Things to do together that will draw everyone away from their devices and towards each other.
The alarm goes off.
You lie in bed, enjoying that refreshingly rested and raring to take on the challenges of yet another new day feeling…
And then reality hits you like a hammer. It’s TIME.
Time to check your emails, scan your work stuff for pending tasks, awaken the children and get them ready for school, rush off to work, attend meetings, run errands, return home…you get my drift, right?
By the time you’re through with everything that needs to be done, you’ve turned into a zombie with your body gradually shutting down as you slide between the sheets and drift off to sleep.
For many of us it may have gotten worse recently, with the new work from home regime turning into an endless assault of work notifications throughout the day and the strange spectacle of the entire family being within sight of each other yet growing further and further apart.
And the reason I went into this long rant which, given you’ve read to this point, is connecting with you?
I - along with my family - have been through this phase of growing further and further apart. It’s a major reason why I got into the escape room business, leaving behind a Silicon Valley career.
From my lived experience, both before our entire family was following the “daily grind” and going our ways,...
And now with us having decided to make a shared interest - escape rooms - a large part of our daily lives…
I can tell you that putting effort into reconnecting with one another as a family works wonders for your quality of life.
The importance of impactful family bonding activities
You could sell/rent off your house and go on a backpacking trip as we did, to reconnect as a family.
Or, you could organize family bonding events that genuinely impact everyone and convince them of the importance of breaking out of their siloed lives and come together as a family.
Just cracking a few jokes before bedtime or taking a family selfie for TikTok won’t do it.
You have to organize activities that encourage everyone to participate with enthusiasm, and discover the joys of being with each other.
And it’s 10 such activities that I have selected for you to try out.
Have a family meeting
One of the most underrated, easily organized and surprisingly impactful family bonding activities!
Sit together once a week to discuss challenges family members are facing, discuss family rules, and plan any special activities that are coming up.
These kinds of meetings play a key role in making family members aware about how others are doing, and developing empathy and respect for one another.
FIAB Insight: Younger children will especially benefit from taking part in these meetings, as it makes them active participants, rather than passive bystanders, in forging family dynamics.
This raises their self-esteem and contributes to building planning and problem solving traits in their personalities.
The focus in family meetings is for family members to appreciate what the others may be going through, and to make collective decisions on things like approaching special events.
A game night, on the other hand, is a way for the family to spend time together, sparking conversations and lightening the mood.
Family members would be encouraged to shed their inhibitions and open up to one another.
There are board games like Uno, Monopoly and Catana you can try out but if you’re looking for games with a difference, here are 20 pen and paper games that you can play at home.
Head for the outdoors
Spending time outside has a lot of benefits - it brightens your day, burns up energy and calories and creates a sense of wonder.
And as we’re all typically indoors creatures, it shows all of us “outside our element”, yielding plenty of opportunities for members of the family to admire one another and laugh out loud with each other.
Planning outdoor activities during the summer is easy - you can have a picnic/camping, go on a hike through the woods and trails, or even rent a boat. And if you're around during March, don't miss out on the top festivities for St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, a cultural highlight of the year.
You may recoil a little at planning outdoor activities during winter (of course, that depends on where you live),
But there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy even if it’s freezing outside - from sledding to ice skating and building a snowman. You could even go hiking (but please take proper precautions).
If you’re in Chicago, here are 10 awesome winter outdoor activities to choose from.
Doing volunteer work as a family has multiple benefits that make it a uniquely impactful family bonding experience.
It gives the entire family a purpose and a chance to get involved in the community.
It builds the “take action” spirit in younger children - that is, if they read about some issue that speaks to them, they can get involved in that.
It also gives you a chance to interact with other people and work as a cohesive unit to achieve a common goal.
Go for team building and bonding activities
If that last bit about volunteering together - interacting with other people and working as a cohesive unit - sounded good, you should definitely take up team building and bonding activities as a family.
