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Family Traditions Make Great Memories
Some of my favorite memories growing up are of family traditions, time spent with my parents and siblings that was predictable. For almost all of my teen years, I knew Friday night was pizza night and I loved it. I also spent a lot of time at my best friend’s house growing up and I loved the rhythm of participating in some of their traditions.
As my kids grow up, I also get to hear from them the family traditions they remember, things they enjoyed doing and some stuff they didn’t like very much. Oh well, you win some you lose some.
I bet that you already have some family traditions even if you don’t realize it. But if you are looking for some new ideas of how to bring the family together to build memories and grow closer as a family, check out these ideas below:
5 Daily Family T
1. Go around the dinner table and let everyone say one or more things they are grateful for.
This family tradition is so simple and powerful. If you say grace before dinner before grace would set a perfect stage for prayer. If you are not a grace-saying family, reflecting on gratitude is a great way to bring everyone together and reconnect.
Practicing gratitude can help your family to see and appreciate what they have. It can help innoculate children (and grownups!) against the gimmies. It’s also an excellent window into what’s on everyone’s mind and heart.
Sometimes things kids are grateful are surface things like video games or Netflix subscriptions. But sometimes what they are grateful for might
Since my family includes teenagers and young adults who are sometimes in a mood, we also have a “pass” clause added to our gratitude practice. Anyone can pass anytime they feel like it and there is absolutely no judgment or hassling to participate. The ability to pass has been used surprisingly infrequently, so starting a practice like this can work even with older kids.
2. Spend a Few Minutes Reading Aloud as a Family
Reading aloud is such an easy way to help kids excel in school, build a passion for books, and create memories as a family that it should almost be a required part of family life.
You can read to the kids while they eat breakfast, at the end of dinner, at bedtime, or throw an audiobook on in the car during carpool.
It all counts.
And reading the same story together is amazing. You will have stuff to talk about as a family and build memories together. It’s a win all around.
3. Everyone Helps Clean Up After Dinner, Together
I know that generally dinner clean up is a chore that gets doled out to kids or parents, and I do believe that children should have chores. But dinnertime is such an amazing time to bond and spend time together without screens. See below
Why would you want to shorten it by having everyone scatter the minute the last bite of pasta is eaten??
This has been such a long-standing tradition in my family, that no one has ever realized that there’s a different way to clean up dinner. Everyone stays in the kitchen or dining room and keeps working until all the dinner chores are done.
Granted when the kids are little, it seems like more trouble than it’s worth. But believe me, it’s not.
As the kids have grown up, these few minutes have become some of the most precious of my day to watch them interact as they work or try to convince someone else to work for them.
Stay strong and hang in there, mama. This family tradition is worth pushing through to establish!
4. Family Hugs
Especially when the kids are younger, spending some downtime together as a family as part of the bedtime ritual that ends with a group hug or individual hugs is a great way to cap off the evening as everyone goes to their own rooms and beds.
This is a great tradition to start when kids are young and even better one to start with your spouse before kids. But if you start with older kids, this is a trickier family tradition to implement.
No one should be forced to hug against their will. But perhaps other forms of touch may be tolerated, like high fives or fist bumps. You can also implement the “pass” rule.
But definitely parents should try to make friendly touch a least a couple of times of day a habit with each of their children if at all possible. And encouraging siblings to make touch connections with each other will cement their bonds with each other as nothing else can!
Even a brief touch on the shoulder or arm can make a HUGE difference in a relationship.
5. No Screens During Dinner
As screens have become more and more just a part of our culture’s every waking moment, it’s important to carve out some non-screen/actual human connection time in our families every day.
This family tradition hopefully feels like a no-brainer. Dinner is the perfect time to talk and laugh and share the day. Set a great example for the kids. Teach them the ever-growing in importance skill of carving time out of their day to put the screens and the phones away and be present with the people in the room with them.
This may be a difficult sell at first, particularly if you have not had limits on screens at the table (especially for adults) but press on, mama, it will be harder before it gets easier and maybe it never will be easy.
But I think you will find it is worth it. I love having dinner as a screen free zone. Sometimes it’s my only chance in a busy teen’s day to talk with them without it.
5 Weekly Family Traditions
1. Family Game Night
Find a classic board game. If you are on a budget, many libraries and second-hand stores have them. Uno, Candyland, Sorry, and Monopoly are some of our family favorites. There are tons of new fun board games, depending on the ages of your kiddos that you can try Apples to Apples or We Didn’t Playtest This At All.
