08/17/2011 at 12:00 PM EDT
They've munched on crickets in Cambodia and surfed the waves in Cancun, but for the six children of Brad Pitt
and Angelina Jolie
, life in the boisterous family is as much about everyday bonding as it is the big adventure.
"The children are always playing, jumping on each other and sharing fun moments," a source tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "They share a special bond."
Leading the pack: oldest son Maddox, 10, who "is almost like a teenager now, the way he understands things," says another source. "He's grown up very quickly."
But his younger siblings are rapidly growing up, too. Six-year-old Zahara and her 5-year-old sister Shiloh are especially close, while 7-year-old Pax "has become more independent in the past year," says an insider. And with twins Knox and Vivienne now 3 – they help pack their own suitcases! – the family is settling into a lower-key, if still decidedly adventurous, rhythm.
"Now that all the children are older, things have calmed down a bit in the household," says the source. "There's a great family dynamic right now."
For more on the Jolie-Pitt family, along with special coverage of Hollywood's cutest kids, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday