Ask parents what their favorite part of summer is and you’re likely to hear “having fun with the kids!” Building that connection can be a blast with the sun out and freedom in the air. Today, we’d like to offer you support in this pursuit, the most worthwhile of goals.

Below, we present a list of activities that can help you take advantage of the free time you have together by identifying opportunities to turn towards. This list is brought to you from the pages of The Relationship Cure. It has two parts: things you can do for your child and things you can do with your child.

Read over these suggestions and consider those you arrived at on your own in the past week! Are there some you’d like to try in the weeks ahead? Are there some you’d like to make a part of your daily interactions together?

Jot ’em down, try ’em out, and then look back over your notes to see how you did! 

Consider how new efforts to turn toward your child affected your feelings of emotional connection with him or her.

Things to do for Your Child

  • Pay attention to what’s going on in your child’s day-care center or school. Talk to teachers. Read newsletters. Show interest.
  • Attend your child’s sports activities, performances.
  • Sit down with him or her at mealtimes, including breakfast. Turn off the TV and talk.
  • Pack your child’s lunch. Include healthy treats and a funny note.
  • Take photos of your child.
  • Show affection by touching your child gently and often – cuddle and stroke smaller children. Offer your hand to bigger kids as long as they’ll take it. Make hugs a habit. 
  • Offer choices whenever possible. Within reason, let your child decide what to wear, what to eat, what activities to pursue.
  • Pay attention to your child’s likes and dislikes. If she likes crunchy peanut butter better than creamy, buy crunchy.
  • Take interest in your child’s friends. Ask questions about them. Be kind to them.
  • Show interest in your child’s creative projects. 
  • Express gratitude.
  • Ask your child what she wants to be when she grows up. Listen.
  • Ask your child about his fears. Listen.
  • Apologize when you’re wrong. This teaches kids that it’s okay to make mistakes and admit to them.
  • Monitor activities. Always know where your child is.
  • Keep asking questions about your child’s experiences and thoughts.

Things to do With Your Child 

  • Play games.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Take a nap.
  • Make up stories.
  • Cook a meal or bake a treat.
  • Have a “grug” – a group hug.
  • Share “butterfly kisses” (with your eyelashes) or rub noses.
  • Tickle, wrestle, or horseplay (but be careful with small children).
  • Look at your child’s baby pictures. Tell your child happy or funny stories about her birth and infancy. Let your child know how glad you are that he was born.
  • Read the newspaper, watch TV, or laugh at the funnies together. Talk about them.
  • Read books aloud – even after your child is old enough to read by themselves.
  • Go to their favorite restaurant.
  • Go to a children’s play or a movie. Talk about it.
  • Play catch, shoot baskets, kick a soccer ball around. Practice conditioning.
  • Plan and take a vacation. Make a scrapbook of memories when you get home.
  • Plant a garden and designate one part as theirs.
  • Sing. Play music. Dance.
  • Do craft projects.
  • Play make-believe.
  • Camp out in the backyard, or, on a rainy day, build a pillow fort.
  • Provide homework help when appropriate.
  • Make packages of letters, drawings, and audio/videotapes for out of town friends and relatives.
  • Research the family tree.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Go to the park or a playground. Crawl around on the equipment together.
  • Plan birthday celebrations. Make plans for the holidays.
  • Go to “story hour” at the local library or bookstore.
  • Share an activity like swimming, skiing, hiking, camping, or bowling. 
  • Go to an art fair. Make up stories about the pictures.
  • Make a growth chart and check it often.
  • Do community volunteer work together.

More in The Archives

Weekend Homework Assignment: Turn Towards Your Child
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

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