How to maximize family bonding time

Oct 10, 2011 at 7:09 a.m. ET

As children grow, the amount of individual activities scheduled in a week tends to grow right along with them. And as the daily obligations in a household increase, the time allotted for family activity often suffers. Since the moments for family togetherness can become few and far between, here are a few steps designed to help you take advantage of every minute available for family bonding time.

Family preparing to watch DVDStep 1: Pencil it in

The first step in making the most of family bonding time is scheduling it. Pick a time and date as a family, and add it to your calendar, just as you would any other appointment. By doing this, the family is making a commitment to spend the time together. Everyone can take ownership of the occasion and can help plan what you'll do. Shared ownership upfront is a great way to avoid dissent within the familial ranks later.

Step 2: Stick to the plan

Once the plan for togetherness time is in place, then it's important to honor it. Consistency and follow-through are important in any relationship, but they are especially important with your children. Not only will you show them through your actions that you are a reliable force in their life, but you will also teach them how to maintain relationships and interact with people they care about.

Step 3: Unplug

Step away from the smart phone. Email, text messages, phone calls and all various forms of social networking can wait. If you're hanging out at home, the same goes for the television, computer and video games. A sure-fire way to get the most out of family time is by offering each other your undivided attention. Instead of focusing attention in a variety of directions, take time to focus on one activity together. Jigsaw puzzles, anyone?

Step 4: Divide and conquer

One-on-one time is a wonderful way to offer individualized attention to your child. Quality, focused one-on-one time spent with children offers the chance to connect, giving them a chance to really let you know how they are doing and to share their budding interests with you. When planning family time, consider scheduling some time for Mom to break away with the older child, while Dad spends some one-on-one time with the baby, or vice versa. Also, it's equally as important to remember to schedule time alone with your significant other on a regular basis, so you have time to catch up and connect in a kid-free zone.

Step 5: Come together

Full-out family activities are one of the main factors that help to maintain a happy and healthy home. Each time a family eats a meal together, plays a game or even watches and discusses a movie, they strengthen their bond as a unit. Additionally, kids learn patience through things like sharing attention and taking turns, and are provided an example of how to treat others when they are outside the home.

Step 6: Repeat often

Life is busy. There are so many things to do. Between work, errands, homework and housework, there isn't much time left for sleep, let alone play. The time you spend together now is what will make up the memories your children will carry forever. Make quality family bonding time a priority and schedule it as often as possible. Go have an adventure this weekend, and then schedule a conversation about school over cookies on Wednesday. The dishes can wait. Enjoy your family.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For more info on this topic...For more family time tips, check out:
10 Family fun nights under $20