this age group are more self-aware. They engage in more complex activities and interact more with those around them. As parents, you need to give your child the freedom to explore but also ensure she always feels secure and loved.  

Arundhati Swamy says, “This is the age when a child is immersed in her school life. She is building relationships with teachers, friends and the neighbourhood; and learning about many things through these relationships. She needs her parents to help her navigate her way through the ups and downs of these relationships. She is also preoccupied with learning to do things correctly and well. She wants to achieve and experience success in academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. The child will require a great deal of interaction with her parents to help her plan and organise her time and activities. Poor parental involvement or excessive control will cause the child to become lazy and dull.”

In the absence of opportunities to interact and be physically active, 6–12-year-old children tend to feel bored. And, with gadgets such as smartphones and tablets available at every home, they end up sedentary and hooked to their devices. Therefore, it is important that you come up with activities to keep your child engaged and active. Here are a few things you can do together:

1. Play board games: With your child's vocabulary increasing with every passing day, why not get board games and challenge her to a match? Aside from being a great bonding activity, board games can also teach your child valuable skills like decision-making and critical thinking.

2. Cook a meal: If you’re doing something in the kitchen, get your child to help out. Ask him to wash and peel vegetables, add ingredients to the curry and stir. Cooking with your child can be great fun and bring both of you closer.

3. Paint a picture: There is an artist inside every child, all you need to do is let her come out. So, get a canvas or a sketch book, grab some brushes and start painting with your child. Finger painting can make the activity more hands-on. Not only does painting increase creativity and give your child an opportunity to express herself, it will also prove hugely relaxing and de-stressing for you.

4. Plant a garden: This is one of the best ways of staying close to nature. The sensation of soil touching the hands, the smell of various leaves and flowers can stimulate the senses and also have a therapeutic effect. And, when the plants begin flowering or bearing fruits/vegetables, your child's joy will know no bounds.

5. Have conversations: If you want to bond with your child, you don’t always have to ensure that he’s having a great time. Sometimes, just sitting down, speaking to him and taking an interest in his life is enough. Ask him how his day went or what he learnt at school. Share something about your day as well.

Activities To Strengthen The Parent–Child Bond

13–18-year-olds 

Teenagers are on the cusp of adulthood. They are trying to understand their place in the world, how they can fit in and what they want to do. This is a critical age and as parents, you must realise that your child needs you, but on his terms. You need to be supportive, rather than controlling.

“Teens are busy creating their own personal and social identities amidst preoccupations with their thoughts and desires. They are building strong relationships with peers and friends, learning more about themselves through group interactions. They also have to decide which (peer) group to belong to. Thus, they learn about loyalty, dependability and trust in relationships. At the personal level, teens are looking for opportunities to use their abilities and fix their goals. They need parents to give direction and help them develop a clear sense of who they are and what they want to be. Lack of parental understanding could make the teen become intolerant and adopt extreme and biased ideologies” observes Arundhati.

1. Visit an orphanage/home for aged: There is no greater joy than that experienced by giving or sharing. Visiting an orphanage or home for the aged with your teen is likely to be an emotional experience. It will help her recognise how blessed she is, as well as develop compassion for the less fortunate. So, the next time both of you have time, take the bold step of visiting any one of these places together. You won’t regret it.

2. Play video games: Yes, many parents have apprehensions about video games. But, used in moderation, they can actually offer benefits to your child. So, if you have a multiplayer console at home, grab one of the controllers and join in the fun. Your child is likely to be better at video games than you, so getting him to teach you something for a change is likely to boost his confidence.

3. Travel together: Every once in a while, go on a vacation with your teen. You can choose the destination together, chalk out the itinerary and decide what to pack. Experiencing a new place together can be a great way to strengthen the bond with your child.

4. Eat out: Few things bring people together like food does; so, the next time a new cafe or eatery opens, take your teen along to try out their fare. Conversations are struck up spontaneously over food; it is a good opportunity to find out what's going on in your child's life.

5. Do workouts: Working out or exercising together creates a special bond that few other activities can match. So, go on a run with your teen, take a yoga class together or play a sport. As you motivate each other to get physically fitter, you will find that your relationship becomes stronger.

No matter how old your child is, spending some dedicated quality time together is essential to strengthen your relationship. And, don’t just limit yourself to the activities we’ve suggested. Decide what you want to engage in based on your interests. Together, every game you play, every meal you eat, every adventure you go on and every conversation you have, will make a difference.

About the expert:

Reviewed by Arundhati Swamy on 21 October 2019

Arundhati Swamy holds a master’s degree in Social Work with specialisation in Family and Child Welfare from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is currently a Counselor for a number of leading schools in the city.

About the author:

Written by Ashwin Lobo on 12 November 2018; updated on 21 October 2019

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