Good team building activities can help you connect as a family in many ways:
The activities themselves will be highly enjoyable, sparking interest in every single participant to put away their phones and participate.
Taking part as a family, you will feel encouraged to cheer on one another, boosting self-esteem.
If you enter a competition (like many axe throwing venues offer) as a team, you’ll develop the killer instinct as well as solidarity for one another, both of which will prove important should your family ever go through a tough time.
Many of them - like our Chicago escape room - improve essential life skills like observation, quick thinking and stepping up to challenges.
If you’re in Chicago, check out the top team building activities in Chicago to plan yours!
Start family traditions
Family traditions are a dying…tradition (for want of a better word)...but half of the reason for that is how disconnected we’re getting from one another and losing interest in spending time as a family.
Starting a family tradition can be a low-key but effective way of getting family members interested in getting together again.
Traditions can be as simple as cooking and eating certain foods on special occasions and holidays, or as elaborate as going on a hike at the same time every year.
If you already have a family tradition that’s been handed down through the generations, consider introducing entertaining party games for adults to make gatherings more lively and memorable.
Do chores together
After all, chores aren’t exactly associated with sentiments like “bonding” or “connecting”, are they?
They’re more a thing that has to be done, often by rotation or by the person that drew the short end of the stick and done grudgingly.
However, taken in the right spirit, chores can be surprisingly helpful at promoting a sense of togetherness, and taking up challenges as a shared effort.
Especially if the end result of a chore is clearly visible, like a well-organized and clean living room.
Exploring towns or neighborhoods together
At first, exploring a town or a neighborhood in your city that you have never visited before might not seem particularly helpful for bonding as a family. It’s just going somewhere in the city, maybe snapping a few pictures for Instagram, having a meal at a cafe before returning home, isn’t it?
Well, no, it isn’t.
Or at least, it can be a lot more than that, if you plan it correctly.
Go through a list of towns or neighborhoods that you can visit in a day. And while you're at it, explore the parallels between the fear of the Zodiac Killer in the late 1960s and the current fear of COVID-19, and maybe even try out an online game inspired by the Zodiac Killer.
Research every option, noting points of interest, unique attractions and visit-worthy places.
Have a family meeting to discuss which town/neighborhood piques the most interest and have a vote.
This way, you will have not only an adventurous travel experience, but also a journey of discovery, finding out what interests everyone else has, finding areas of common ground and creating an experience that you will remember.
Organize a day of activities at home
Not sure what I’m driving at?
Here’s the deal: Get the entire family involved in planning and organizing a day of fun activities at home. From setting up an indoor obstacle course to watching a movie theater-style with popcorn and fizzy drinks, there's so much you can do.
Working together to plan the whole thing, getting the supplies, coordinating efforts…all of which will culminate in an extremely enjoyable day - this gives a sense of accomplishment over which everyone can bond.
In fact, you can have one such day every other weekend, or every month, giving you an entire fortnight/month to plan and organize the entire thing. Will prove a whole lot better than everyone watching Netflix in their own rooms.
If you’re looking for a few pointers to get started, here’s how you can build your own obstacle course at home.
Some other family activities you can try out to reconnect with one another
Visit attractions. Choose a type of city attraction (like zoos, museums, libraries and so on), make out a list (like, museums in Chicago that we like) and spend a day visiting them.
Work on the family album. Another activity that may be going out of fashion but can prove quietly productive at building bonds and making memories.
Have an “off the grid” day. One day (or at least part of a day) when everyone has their phones and laptops off. It may not be practical given our lifestyles now but if you can pull it off one, chances are you’ll have to do it again and again, by popular demand.
Wherever it leads us. Hop into the car, and drive. At every intersection, one family member gets to choose which way you go.
Let your kids teach you something. It could be anything from how to live in the Metaverse to how to recognize the postal stamps of different countries. The reversal of roles can prove empowering for kids and a proud moment for adults.
Featured image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.