More than Mealtime: 10 Alternative Ways to Connect With Your Kids

By Stephanie Thomas

We all know the value of families eating dinner together: a sense of camaraderie develops when we share good food and good conversation with the people we love.  

If you’re like me, reminders like this one give you a bit of a guilty conscience. After all, between sports, extracurriculars, church, and work obligations, it can be difficult to pull off regular meals as a group. 

And while we’re still prioritizing table time as a family, thankfully there are lots of other ways we can connect with our kids. All we have to do is tap into the following strategy:

be intentional about looking for opportunities to slow down, with a purpose, and chat.

That’s it! 

Here are a few of our favorite ideas for ways to connect with your kids. We’d love to hear yours! 

More than Mealtime: 10 Alternative Ways to Connect With Your Kids

  1. Go for a walk. There’s something about the shared connection of strolling shoulder-to-shoulder that helps kids and adults alike relax, breathe a little deeper, and open up about the silly and serious things of life.
  2. Request your child’s expert opinion or advice. Kids don’t know much. But they might know something we don’t. My boys routinely share animal and nature facts that blow my mind. So when the occasion calls for it, I ask for their help in deciding what to do.
  3. Take advantage of car rides. Introduce your kids to the best bands of your childhood, listen to an audiobook together, ask questions that might make your kids squirm if you were hanging out face-to-face. After all, in the car, they’re trapped with nothing better to do.
  4. Play a game. A little good-natured competition pits families against one another as a means of bringing them together. Try an old-school board game or a card game and be sure to play it enough times that even the youngest member of your crew gets the hang of it.
  5. Create a silly tradition. For a solid year in our house, the whole family did a 5-second dance whenever my husband ground his coffee beans. Simple, silly traditions like this bond families together by offering inside secrets and jokes that are easy to implement.
  6. Invite your child along on a boring task, chore, or errand. Kids dig doing adult things—even if they’re totally boring activities for us. Ask your child to tag along as you shop for groceries, fix a squeaky door, or fold laundry. Bonus points if you extend your trust in asking for their help.
  7. Go on an adventure together. Do something challenging—an activity just beyond your assumed reach—and watch what happens when you power through the impossible together. Go on a long hike, explore a local waterfall, or buckle up for that roller coaster you’ve both been dreading.
  8. Ask lots of questions about your child’s current interests. Share yours. My boys’ interests change with the wind. Last month, it was Star Wars. Last week it was all things nature and animals. This week, it’s Legos. Who knows what they’ll be into next week! But there’s one way to find out: ask questions and follow-up questions galore.
  9. Make a meal together. Grab a stool if your children are little, ask them to gather supplies from your kitchen if they’re a bit older, and send them out for ingredients if they can drive. Then show your kids the ropes on a few fun (and important) basics: baking, breakfast, and an easy but filling dinner like pasta.
  10. Do something your kids love that they know you don’t particularly enjoy. We’re all friends here, right? I’d like to make a confession: I don’t enjoy playing make-believe. It’s not my jam. I’ll do literally anything—anything! else with my kids, which is why their eyes light up on those rare occasions that I agree to be the Batgirl to their Batman and Robin due.

Whether building, cooking, cleaning or playing when we look at every interaction with our kids as an opportunity to connect, we can create bonds that go way beyond the dinner table.