Monday, April 12, 2021

Traditions of family time that make a difference (+ ideas to try)

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I realize the old adage seems to be true… time flies faster as I get older. My kids are growing up so fast, and my mom has started to realize that the time elapsed before my elders leave home is getting shorter and shorter.

For this reason, I really tried to start some family traditions and spend quality time with your family. While I hope our kids still want to hang out with us when they’re teenagers, we make family time a priority while they still enjoy it.

The importance of time spent with family

Research is strong on the importance of family time and the construction of a family culture. Children from families with strong, positive family cultures tend to do better on tests, feel more secure, and are more likely to turn to their parents when they have a problem.

Of course, unstructured family time is often the time when we forge the strongest childhood memories. The conversations that happen just on a lazy Saturday, or the memories created while cooking dinner together, are immeasurable. These moments of spontaneous bonding are hard to plan, but I have found that planning regular family activities seems to make spontaneous activities happen more often as well.

Create time

I’m not the type of mom who likes to spend hours on the floor playing legos with my kids. (I’ve given birth six times so that my kids always have a sibling to play with!) At the same time, I love spending time with them and trying to make sure we always make time for fun family activities.

Our family schedule is a bit unusual with home school and weird homework hours, but we always make time at some point in the week to do things together. It could be a family game night, a backyard basketball game, or a camping trip, but it’s always a priority on our family schedule.

And I get it… in our busy world, it’s great to think about making time to do things together as a family, but incredibly difficult to do so. Here is a tip that helped me find ways to save time:

A “terminal day”

I heard this idea from one of the guests on the Tim Ferriss podcastand I love that. He said that every week he had what he called “a terminal day”. Basically, he spends time doing the things that he would do if he found out he had a terminal illness. He reasons that we are technically all terminally ill because none of us make it out alive, so why not spend the time now living as we would if we only had a limited number of days left with our relatives?

For me that could mean doing two days of school with the kids and taking the next day to go to the movies. Or take one of the kids for coffee to help them work on a project or new idea. Or just have a picnic in the backyard on a random Tuesday.

This day every week (often Sunday) helps me focus on the really important things in life.

Ideas for family traditions

Here are some of our favorite family activities:

Family game night

My parents had a family game night when I was a kid, and now I like to practice this tradition with my own children. Playing board games or card games with the family often results in lots of laughs and fun conversations. It doesn’t happen every week (as my husband isn’t the biggest board game fan), but we are trying. Some of our favorite games are:

  • A
  • Monopoly (Kids’ favorite, but it takes FOREVER. We usually pair an adult with each young child for this one.)
  • Tsuro

Cooking together

My kids really helped test the recipes for my cookbook, and we have fond memories of cooking together. I love to cook with my children for several reasons:

  1. I have to cook anyway and it’s fun to have the company
  2. They learn a skill they can use forever while we cook together
  3. They are more likely to eat the food when they help cook it

One of my favorite resources for home cooking is the Kids Cook Real Food Course which teaches basic to advanced cooking techniques in an easy to learn method. My kids love it and I love to cook with them while someone else teaches them (by video).

Saturday Soft Rock

When my husband and I got married for the first time, money was really tight. We didn’t have much income after food and bills, and looking back, I love that we had this time in our marriage. It made us imagine and appreciate free experiences and traditions. One of those traditions that we created during this time is Soft Rock Saturday.

Basically, on Saturday morning we would wake up and turn on the soft rock playlist on her iPod and listen to the songs while we made breakfast and cleaned the house. The tradition has remained and even now our children wake up on Saturdays and cry “Soft Rock Saturday!” It often turns into a dance party while I’m making breakfast.

Now the tradition is to light Amazon Prime Music Stations like their soft rock station, or James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Chicago, Air Supply and other classics from the 1970s.

Camping

It turns out that there are a lot of health benefits of camping, but it’s also a great bonding experience. It’s definitely more weather dependent than some of the other activities, but our kids love it! Sometimes camping is as easy as pitching a tent in the yard for the night or camping in the treehouse. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun! If you don’t have camping equipment, here is our review of tents and other camping equipment we tried.

Nerve fight

Another favorite kid in our house!

A few years ago, everyone had a nerf gun (that one) and some extra balls for Christmas. Every once in a while we have an epic family battle of nerves and the kids love it. Sometimes it’s parents versus kids or boys versus girls and we make different rules each time.

The best part? This can be done indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather. It gets the kids moving and it’s a fun family activity.

Read together

My mom was really good at reading to my brother and me when we were kids. I remember she read us many books for breakfast while growing up. In fact, I first “read” (heard) Chronicles of Narnia and Little house in the meadow, as well as many other books, this way.

I am certainly not as good as I would like to be reading aloud to my children. Most of them now read independently, but they still love it when I read aloud to them. We try to read them a story better at bedtime or at breakfast more often.

Movie night

Another favorite kid with us. We try not to spend movie night too often, but the kids love to camp out on the living room floor and watch a movie together. If the movie we’re watching is based on a book, we try to read the book (or at least let the older kids read it) before we watch the movie.

Art Time

Our children love art activities and sometimes we will spend time together painting, drawing or coloring together. The simplicity of these activities makes them perfect for facilitating a good conversation.

You don’t have to be an artist either. This block-by-block collaborative project art is one of our favorites because it’s easy to make, doesn’t require any special materials, and is suitable for all ages.

Conclusion: take time to spend time with family

In today’s fast-paced world, it seems like family time is one of the things that often goes through the cracks. I point my finger at me on this one! But at the end of the day (and the end of my life), it’s going to be the moments that matter and those we wish there were more of.

Time spent with family doesn’t have to be expensive, complex, or overly structured. Discovery some easy ways to spend time together every week helps build a family culture and has many positive effects for all of us.

How does your family spend time together? Share your ideas below!

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