13 Things to Do With Your Kids at Least Once, According to Therapists
Make memories that last with these genius activities perfect for parents and kids to do together.
For every adorable family photo you get, there's one where your kids are tearing each other's hair out. For every gold star at school, there's a phone call home to inform you that someone's thrown up in science class. Yes, parenting is full of highs and lows. And though it's easy to get caught up in the chaos of the day-to-day, there are plenty of simple ways to make memories you and your children will cherish. Read on to discover the things you should do with your kids, according to top therapists.
Sure, you may not love the idea of your kid cutting class to hang out with their friends, but having a parent-approved day off from school to do something fun can be a great way to bond with children of any age. "They will remember the one day that you allowed them to stay home from school for the day and watch movies together more than whatever it was that they would have been taught in school that day," says clinical psychologist Melissa A. Jones, PhD, HSPP, of Evansville, Indiana.
Or better yet, "wake the kids up for school one day and take them on a day trip instead," Jones suggests.
Or take a mental health day together.
Adults aren't the only ones who could use a break from the slog of their routine from time to time. Even young children can get overwhelmed by their schedules, so treat your kids to at least one mental health day a year, suggests licensed professional clinical counselor and therapist Stefanie Juliano, LPCC, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
"We've all needed this at some point, so give them that same opportunity," says Juliano.
Take them out somewhere that feels extremely grown up.
Give your kids a chance to feel like real adults long before their 18th birthday by allowing them to accompany you on some decidedly grown-up outing. Juliano suggests a fancy dinner, spa treatment, or a movie, as well as making the day stand out by telling them, "I appreciate you and you're special."
Let them choose your outfit.
Parents often spend tons of time—and money—assembling their kids' wardrobes, but kids rarely have the opportunity to unleash their inner stylist on the adults in their lives. If you want a great bonding experience for you and your kids, try letting them choose your outfit. "It's amazing how much pride they will have and how great they think you look!" says Juliano. "It gives them control, confidence, and silly happiness."
Or let them pick out all of the meals for the day.
Similarly, giving up a little control in the kitchen can yield memories that will last a lifetime. Even if your child's choices aren't exactly health-conscious, letting them feel empowered to make those decisions can be a whole lot of fun. "Pizza at breakfast, pancakes for lunch, and grilled cheese with peanut butter and chocolate cake won't kill you," says Juliano.
There's nothing like giving back to your community to teach your kids gratitude. Volunteering is an amazing way to spend time with your kids and do some good in the world. "Volunteer work is one of the ways your child can learn about compassion and generosity while bonding with you," says psychologist Ana Sokolovic, MS, of Parenting Pod.
To make sure that the volunteer opportunity becomes a cherished memory instead of a point of contention, Sokolovic recommends finding the charity together with your little one, and tailoring the experience to a cause they're passionate about, be it animals, the environment, or just a local park clean-up.
Stay up late.
While most parents know that allowing kids to stay up until the wee hours every night can have dire consequences, having designated evenings when your children can stay up late can be a great way to have fun together. "Allowing a child to stay up late with you is an acknowledgement of their maturity and an act of trust that the privilege won't be misused," explains Sokolovic. "It's also a chance to bond around the activities that you may not have time for during the day, such as watching movies or your favorite shows together!"
Go to a concert.
Whether they love Ariana Grande or JoJo Siwa, every parent should take their kids to at least one concert in their lifetime. And if your budget allows, John Duffy, PsyD—a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, parenting expert, certified life coach, and author of Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety—suggests taking your kids to one concert of their choosing and one of your choosing as a great way to bond. "I find a lot of connection and resilience can be created in the parent-child relationship by sharing and talking about music with each other," he explains.
Take a road trip.
Taking long drives with your kids when they're babies may be a recipe for hours of screaming, but once they're a little bit older, a road trip can be a great chance to make some memories you'll both hold close for years to come.
"Getting out of context allows a parent and child to view one another in a fresh light," says Duffy. "In-jokes are inevitably created that you can share when you are going through a rough patch in the family."
Read a grown-up book together.
Reading shouldn't be an activity you stop doing together once your kids are out of middle school. Duffy suggests that parents try reading a book along with their kids when they're in high school—or beyond—to instill a love of literature and provide some bonding time. "By creating a de facto book group, you have a lot you can talk about," he explains.
Paint a room in your house.
Want a great activity to do with your kids that they'll have a reminder of every single day? "Give your child a brush and let them paint away!" suggests pediatric mental health expert and psychologist Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LPC, CMHIMP, of Ridgefield, Connecticut. In painting part of your house together, "your child will feel pride every time they walk into the room," she says.
Do a goofy photoshoot.
Is there anything better than having your favorite moments with your kids captured on film? If you want to make memories you'll cherish forever, set aside some time to channel your goofiest selves on camera. "There are plenty of opportunities to be serious in life, and it's worth having a few reminders of the playfulness you carry within," says Sokolovic.
Have your kid teach you a game.
You and your kids have plenty of time to debate chess strategy or figure out who's a better Battleship player. But if you want to really bond with your children, try letting them tell you the rules of one of their favorite games and have a go at it.
"Children love teaching adults games they can play together," says Sokolovic. She adds that this is also a great way to gain insight into what kind of activities your children enjoy.