If you have some money to spend or a gift card with some extra cash on it, there are tons of new board games that have come out in recent years. With the rise of cell phones and social media, there has been something of a board game renaissance, looking to bring friends and family back to the table.
If board games aren’t your thing, try a family jigsaw puzzle or coloring books, which aren’t just for kids anymore. Or try your hand at a paint-by-number book. Just something that gathers the family around the table and allows for a lot of interaction and silliness.
2. Family Library Night
I am a huge fan of libraries!! It is the place to find all the new cool books coming out without spending a ton of money. But don’t worry if you’re not a reader, libraries aren’t just for books. They have movies, TV series, games, puzzles, magazines, audiobooks and sometimes even iPads available to borrow. My local library has a seed and tool exchange as well. You never know what fun and unusual resources your local library has until you ask.
There are also story times and family activities galore at libraries. Check out a book on woodworking and spend time making a family project like shelves or a birdhouse. Make sure to pick up a book or two for family read alouds and audiobooks for car trips can’t be beat.
If you’re stuck on what to read next or looking for a book to interest kids of any age, ask the librarian. That’s what they’re there for and well trained to do it!
3. Pizza and a Movie
Pizza and a movie night was definitely a favorite in the Merrill house when the kids were growing up. We would spread out blankets and make Kool-Aid and watch the monthly world premieres of the new Disney channel movie. The kids still talk about that.
In different seasons of life family movie nights may look a little different. Now for us with kids with jobs and extra-curricular activities and crazy class schedules, movie nights are quite rare and usually center around holiday movies during school breaks. We still watch Charlie Brown shows every year for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and we wouldn’t miss Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments at Easter time.
Weekly movie nights work great for families with littles or when the nest is empty. It doesn’t need to be a big production, sometimes it’s just mom announcing, drop everything and curl up on the couch with a Harry Potter movie and everyone joins in.
Pizza isn’t required, though it definitely can help draw in a reluctant movie watcher. But think about having some kind of treat or fun food to go with the movie. Popcorn and candy, chips and dip, homemade cookies or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
4. Take a Family Walk
Try taking a family walk in the evening after dinner. A walk is a great way to bond and talk about stuff that is on their minds. But it’s also a way to spend time together in nature or the neighborhood or the local park without needing to fill the space with words. Just watching the sunset is an experience worth sharing.
Sometimes just being together is enough, especially when kids are going through difficult seasons of life.
If you can wait just a little while after dinner, or when the days are shorter during winter, you can take the family for a walk and stargaze. A book from the library can help everyone pick out constellations or if you prefer, learn the myths the constellations are based on. Either way, this can lead to interesting conversations and maybe even a desire to learn more.
A small, inexpensive telescope can also bring greater depth and wonder to this activity. Try tracking the constellations as they move through the sky through the year and imagine what the stars looked like to people who lived hundreds of years ago.
Plus a walk is a great way to get everyone out of the house, away from modern distractions, hopefully, and just move their bodies!
5. Dance Party or Tossing a Ball in the Driveway
This is a family tradition that will get the blood flowing and everyone moving. Or try another tradition, like bike riding or playing on the local playground.
A dance party is my favorite because it requires no extra equipment or time. You can throw an impromptu dance party during dinner clean up, during Saturday morning chores, or after breakfast before heading to the bus stop.
I also enjoy it because it’s inside and the neighbors don’t have to know quite how uncoordinated I am.
But a game of catch only requires a ball, pretty much of any type and can be done just outside the front or back door. I don’t recommend this one inside the house, for obvious reasons.
Just make sure that you and the kids get muscles moving and breathing deeply several times throughout the week. This is an easy way to show kids that fitness can be fun and doesn’t require a huge amount of effort or planning or equipment.
16 Annual Family Traditions
I feel like my family gets the most out of the small and simple daily and weekly everyday moments, but I am also a huge celebrating holidays, cool other days of each year. Try a new annual holiday tradition this year:
1. Celebrate Summer and Winter Solstice with No Electricity or Screens
- Summer solstice-Get outside and enjoy the longest day of the year. Don’t go to bed until the sun does!
- Winter solstice-Stay inside and light candles or a fireplace and enjoy the longest night of the year with popcorn and storytelling. Just enjoy each other’s company and don’t use electric lights!
2. Take 1st Day and Last Day of School Photos
Take a photo of each kid on their way out the door to a new adventure of a new school year. Then take a photo as each kid comes in the door at the end of the last day of school. Group shots are encouraged as well!
