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  • Writer's pictureKatie Otey

10 Amazing Family Bonding Ideas

Updated: Jan 7

Nurturing bonds and acknowledging individuality within a large family.

A montage of photos of the Otey family including a son smiling, Katie Otey and her three youngest children posing for an outdoor picture, a daughter laughing and playing in the leaves, Katie Otey hugging her oldest son, four of the children showing different facial expressions while posing together, and the youngest two children hugging and smiling together. A sign reading "This is Family" with two intertwined hearts is in the middle of the montage.

Let’s face it; having a large family can be amazing, but it’s not for the weak or the weary. As a mother who juggled five children, worked a full-time job, wrote books, and ran a household, I spent a lot of time exploring different ways to ensure each child received the individual attention they deserved.

In this blog, I'm going to share ten of the activities we enjoyed the most. In addition, I'm including a FREE 30 day Family Fun Challenge download complete with 30 activities you can use to build great bonds with your own family. Without further ado, here are 10 tried and true family bonding ideas that helped me strengthen my connection to each of my kids.

“Family is not an important thing. It's everything."--Michael J. Fox

Family Bonding Idea #1 - Mommy and Me Dates

I started with this one because Mommy and Me dates were so exciting to my children. Even now, as adults, my oldest children still request this activity. For Mommy and Me time, I scheduled a date with each child individually. They received a small budget, usually $30 or less, and were encouraged to choose an activity that we could do together for that amount. This allows us individual bonding time without breaking my budget. And since there were five children, I usually spent no more than $150 total. This was a fun way for them to be center of attention and for their true personalities to shine. Encouraging individualism can be great for building self-esteem and bonding, especially when you have a large family.

A montage of 6 photos showing Katie Otey on "Mommy and Me" dates with her kids. Photo 1, Katie and her youngest daughter smiling, Photo 2, a young boy pretending to eat his poop emoji pillow, Photo 3, her youngest choosing between two books Snappsy and Don't Push This Button, Photo 4, Katie and her oldest son at the movies, Photo 5, Katie and her oldest daughter and the movies, Photo 6, Katie and her middle son eating cookies at the mall.

Here are just a few of the Mommy and Me activities I did with my children…

  • Bowling and snacks

  • Movie (at a discount theater in town)

  • Day of yes at the mall. Isaiah did this one. He got cookies and a poop emoji pillow, which he loved. He was very careful not to go over budget and loved that I would not say no to anything he picked.

  • Appetizers and girl talk.

  • Bookstore and dessert.

  • Vegan lunch and window shopping.

Family Bonding Idea #2 - Family Game Night

Family game night is also still a regular event in our family. The only rules were that everyone must participate and NO CHEATING (yes, that last one was necessary). We take turns choosing a game or two and have a blast playing them. Sometimes we even have contests.

A side by side of two homemade gingerbread houses. The left photo looks well put together and has the caption "Team Isaiah and Jacqueline and their HGTV inspired Gingerbread House. The second is a mess with ingredients falling all over each other with the caption "Team Mom and Jace and our "we gave it our best effort plus Jace kept eating the ingredients" gingerbread house.

One Christmas, we formed teams and built homemade graham cracker based gingerbread houses. We then took to Facebook to get votes on who won the contest. I'll leave it up to guess who won. Either way, these activities build bonds and are we always have an amazing time.

Family Bonding Idea #3 - Cooking Lessons

Learning to cook and using cooking utensils is so fun for many children. Similar to Mommy and Me time, Cooking with Mom was a fun time with the children. I allowed them to choose which recipes they wanted to learn, and we got to it in the kitchen.

Two young boys holding marshmallows and smiling while making Rice Krispie Treats.

For Jonacye, she wanted to make shrimp pasta, but Isaiah and Jace preferred cooking Rice Krispy Treats. Jacqueline required vegan or vegetarian recipes and A.J. learned to cook steak.

So you see, even something as simple as cooking together allows each child's individuality to shine. Recipe books, colorful cooking utensils, and presenting their food to the family made the entire process extra fun for each child.

Family Bonding Idea #4 - Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Okay, I know this one may sound boring, but please hear me out. For reading, we’d have family read and chill days where everyone had to grab a book and comforter, and we’d all read. All you need is 30 min to an hour where everything slows down.

