March Madness: Basketball, Brackets, and Bonding, Oh My!

When my son was little, it was easy to catch his attention. We would cuddle and watch Mickey Mouse or bond over a bowl of Mac and Cheese. But those sweet simple years turned into memories and I am left looking for opportunities where I can capture his interest and keep an active place in his life. Lucky for us, we both look forward to March Madness and the bonding we have created around it.  

I know little about college basketball, but these last few weeks of the season are when I get involved in a major way. 

Here are my tips for bonding with your children with the March Madness NCAA tournament: 

  1. Prospective schools. Seeing so many colleges represented at once and watching their basketball team, opens up discussion and research about what schools are known for and how that lines up with my children’s goals, socially and academically. 
  2. Letting them express themselves. My husband went to KU, and I’m a fan of WSU. My kids don’t always choose KU or WSU to win on their bracket, and as hard as it is for us to swallow our pride, we applaud their individualism and never make them feel bad for thinking different than us. But don’t mistake this for not being competitive, because…
  3. Friendly competition. We love to fill out brackets and root for our teams, count points, and name a winner for the person who guesses best. Because March Madness bracketology requires absolutely no skill or knowledge (see 2018’s tournament upsets), it’s fun, and nothing to feel bad about if or when you lose.
  4. Shopping/cooking for the game. We like to plan fun snacks during the games that we normally wouldn’t make. The kids pick plain marshmallows, making basketball decorated treats, or finding foods in specific colors that represent our winning pick.
  5. Watching the game together. We try to catch as many games as we can with the kids during the tournament. We talk strategy, strengths, and we get just plain silly for an incredible game.
  6. Life lessons. I always try to low-key throw in mama advice, don’t we all? Never quitting, endurance, courage, practice how you play, and team work are life lessons that cross from the court into real life. Also, no one ever gets a perfect bracket, so we talk about the impossible standard of perfection, and how ridiculous it truly is.

In our house, we like the basketball but we like even more the lessons and traditions created with our family. Children need encouragement to express themselves, feel vulnerable yet grownup, and especially have fun with us. March Madness is a slam dunk for all of those!

Denise Dopps
Denise is a chiropractor and speaker, wife to Ryan, and mama to Eli (b. 2009), Hadley (b. 2012), and three-going-on-thirteen youngest daughter Lucy (b. 2015). She moved to Wichita with her husband in 2007 after living in West Michigan and Dallas, Texas, but Wichita became her home from the start. With a Bachelors in Graphic Design and Marketing and Doctorate of Chiropractic, she co-owns a practice with her husband in East Wichita where they find joy in serving others throughout our community. In her spare time, Denise loves to record her podcast which empowers others in vocabulary and etiquette of communication. Denise enjoys being involved in her church when possible, is passionate about healthy food and exercise, and appreciates listening to a good podcast while doing chores. With all that needs to be done in a day, she never misses the opportunity to remind her children that they are the most important part of it.


  1. Great advice on using this time as a bonding experience. I like the idea of the team food and making it the color of the team. Decorating cookies would be a fun one for that.

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