I was fascinated by a recent survey in the news listing the activities parents most enjoy doing with their children and stepchildren, it started me thinking about how important it is to focus on the simple pleasures that parenting can bring.At the top of the list were things like eating fish and chips by the sea and going for a picnic. and almost all the activities – rock pooling, fossil hunting on the beach, rolling down hills and playing pooh sticks- require little, if any, money. As adults we sometimes forget that the simplest things in life can give the greatest pleasure. We can become so caught up in our children’s demands for gadgets and expensive activities such as trips to the cinema that we overlook the fact that a walk in the park can provide an invaluable opportunity for the whole family to spend time together. For us as parents these activities also give us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our fun side. How long is it since you enjoyed the thrill of rolling down a grassy slope? When did you last run barefoot along a sandy beach, splashing through the shallow water? Re-engaging with the activities we enjoyed as a child can put some of the stresses of everyday family life in perspective. They help us take a more relaxed view of the things that might have been getting us down about our relationships with those closest to us. It’s interesting that most of the activities chosen by parents in the survey take place outdoors. Spending time out in the fresh air, close to nature, is inspiring and liberating and we should all be making time to do it regularly. When we are away from other distractions such as TV, laptops and social media, we can focus on communicating with each other at a different level. Next time you are in the house with your family notice the sorts of things you talk about. How much of what you say to each other is functional? What time will you be back? Where are you going? What’s for tea? Have you done your homework? Once you go outside the discussions will be around things you can see, how you feel, the colours and sounds around you. The real value of these simple pleasures is in the way that they unite families. Doing something together helps to break down invisible barriers that may have built up simply because family members have not been communicating well with each other. Next time your stepchildren are spending time with you and they decide they’re feeling bored, suggest one of the activities mentioned here. At the end of the day, there is no more powerful way of building strong family relationships than parents, step-parents and children spending time in each other’s company.