December 26, 2020
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I’m realizing that the old saying seems to be true… time does go faster as you get older. My kids are growing so fast, and my mom-brain has started to realize that time before my oldest ones leave home is growing much shorter.
For this reason, I’ve really been trying to start some family traditions and spend quality time together as a family. While I hope that our kids still want to spend time with us when they are teenagers, we’re making family time a focus while they still enjoy it.
The Importance of Family Time
The research is strong on the importance of family time and building a family culture. Children from families with a strong and positive family culture tend to do better on tests, feel more secure, and are more likely to come to their parents when they have a problem.
Of course, unstructured family time is often when we forge the strongest childhood memories. The conversations that just happen on a lazy Saturday, or the memories made while cooking dinner together, are immeasurable. These spontaneous bonding times are hard to plan, but I’ve found that planning regular family activities seems to make the spontaneous ones occur more often too.
Creating the Time
I’m not the type of mom that loves to spend hours on the floor playing legos with my kids. (I gave birth six times so my kids would always have a sibling to play with!) At the same time, I do love spending time with them and try to make sure that we always make time for fun family activities together.
Our family schedule is a little unusual with homeschooling and strange work-from-home hours, but we always make time at some point during the week to do things together. It may be a family game night, a basketball game in the backyard, or a camping trip, but it’s always a priority for our family schedule.
And I get it… in our busy world, it is great to think about making the time to do things together as a family but incredibly tough to actually do it. Here’s one tip that helped me find ways to make the time:
A “Terminal Day”
I heard this idea from one of the guests on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, and love it. He said that each week he has what he calls “a terminal day.” Basically, he spends time doing the things he would do if he found out he had a terminal illness. He reasons that we are technically all terminal since none of us make it out alive, so why not spend the time now living the way we would if we had a limited number of days left with our loved ones?
For me, this may mean doing two days’ worth of school in one with the kids and taking the next day to go to a movie. Or taking one of the kids out for coffee to help him work on a project or new idea. Or just having a picnic in the backyard on a random Tuesday.
This day each week (often Sunday) helps me focus on the truly important things in life.
Ideas for Family Time Traditions
Here are a few of our favorite family time activities:
Family Game Night
My parents had family game night when I was a kid, and now I enjoy doing this tradition with my own kids. Playing board games or card games as a family often leads to lots of laughter and fun conversation. These don’t happen every week (as my husband isn’t the biggest fan of board games), but we try. Some of our favorite games are:
- Monopoly (Kid favorite but it takes FOREVER. We usually pair an adult with each younger kid for this one.)
My kids were really helpful in testing the recipes for my cookbook, and we have some great memories from cooking together. I love cooking with my kids for a few reasons:
- I have to cook anyway and it is fun to have the company
- They are learning a skill they can use forever while we cook together
- They are more likely to eat the food when they help cook it
One of my favorite resources for family 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 getting to cook with them while someone else teaches them (by video).
Soft Rock Saturday
When my husband and I first got married, money was really tight. We didn’t have much spending income after food and bills, and in hindsight, I love that we had this time in our marriage. It made us come up with and appreciate free experiences and traditions. One such tradition that we created during that time is Soft Rock Saturday.
Basically, on Saturday mornings, we would wake up and turn on the soft rock playlist on his iPod and belt out the songs while we made breakfast and cleaned the house. The tradition stuck and even now, our kids wake up on Saturday and exclaim “Soft Rock Saturday!” It often turns into a dance party while I make breakfast.
Now, the tradition involves turning on Amazon Prime Music stations like their soft rock station, or James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Chicago, Air Supply, and other 1970s classics.
Turns out there are a lot of health benefits to camping, but it is also a great bonding experience. It is definitely more weather-dependent than some other activities, but our kids love it! Sometimes, camping is as simple as pitching a tent in the backyard for a night or camping out in the treehouse. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun! If you don’t have camping equipment, here’s our review of the tents and other camping gear we’ve tried.
Another kid favorite in our house!
A few years ago, everyone got a nerf gun (this one) and some extra bullets for Christmas. Every once in a while, we have an epic family nerf battle and the kids love it. Sometimes it is parents vs. kids or guys vs. girls and we make up different rules each time.
The best part? This can be done inside or outside, depending on weather. It gets the kids moving and is a fun family activity.
My mother was really good about reading to my brother and I when we were children. I remember her reading many books to us over breakfast while growing up. In fact, I first “read” (heard) The Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie, along with many other books, this way.
I’m admittedly not as good as I’d like to be on reading aloud to my kids. Most of them read independently now, but they still all love when I read out loud to them. We’re trying to get better at reading a story to them at bedtime or over breakfast more often.
Another kid favorite at our house. We try not to default to movie night too often, but the kids love camping out on the living room floor and watching a movie together. If the movie we are watching is based on a book, we try to read the book (or at least let the older kids read it) before watching the movie.
Our kids love art activities, and we will sometimes spend time together painting, drawing, or coloring together. The simplicity of these activities makes them perfect for facilitating great conversation.
You don’t need to be an artist, either. This collaborative block by block art project is one of our favorites because it’s simple to do, takes no special materials, and is interesting for all ages.
Bottom Line: Making Time for Family Time
In today’s fast-paced world, it seems like family time is one of the things that often falls through the cracks. I’m pointing my finger back at myself on this one! But at the end of the day (and at the end of my life), these will be the times that matter and the ones we wish there had been more of.
Family time doesn’t have to be expensive, elaborate, or overly structured. Finding a few simple ways to spend time together each 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!