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Top 10 Five Minute Bonding Activities

Ideas to Help Promote Bonding Through Activities

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These activities are not for every foster or adoptive parent or every foster or adoptive child. Only do what is comfortable for you and your foster/adopted child.
Keep in mind:

  • Child's Age - Chronological and Emotional
  • Child's History of Abuse and/or Neglect
  • Comfort Levels

Please note that I'm not promoting these activities as a way to create an instant bond between you and your child. Bonding is a process that takes time. These activities are only ideas that may help start the process of bonding between you and your foster or adopted child.

1. Brushing Hair

Mother brushing daughters hair
Ableimages/Digital Vision/Getty Images

This can be a great and easy way to spend time with a child. It also involves a safe touch. Physical touch is so important to creating a loving bond.

2. Read a Story

Not only will you be increasing your bond by spending time together, you'll be increasing the child's vocabulary and other literary skills.

3. Sing Songs

We used to have a tradition of singing songs before tucking our daughter into bed, favorites included Old Macdonald, London Bridge, and many different Sunday School songs. Also try songs like "This Little Piggy" where each line of the song is sang as you tickle a toe, involves appropriate, safe touching with a child who may be fearful of touch due to past abuse.

4. Clapping Games and Rhymes

Remember the games played on elementary playgrounds? If not here are some Web sites with words. Fun activity involving safe touch.
  • Jump Rope Rhymes or Clapping Games.
    - Please remember to use your best judgment in choosing which rhymes to teach your child as some may not be appropriate for young children.

5. Bed Time Routine

A routine can include tucking in with a soft blanket, hugs and kisses, a short story, song, or prayer. Keep in mind the comfort level of all involved. If a history of sexual abuse exists or you don't know the child's history, protect yourself against allegations by having another adult with you at bed time.

6. Staring Contest

Maintain direct eye contact, the first person to look away or blink loses. A fun game for older children and a great way to have eye contact which helps build attachment. Be sure the child does not interpret this activity as threatening or intimidating and understands that it is a game.

7. Hand Games

More safe touching activities like Rock Paper Scissors, Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a Dish, or Thumb Wrestling. Some of the above links will take you to pages filled with more game ideas.

8. Paint Finger and Toe Nails

More appropriate for girls - this is a sweet way to spend five minutes. Consider allowing the child to paint your nails.

9. Rocking

This is one bonding activity in which you must calculate emotional age, history, and comfort levels. My son was 12 when he came to us as a foster child, but he needed and welcomed being held and rocked. I spoke to his therapist before rocking him and had no trouble in doing so. He was extremely small for his age, which made rocking him easier. Be aware of sexual arousal with older children and activities that involve such closeness.

10. Lotioning

Applying lotion to a child's hands and feet can also be part of a bedtime routine. Children of color will benefit from having lotion applied to their legs, arms, face, and back. Caution: Consider child's sexual abuse history, age, and comfort level with this activity. Some abused children can misinterpret different kinds of touch. Be aware of sexual arousal. If you sense that any activity is upsetting to the child - stop. Document the incident, tell the therapist at your next meeting.
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