The Family that Plays Together Stays Together

When I met my now husband, he was a single dad raising two sons. At the time, his boys were age ten and twelve, mine was three. We clicked, as did the kids, and so went on together to buy and renovate a house, get married, juggle careers, businesses and school, and raise our blended family of noisy, active, delightful children.

Regardless of how busy we were, we always made family vacations a priority. Skiing in the winter and camping in the summer became part of our agreed-upon rituals even when the money was tight. 

Ultimately those vacations played a key role in strengthening our family bonds. I know for sure some of the most meaningful conversations we ever had with our sons took place around a campfire or while playing euchre and monopoly. The vacations gave us the opportunity to leave our stress and responsibilities behind, explore new places, try new activities, and ultimately build our databank of Kodak moments and Hallmark memories.

More than anything, the holidays provided an opportunity for both my husband and I to be fully present with one another and with our children, to be in the moment, and to be as a family. We spent more time outdoors, were more physically active, and, if we’re going to be honest, were probably a lot more fun. 

The research supports our learning as it shows that “families who recreate together tend to be closer, more cohesive, and improve their chances of staying together.” Leisure spent together also has a positive influence on family relationships because it enhances communication and cohesion among family members.

This week, Jason, our oldest son, touched our hearts and reminded us about the importance of those vacations.

Apparently, he and his wife decided their two young daughters were finally old enough to experience camping. To hedge their bets as to the readiness of the kids, and to ensure the availability of creature comforts, they rented a tent trailer and headed to Lands End Park in the beautiful village of Tobermory, Ontario.

Unlike the camping trips of our days, Jason had a laptop and access to wi-fi and sent his dad an email mid-week to let us know how it was going. 

He wrote, “It’s 6:00 a.m. and I’m sitting all alone listening to the Coleman stove hiss away and it made me think of you and the many mornings I awoke to that sound with you at the helm. Good memories. I love you Dad.”

I have no doubt the leisure opportunities provided by our family vacation times contributed to the togetherness and sharing that ultimately promoted a closer relationship for Jason, not only with his Dad, but with the rest of the family as well. These family bonds are essential to our health and quality of life particularly in today’s stressful times.

Even if we can’t afford expensive or long vacations, parents and grandparents can make day trips and outings a priority. Maybe we all need to be thinking about more board games, picnics, hikes, kites, bike rides, and story times. Even a visit to the playground is valuable. One study showed that 77% of parents agree that spending more time at a playground increases a family’s sense of well-being and 95% agreed that the more time a family spends together being active, the better their sense of family well-being.

Bottom line is that its rarely money, fancy houses, or designer clothes that make for a happy family. Research shows that when asked, most children will tell you that a happy family is one that does things together and genuinely enjoys the times they share with one another. As such, family time just might be the investment that costs the least, yet pays the greatest return.

Posted on 07-10-11


Great blog, Brenda!  It true that we need to work on more opportunities for our families ‘to be present’ with each other.  With technology these days, it is so easy to disconnect.  Fantastic reminder of the importance of real quality time with not only our families but our friends and communities.

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  07/11/11  at  11:50 AM


I cried and I also got a huge smile. I hope that the same things that held true for our generation (and Jason’s) will also shine through with generations to come. I guess it is what I know and value. There is so much other activity that clutters todays society that I often wonder what those Hallmark moments will be for my own daughter. Thanks!

•Posted by Carol Petersen  on  07/29/11  at  02:10 PM

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