Katie Otey's daughters and their cousins holding up notebooks with varying covers.

For the writing activity, I allowed the kids to choose their notebook with whatever cover they wanted and talked to them about writing their thoughts, poetry, drawing, or whatever they wanted. That was a teen activity with my daughters and their cousins but still great for all of the kids to do.

And the arithmetic, well, most of my kids hate math. So for Christmas one year, I assigned numbers to each of their gifts and gave them a math problem to solve so they could figure out their number and know what gift was theirs. The math problems were age-appropriate and not very hard, but no one could open a gift until everyone had their number. Watching them try to work out the problems was absolute chaos and a fun moment they will never forget.

Family Bonding Idea #5 - Start a Fun Family Tradition

Speaking of fun moments…we have plenty of family traditions that allow the children to shine individually and in a group. We love karaoke night, Santa Tracker during Christmas, and learning ensemble songs then performing them together. I must say that learning ensemble songs was and still is one of my favorite fun family traditions.

I still hold fond memories of performing “It’s All Over'' from the Dreamgirls soundtrack with the oldest three children. And now, every year at Christmas, the youngest three children and I perform a Christmas song or mashup for the family. It’s fun and is now expected by friends and family alike.

Family Bonding Idea #6 - The Circle of Awesomeness

The Otey Circle of Awesomeness was something we did to shine the light on what was major in our individual worlds. We all held hands in a circle and each took turns telling the group what was great about our day and what was hard about our day.

Members of Katie Otey's family holding hands in a large prayer circle.

After each person spoke, we all said something sincerely kind to support that person. I loved seeing my kids give each other an empathetic ear and a kind word.

Of course, this concept derived from our family circle prayer times that we do for holidays and other special occasions. It's these types of real life inspired moments that I love to use in my writing.

Family Bonding Idea #7 - Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are always fun for the kids. I like to get small prizes, like $5 gift cards, small toys, and trinkets and put them on teams. They have to cooperate with each other to solve riddles or do physical challenges to gain points and/or extra time to search for the prizes. Spending money is not required for this. You can get creative with things around the house or giving a special perk for the winning team.

Family Bonding Idea #8 - Art Parties

I’ve always found art to be therapeutic, so I’ve tried to keep art supplies on hand. I always kept an art supply box filled with everything from crayons and markers to paint and glitter. I also, occasionally, threw art parties where the kids could create with their friends or other young family members. Laying out a few snacks was all I needed to turn this into a party.

Family Bonding Idea #9 - Take a Trip

Vacations and even day trips are always a blast, but the frustration and chaos is real. After wanting to pull my hair out on a very early trip we took when there were only two children, I knew that, going forward, planning down to the T for Vacations was a must.

Katie Otey and her family posing for a photo while on vacation.

During trips now, I always ask the kids what activity they’d like to do and make sure it is part of the itinerary. That way, they have a hand in choosing an activity that speaks to them and having the entire family enjoy that activity with them.

I have also found that packing individual snack bags for each child helps them keep hunger at bay until it's time to stop for lunch or dinner.

Family Bonding Idea # 10 - Family Photos and Videos

I love to create mini photo albums for the kids that highlight them. So, if I take pictures of us just hanging out or on a trip, I’ll make multiple copies of the photos and ensure that each picture in that child’s album features them prominently. It’s a visual reminder for them that they have importance in everything we do.

I also love, love, love family videos! They are so much easier to make now than they used to be. And they are an amazing way to document timeless memories. After all, you never know how important those moments will become to you, or your family, in the future.

I hope that these ten ideas spark creativity in how you can engage with your family, no matter the size, and help each member shine as an individual. Always remember that there is no one right way to do any of these. Be creative! For example, I am not a camper, so I allowed my children to pitch a tent inside of the house. That may not be for everyone but it was fine for me, and my kids loved it.

Please share which of these you would like to try or have tried or share some of your own family fun traditions. Who knows, I may even use some in the next book featuring Izzy McKeithen and his crew!

And, as promised, if you'd like a free download of 30 family friendly activities, click here.


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