Okay, bear with me, I'm going to do a bit of brainstorming here and just toss ideas out as they come to me, in no particular order of importance. I realize that some may be duplicates of what Thingamababy has listed. What can I say, great minds think alike.
- Visit the library. Oronzo and I been taking Snuggle Bug to baby and toddler story times since he was about 6 months old. He loves them! Oronzo is usually the one that takes him to a couple of different ones each week, since he's the one home with him during the week, but occasionally I get to. The story times involve singing, dancing, coloring, playing with other children, and of course, stories. Best of all, the parents get to socialize as well. The kids have fun, the adults have fun. It's a win-win situation. After the story time is finished, I like to take Snuggle Bug into the children's area of the library and let him pick out books to read.
- Visit neighbors. We moved into our house about a year and a half ago. It didn't take us long to realize that when we were out walking with Snuggle Bug, neighbors enjoyed stopping us for a chat. We've gotten to the point now where we'll walk over to a neighbor's house, ring the doorbell, and know that we'll be invited in for a chat and a snack. Many of our neighbors are elderly and they dote over Snuggle Bug.
- Take walks. We love taking Snuggle Bug for walks. Sometimes he rides in his stroller or wagon, sometimes he walks, sometimes he does both. I make sure never to be in a hurry because it's amazing what he likes to explore along the way. A caterpillar inching it's way across the sidewalk can provide several minutes of enjoyment!
- Go to church together. We go to mass nearly every Sunday. Snuggle Bug has always been right there with us, since he was 3 days old. Now that he's a bit older, he imitates us by kneeling on the kneeler, looking at the missal, and repeatedly singing "alleluia" with gusto. He loves observing the pianist and the older children singing in the children's choir (we hope one day he'll join), he can't wait for his turn to put our donation envelope in the basket, and even the priest's "clean-up" duties after communion fascinate him. He also has fun flirting with the members that surround us. After mass, we treat ourselves to brunch at our favorite local cafe.
- Go for a bike ride. Not long ago we bought a children's bike seat and attached it to Oronzo's mountain bike. We also bought a children's bike helmet. Snuggle Bug absolutely loves to go on bike rides. Often times we will bike a mile or so to a nearby Starbucks and stop for a muffin and hot chocolate. Biking as a family is a lot of fun!
- Go shopping. Yes, that's right, we purposely take our toddler shopping with us, and not just when we have errands to run. Sometimes we go shopping just to get out and explore. Because we've been doing this with Snuggle Bug from day one, he's actually well behaved in any store that we go into. He doesn't break things, he likes to look and touch, but we're careful and so is he. His favorite place to go is Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts where he loves to feel all the different textures of the bolts of fabrics. The varying colors attract him too!
- Cook meals and eat together. It never ceases to amaze me how interested Snuggle Bug is in cooking. Pull a chair up to the counter, tie an apron on him, and give him a mixing spoon, and he's happy as a lark. We try to eat at home often and when we do, we make a point to sit down at the table and eat as a family.
- Read books together. This should be a given, but I'm going to list it anyway. Not a day goes by that we don't read a book to Snuggle Bug. Despite the fact that he has 3 bookshelves of books all his own in his room, he also gets more books weekly from the library. He has a huge, stuffed turtle in one corner of his room and that's where he likes to take books and thumb through them. He has books in nearly every room of the house and often brings us books for us to read to him. Snuggle Bug's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds and I attribute the largest part of that to the time we spend reading with him.
- Go on excursions. We have annual memberships to our local zoo, children's museum, and the botanical gardens. We use those memberships frequently! We also go to parks to feed the ducks or to attend outdoor concerts, school playgrounds to play on the slides, aquariums to pet sea lions, on trails to do some hiking and exploring, and to pet stores to touch lizards, turtles, birds, hamsters, and even snakes. Going to bookstores is a favorite treat as well, even when we don't buy a thing. I find myself looking at our city calendar of events to see what is scheduled each week. This past weekend we attended a local Family Arts Festival that I found listed on the calendar of events.
- Dance, sing, and get dizzy together. Snuggle Bug loves when we sing together at home or in the car, especially if it involves hand actions (like the Itsy Bitsy Spider and Wheels on the Bus). Most of the time, we sing a cappella and make up the lyrics as we go. As for dancing, he can shake his diapered bottom like there's no tomorrow! Oh, and he loves when the dance involves jumping, which it nearly always does. He gets giddy when I make him dizzy by holding his hands and twirling him 'round and 'round in circles until we both fall over laughing.
- Have a tickle tumble on the bed. Snuggle Bug loves being tickled and our big bed seems the perfect place on which to roll around and tickle each other. Most of the time, we're still in our pjs and sometimes bopping each other with pillows gets mixed in with the tickles. Laughter swirls high into the air and we take frequent rest breaks where we snuggle together with legs, arms, or fingers, tangled together in a cozy twist. Tickle tumbles are one of my personal favorites.
Okay, I've listed many of my frequent relationship-building activites that don't involve toys. Now you try. If you decide to do your own post on this topic, or if you want to just offer me a few of your favorites, please leave me a comment!