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11 Fun Family Therapy Activities for Sessions and at Home

Updated: May 3

Try these ideas to help your family learn, bond, and find more peace and connection. 

A family shares a creative activity during a therapy session. Fun family therapy games and activities can make sessions more effective, especially with kids.

It can be awkward and intimidating for families to sit down and communicate directly, especially at first. This is tricky at any age, since younger kids might feel in trouble and teens may feel a violation of privacy. Even parents and adult children may feel at a loss to get started.

So whether you’re in a formal family therapy session or working on communication at home, you can find gentler but still effective ways to connect. Therapeutic family activities can be helpful, non-threatening, and fun! 

Here are 11 family therapy activities you can try out during therapy sessions or at home.

Family Pursuit is a family therapy game that makes a great activity for therapy or family game night.

Article Contents

1. Therapeutic Family Board Games

We’ve all heard of family game night (which I highly recommend), but how does a game of competitive Monopoly really help family dynamics? Well, there are ways to make traditional games more therapeutic, and there are actual board games created for family therapy

One example is Family Pursuit, a game loosely inspired by Trivial Pursuit but geared towards helping families communicate. Family members work together instead of against each other, completing challenges such as drawing from prompts, answering questions about their favorite things, or voicing things they like about each other.

Family pursuit is a family therapy activity available as a PDF game. Download it here and print it today to use in a session or at home.

Another way to make board games therapeutic for families is to add prompts to games you already have. Write simple topics you’d like to discuss, such as questions about coping skills, and add them to turns in the game. Before placing a Jenga block, for example, you must answer a prompt to complete your turn.

And even if you’re not ready for a game with prompts, enjoying fun games together can be a way for many families to bond. Kids especially may find games special and bonding, even if they are a bit tedious for the adults or teens in the family. 

2. Sand Tray Therapy

There’s something special about playing in the sand. Although your child might be beyond an actual sand box, an activity called sand tray therapy may still do the trick. 

Sand play was created as a way for kids to express their world and feelings in an intuitive way. Family members, even those made of all adults or adults and teens, can create a world together. 

To give you an idea, sand tray sets usually include small people, animals, structures, symbols, and more. Just like you might sit down and draw whatever comes to mind, you use the miniatures to create a 3d depiction.

That’s the intuitive version – there are also more structured ways to use sand tray. For families you might try prompts such as: 

  • Show what it’s like when you hang out with your siblings/parent/friends

  • What’s a fun thing you like to do together? 

  • Show something you and a family member have in common

  • Create a family vacation you’d like to go on

  • Create any scene and tell your family about it

Following the scene creation you can discuss the display itself or ask what it was like to make or show the creation.

Most sand tray setups include plastic figurines, but you can also use paper dolls and printouts to start or supplement your set. Check out these printable PDF sand tray miniatures! 

3. Family Vision Board

You may have created a vision board collage in school or as part of your New Year’s resolution. This version is a joining vision board that brings the family together. You can do this in many different ways – here’s one way I recommend. 

Use a bulletin board and stick pins so you can easily move things around. Gather sets of old magazine, stickers, PDF printouts, etc. You’ll also need scissors, or you can tear out the pictures you want to use. 

Depending on how large the family is, have each person choose 5 to 10 images or phrases to represent themselves, things they like, or something they want more of in the future (ie travel, Leggos, etc.)

Loosely section off an area of the vision board for each person, leaving a decent space in the middle blank. Have each person take turns adding their images to the board. 

For the middle section, family members work together to choose things they want as a family. This might include having more fun, having movie night, getting along better, listening well, etc. Make sure everyone is included in the discussion and comes to a consensus about what to include. 

The family can then move things around, consolidate, make changes, etc., until everyone is happy with the board. Display it somewhere everyone can see it and you can check in, discuss it, or make updates if needed. 

4. Natural Play

It may not seem like play is therapy. After all, it’s supposed to be serious business. But young children bond, learn, and process during play, and parent participation adds to the benefits. If more processing is needed due to trauma or recent stress, you can supply toys that encourage communication such as puppets, dollhouses, or blocks.

In exploratory play you are not directing the activity itself. Generally the child chooses the toys or activity and the parent and/or therapist play along with their direction. Some good toys to have on hand are: 

  • Paper dolls

  • Legos

  • Dollhouse

  • Puppets

  • School bus

  • Cars

  • Play tools

  • Balls

A family session can be entirely about play, or families can make a point to play with their child one-on-one each day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes or so. Every little bit can help with bonding and building your relationship. 

5. Family Movie Night

I find family movie night is one of the simplest, most straightforward activities a family can do together, plus it doesn’t involve a lot of prep (or even energy) from parents. Yet for many children it means quite a lot. Make it a real event with special snacks, pillows, and comfy blankets to share. 

The idea for family movie night is for everyone to be engaged. No phones, tablets, toys, or work allowed! Choose a movie everyone can enjoy and discuss what you liked about it afterwards. 

While kids’ movies in the background may be a staple in your house, it’s a lot different when the entire family sits down and is present together. You might be making some pretty meaningful memories for your kids without realizing it. 

6. Kid-Friendly Genogram

Genograms are a type of family tree that includes notations about the types of relationships and issues your family struggles (or sometimes benefits) from. Some of them can get pretty intense with notes about child abuse or affairs. However, your family can create a kid-friendly genogram, depending on your child’s age, using some of the more basic symbols. 

On the other hand, if you have older children or teens who already know about affairs or abuse in the family, it may be validating to go ahead with a full genogram. In that case it can be validating for kids to simply see their parents recognizing the issue. 

Adults often shy away from topics they think kids will be uncomfortable with (or that they themselves don’t like to talk about). There could be some situation where that’s appropriate, but in many cases kids silently wonder why their parents don’t bring it up. Visit here to learn more about genograms. 

7. Favorite Things Activity

The favorite things activity for family therapy is kind of like a family bucket list. It can be as simple as having more movie nights to as ambitious as going to Disney World. The idea isn’t to plan a lot of expensive events though, but more to get an idea of the experiences that your family can enjoy together. 

Maybe one parent wants to take the family camping in the coming summer, and one child wants to go back to the awesome waterpark they went to when they were 5. Make a list with two columns including one of fun things your family has enjoyed, and the other with fun things the family might like to do together. 

Make sure everyone knows that you’re not necessarily going to get to do all of the things. Plus, ensure 50% to 75% of the activities are free or low-cost. Money doesn’t grow on trees after all! 

8. Coping Skills Kit

Every parent knows that it’s difficult to always keep your cool. If we’re being honest, parenting is just too hard! If you’ve never lost your cool or raised your voice to your kids you should probably let researchers know so they can study your brain. 

Kids may already be familiar with creating a coping skills kit from their own therapy or from school. This can be a family event as well. Each person can create their own kit, including teens and adults, and discuss them with each other. This can also open up the discussion for how the family can handle stressful situations. 

Each coping kit is different, but generally you start with a container and put soothing activities inside. Ideas include: 

  • Stress ball

  • Gum

  • Coloring sheets

  • Fidget toys

  • Stuffed animals

  • Books

  • Crafts

Even if you don’t always use the kit the activity itself can validate that everyone in the family needs support and space sometimes, and that can certainly include adults. 

9. Creative Expression

Most kids are natural creators. Lego buildings, dinosaur enclosures, pretend kitchens, stuffed animal towns, drawings, cardboard crafts and more have probably taken over your house at some point. 

It can also be fun for kids, teens, and parents to create together. One easy example is to play with Legos and create structures on a theme, such as forest animals or Disney princesses. 

You can also sit down and draw out scenes together or simply color. The idea is to be present and allow creativity to flow. There’s no need to judge, fix, or be perfect. Just have fun! Here’s a list of creative expression ideas:

  • Make a family collage

  • Create a Lego town

  • Dress up paper dolls

  • Color on blank paper or coloring sheets

  • Finger paint

  • Practice drawing together

  • Play with air-dry clay

  • Complete pre-made crafts like Diamond Dotz

10. Musical Activities

Many kids and families for that matter love music. If you have instruments or are musically inclined already, make Friday nights your jam session. Otherwise, put on your favorite music and have a dance party. 

Better yet, have each family member choose and share their favorite music, or take turns song-by-song. If you have time to kill in the car, like when waiting for school drop-off or when going on a road trip, create a playlist. 

As a parent, share your own love of music and what it was like listening to music growing up. Technology changes every generation and your child may have never heard of 8-track tapes, CDs or MP3 players. Most kids are amazed at the similarities and differences of their parents’ childhood versus their own, so it can be a great starting point for conversation. 

11. Family Adventures

Who doesn’t love an adventure! This is similar to the favorite things activity, except you’re going to choose one activity and do it. The idea is mainly to do something new that the family (or some family members) haven’t done much or ever before. 

Make it a special day, talking about it ahead of time and planning together. Here are some ideas: 

  • Go thrift shopping or garage sales-ing

  • Visit a waterpark

  • Walk around downtown (for older kids/teens)

  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights

  • Volunteer at a local charity

  • Go to a local pet-rescue

  • Try a new sport like disc golfing or pickleball

  • Go roller skating

  • Visit a bowling alley

  • Go fishing

  • Go on a road trip

You get the idea. These are just a few ideas to get you started. Your family is unique and you can brainstorm to find the right next adventure for you. (I know family activities can be stressful as well – just remember that even the most stressful days for adults can be lifetime family memories.)

Family therapy is just a starting place. The overall idea is to open up communication, build closeness, and get to know each other on a more meaningful level. When it comes down to it most kids want to feel close and accepted, and having more of that in childhood will transfer into an easier and happier time as an adult. Making the time now will be worth it.

For some help with family therapy ideas, check out our downloadable activities. I particularly recommend Family Pursuit which covers many of the aspects above. Visit here for more. 


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