3. Take an Annual Family Camping Trip
There is nothing for family bonding like a camping trip. Take one at least once a year. Go to the same campsite every year and watch nature grow and change as the years pass. Or find a new adventure every year and camp somewhere new every time.
4. Make a Gratitude Tree -link
It’s very simple to create your own gratitude tree. Definitely get the kids involved with all the stages of this. Add leaves of gratitude all November long and enjoy it as a Thanksgiving centerpiece.
5. Help Kids Donate Outgrown Toys or Clothes Before Christmas
Help head off the Christmas gimmies. Spend some time with the kids the week of Thanksgiving going through their toys and games and clothes and talk about the importance of helping others and donate unwanted or unused items to your favorite children’s charity.
6. Sponsor an Angel from the Salvation Army Angel Tree
Find a local sponsor of a Salvation Army angel tree and pick an angel (or two). At the end of November or the beginning of December take the kids on a shopping spree to fulfill an Angel Tree request from a child in need. Give the kids an opportunity to spend some of their own money to help pay for the gifts.
7. Drop a Memory in the Jar and Read Them on New Year’s E
Just grab an empty jar (plastic works well for this one) and cut up a bunch of squares of paper (it’s a great way to recycle scrap paper). Leave the jar and paper out on the counter and encourage everyone to jot down memorable moments or cool accomplishments throughout the year as they happen and just toss in the jar. Then on New Year’s eve gather everyone around and read through the memories. These notes can then be pasted into a family scrapbook with names and dates and additional notes to be treasured through the years.
8. Play in the First Snowfall of the Year
If it snows where you live, make sure to get out into the first snowfall of the year and play!
- Catch snowflakes on your tongue.
- Sled, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, make snow ice cream.
- Then head inside for hot cocoa and soup!
9. Fly a Kite on the First Day of Spring
Spring is a wonderful time of year as we get to emerge from winter hibernation to enjoy the outdoors again. If the breeze isn’t blowing on the first day of spring, just fly a kite on the first windy day that feels like spring!
10. Join the Library’s Summer Reading Program
If you love summer, like I love summer, then your favorite part of it is probably reading a good book. Summer reading programs aren’t just for kids. My local library has a teen and adult summer reading program. If yours doesn’t, encourage the library to start one.
11. Carve Jack O’Lanterns Together
For years my kids have all had their own pumpkin to carve. And pumpkin carving has come a long way from the simple triangle eyes, nose and mouth with crooked teeth jack o’ lanterns of the old days. There are pumpkin carving kits and templates complete with tools to make cool designs. Or if sharp knives aren’t your thing, let everyone paint or otherwise decorate their own pumpkin to decorate the porch on Halloween
12. Trim the Tree
Make decorating the Christmas tree a family affair. Sure it won’t look “professional” but happy memories of time spent together will more than makeup for a lack of perfection in ornament placement.
13. Plant a Tree
Some communities give away free trees to plant on Arbor Day or during spring clean-up days. The best thing about planting a tree is watching it grow year after year. Take a photo with the kids and “their” trees every year to document how each of them has grown.
14. Make Homemade Jam
Summer isn’t really complete without making some homemade jam. It’s surprisingly easy to make and you won’t be surprised how delicious homemade jam is to eat. It’s even better tasting from the fruit you pick yourself. If you have fruit trees or bushes growing in your own yard, so much the better, this one is a no-brainer. But if you don’t, you may have a neighbor who has some extra fruit to share, just be sure to bring them a jar of your jam to say “thanks”. If not, there are likely some you-pick farms nearby where you can spend a day picking your own fruit for a nominal cost.
15. Write a Birthday Letter to Your Kids Each Year
This is another great idea for moms who love to get sentimental. We think we will always remember the magic and trials of each stage of parenthood, but it’s so easy to forget with time. But taking a few minutes to reflect on each year of your child’s life will result in keeping many memories that otherwise may be forgotten
16. Family Sunrise Hike
If you can start the hike before sunrise and time it to reach a scenic overlook to watch the sunrise, that would be amazing. This is one of my favorites to do with the kids, the kids not so much. But being taken out to breakfast afterward softens the blow enough that even teenagers can enjoy this one.
That was A LOT of Family Traditions!
That ended up being quite a list of ideas for new or renewed family traditions ideas. Now, mama, please don’t try to implement all of these, or even most of them. It is a guaranteed formula for feeling overwhelmed and burned out.
But think about this list. Think about your goals for your family and try one or two that make your heart sing.
What amazing family traditions do you have with YOUR kids? Let me know in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them!