Let's face it, life is stressful. Parents are often harried and overworked, and kids face more stressors these days than ever before. Here are some activities that parents and children can do together to relax, zone out, and unwind.
1. Look Through Old Photo Albums
Sit down on the couch and pull out old family albums. Discuss the events and people in the pictures. Teach your kids about their family history.
2. Practice Guided Meditation Together
If you don't have one, get a guided meditation CD from your local library. Lay down or just get comfortable, close your eyes, play the CD and let your mind take you far away. Discuss your experiences together afterward.
3. Play a Board or Card Game
Nothing beats stress better than a friendly board or card game. Relaxing board games include the old favorites like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, or you can relax and have fun with a game of Rummy 500 or Spades. Younger kids might like a game of checkers or the always-fun Mousetrap.
4. Go Fly a Kite
Weather permitting, flying a kite is a fun and relaxing activity. Inexpensive kites can cost just a dollar at the local dollar store, or you can extend the activity and make a kite together beforehand.
5. Draw a Picture
Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil, sit around the table, and have everyone draw a picture. Or, get a book from the library about "How to Draw" to learn new techniques and practice. Afterward, discuss your techniques and any problems you had. Hang your pictures up to decorate your room.
6. Read a Book
Choose a book together, and take turns reading it aloud. Younger children love having books read to them, but remember to pause and ask questions throughout. Alternatively, set aside some time, sit in the same room, let everyone read silently to themselves, then have a discussion afterward to share your experiences.
Go outside, lay down on a hammock or in the grass and skygaze. During the day, watch the clouds and guess the shapes. Have a discussion about the types of clouds and what they mean. At night, try to find constellations. Talk about astrology or how ancient cultures followed to stars to navigate.
Even small children love to garden. In the summer, plant a garden or make a small container garden if you're tight on space. Discuss photosynthesis or the effect of plant-based food on one's health. Learn about the common bugs that feed on various vegetable plants. In the winter, make an indoor container garden. Make it a science project by recording the height of the plants daily, or by calculating how long it takes to ripen.
9. Recap Your Day
At the end of the day, sit down and talk about the challenges and joys you experienced throughout the day. This is a great opportunity to stay close and catch up on what's happening in your kids' lives. Talking about your day to an attentive listener works wonders to relieve stress.
10. Do Yoga
If you don't know how to do yoga, borrow a video from the library or look for some instructional videos on YouTube. Yoga is an unparalleled stress reliever, and plenty of research touts its numerous health-boosting benefits as well!
11. Watch a Movie
Pop some popcorn, grab a blanket, get comfy, and put in a movie. Watching movies allows you to escape from your current worries and troubles, and it can be quite relaxing.
Painting is a great way to relax and focus on the present. There are many options with painting, from painting with watercolors on paper for small children to painting on canvas with oil colors for older children. If you don't know how to paint, watch some instructional videos on youtube. If you don't want to paint a picture, find something around the house that could use a fresh coat of pain and paint that. The repetitive motion can put you in a meditative mindset.
13. Take a Leisurely Bike Ride
Enhance your family bond by getting out the bikes and taking a leisurely bike ride together. Exercise is a great way to unwind, and physical activity releases feel-good endorphins. A leisurely bike ride is a great way to spend time together while boosting your health.
14. Take a Luxurious Bath
A steaming hot bath is a great stress-reliever. For younger children, make or buy some bath paints and put some toys in the tub. For older children, make it a special retreat by putting candles in the bathroom (take care!) and playing soothing music. You can use bubble bath or put some aromatic oils in the water to engage your sense of smell.
15. Play the Shared Story Game
Sit down, get comfortable and tell stories. In the Shared Story game, one person begins a story by setting a scene with a character in it. For example, "One dark night in the middle of the city, an old woman started walking down the stairs in her decrepit old apartment building. She heard a noise when suddenly.." Then the next person has to pick up the story and add more. Go back and forth until you run out of ideas. The more people involved, the more interesting the story becomes.
16. Make a Mosaic
Making a collage out of construction paper is a fun, relaxing activity that young children will love. Tear up pieces of different-colored construction paper or cut out little squares of paper. Get a plain piece of paper, some glue, and maybe a picture you want to emulate. Glue the pieces of squares into a beautiful work of art.
Take some time before bed to write down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It's a great way to unwind and sort through various issues that may be affecting you. Looking back at old journals can help you gauge how far you've come in your life.
18. Go Bowling
Bowling is a great way to blow off steam. Young children can use bumpers in the lanes so they can knock down the pins.
19. Listen to Music
Turn on the stereo, sit and listen to music. If you and your kids have different likes, pull out the ipods and spend some quality time relaxing. Share your favorite songs with one another. With young kids, get up and dance to the music together.
20. Go Birdwatching
Head down to your local library, grab a bird identification book, then head outside to look for birds. In the winter, you can grab a pair of binoculars and see how many birds you can see from your windows.
21. Play Pool
Pool is a relaxing game that provides ample opportunity to have conversations enabling you to catch up on the day's happenings. Most bowling alleys provide pool tables, and it only costs a couple of dollars to play.
22. Blow Bubbles
Even older children can have fun and relax with some bubble solution and a wand. See how many you can get in the air at one time or how many you can pop before they touch the ground. For even more fun, play with bubbles around your cat and dog and let them get in on the fun!
23. Make a Collage
Gather up your old magazines and create a collage to dress up your room or your kid's locker at school. All you need are some old magazines, paper, glue and scissors. Alternatively, you could use photos or pictures you print online.
Pull out a box of cake mix and mix up a batch of cupcakes. Bake a cake or a batch of muffins. Baking is fun, easy, cheap, and provides a good opportunity to relax and do something together.
25. Take a Walk
Take a walk and soak up the scenery. The exercise will help you feel better, and a slow, leisurely pace helps clear the mind.
26. Do a Jigsaw Puzzle
Dust off the old jigsaw puzzles for a relaxing evening. Doing it with your kids provides opportunity to converse and share your thoughts.
27. Sit Around a Fire
Sitting around a fire is cozy and meditative. Throw in some colorant packets to provide interesting colors.
28. Play With Pets
If you have a dog or cat, then you probably know how enjoyable a good game of catch can be. Playing with a cat and a flashlight provides hours of priceless fun.
If your child is old enough to safely handle a sharp knife, whittling is a great pastime. Grab a knife and a thick stick and make an animal, a person, or a unique design.
Young kids love to color, but adults and older kids can also enjoy this activity. Grab some crayons or colored pencils and print out a drawing online if you don't have a coloring book.
31. Go for a Horseback Ride
Riding a horse is both relaxing and fun. Look in the phone book to find someone who offers horseback rides near you.
32. Find an Interesting Craft to Try
Browse through the listings at instructables.com to find a craft that looks interesting, then try something new.
33. Build a Model Car or Airplane
Model kits are fairly inexpensive and allow you to do relax. The are many different model kits to choose from, and they range in complexity from easy to difficult.
34. Play a Video or Online Game Together
Digital games can be both fun and relaxing. There are many free online games that don't require registration if you don't have a game console at home.
35. Call a Good Friend
Calling a good friend lifts the heart and relaxes the soul. Stay connected, share your concerns, and celebrate your joys with a good friend.
There are many ways to relax and unwind with your kids. If you have some ideas not listed here, please feel free to leave a comment and share them with others.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
CB on July 29, 2020:
This was so helpful, thank you
Nerd Mama from USA on February 16, 2013: