Those moments where everyone in the family is grinning ear to ear are what Pat Tanner Nelson, professor of Human Development & Family Studies at University of Delaware, calls “family glue”. It goes without saying that memorable moments are what build healthy, strong relationships that deeply connect you with the rest of your family members for years to come. It’s important that as they age, your children get plenty of quality time with you and the rest of the family. Quality time early in life instills a sense of pride in children later on, to work hard to impress their parents. Coming full circle, investing time with your children while they’re young is beneficial for the entire family and later reflects stronger family bonds.
Of course this is one of the goals you had in mind for your family, but as children age, special moments might become fewer and far between. There is a lot of individual-ness that can make it stressful (particularly those teenagers, who are a little complicated at the moment but we love them very much) on the person trying to put it all together. When one family member has to plan an entire family’s fun, it’s a difficult task. So with that in mind, try getting the whole family in on the fun! With all of you investing your time and energy into planning the bonding time, it takes the stress off of one person and keeps everyone’s ideas in play. It doesn’t have to be so difficult, it just takes a few adjustments to build more lasting funny stories and memories the entire family will remember forever. To grease the wheels a bit, our Ottawa family counselling team outlined a few ideas to help you and the rest of your family get started planning all the fun.
Interview Each Other
Particularly for those of you who have gone through the loss of a parent, there is a lot of history about your parents that you may never know. Take the time you have with your children to let them in on what they want to know. Interview them and pick their brain for a bit, too. Have all the members of your family sharing miraculous stories about growing up in different times (before wifi was a thing, kids!) and generations. Ask each other what life was like using whichever kind of recorder you may have. Be it digital, tape recorder, video recorder or cellphone, you can document these memories as you make them so that all the stories, voices and facial expressions will live on long after our loved ones might. Once you’ve finished interviewing a family member, switch the camera around, and let them interview you; let them into your past too. The more children know about their heritage (and can recall the stories they had so much fun hearing about in the first place), they can start to think about their futures and the stories they want to leave behind for the next generations to come. Save all the footage, collect all the funny anecdotes, and put it in a family history time capsule with photos, cd’s and slideshows to dig up later.
Have The Kids Make Dinner
Letting the kids prepare a meal and serve it to you and your partner restaurant style will be fun for everyone, while also crossing something off your lengthy to-do list (maybe even once each week!). They say that memories have strong ties with the senses – smell, taste, touch, sound and sight – and a meal requires all of those to be heightened and ready for memories in the making while coincidentally nurturing your child’s drive to impress you both. It’s a win-win-win because many studies have shown that children who eat the majority of their meals with their families are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, are open to new dishes and later down the road, less likely to go through depression or eating disorders. Furthermore, the conversations and chit chat around the dinner table is linked to more open communication between family members.The more you practice deeply listening to them in conversations early on, the more likely it is that your children will come to you later in life to ask for your advice in adolescence about things that are causing them trouble. So introduce your children to a recipe book that’s easy to follow, follows along proper safety guidelines, and let them get creative in the kitchen making you something delicious to dine around! The delicious memories await.
Plant Some Seeds
We mean this in two ways: Planting gardens with your family is a great, fun way to grow healthy bonds with your family while giving your front yard, back yard or interior some life! When the whole family gets their hands dirty to come together and make something natural, healthy and beautiful, it sews seeds of patience and respect into their hearts. Encourage them to pick out their favorite flowers, vegetables and fruit seeds and teach them how to tuck them deep into the earth, and patiently wait to see things sprout. Spend that quality time with them as they watch, grow and care for their plants as you do watching and loving on them. Planting a garden is a fun way for the entire family to build a strong, growing bond and to teach the little ones respect for the earth beneath their feet. With the right TLC, plenty of water, and a lot of watching, the plants will grow strong, as will they, and as will your memories growing something beautiful and living.
Have A Garage Sale
We don’t mean for this list to mimic your chore list – but this is really a fantastic way for your family to team up and have some fun. Have a yard sale and let the kiddos make a decision for where or how to spend the earnings on family activity for everyone. Whether they’ve got old toys that have been trapped under the bed or clothes they’ve outgrown, you can spend a lot of quality time helping them decide what they need to prepare for the sale; how to display everything, fair prices, signs to point people in the right direction, and it wouldn’t be a yard sale without a classic lemonade stand. Half the fun is the prep that goes into a day of “out with the old” and brainstorming ways to earn a day of fun with everyone. The other half of the fun is the day of the sale. Have a responsibility for each member of the family, and make sure they’re ready for the tasks of hanging up signs early in the morning, putting stickers on the items for sale, getting a big batch of lemonade ready and helping assist any “customers”. With a fun garage sale the whole team helps out with, deciding where to go afterwards will be well deserved and memorable for decades.
Having a Fun (and free!) Scavenger Hunt
You can divide into teams for a little healthy competition for this fun family activity. This is also a great way to explore the town (or inside the house) with your family, having to solve the next clue on the list. Start with a pre made scavenger list, or brainstorm with each other to make your own, and set a date for the fun to begin – this activity is a great one for rainy days, weekends, or those times when the kids are itching to do something fun and your budget is low – the possibilities really are endless! Next, come up with some sort of prize and go over the rules required for winning to eliminate any disputes that could come up near the end of the grand haul. Have the kids come up with maps for the designated areas to stay in, and designate bags for items that need to be collected; as with the garage sale, everyone can be assigned a task towards the preparation of this game.
Coming up with ways to create clues or find items is going to bring out those problem solving skills in children and adults of any age. Helping each other out is what family time is about right? Because everyone is going to have to work as a team, memories will inevitably be built and fun will be had. Want to take it to the next level? You can get technology involved in your hunt. If you’ve had a hard time getting your teen off their smartphone, involve that too; they’ll need to use a camera of some sort to prove they’ve finished certain parts of the hunt. After all is finished, they’ll have fun family-focused photos to keep for a lifetime and use in the next family photo album.
Like we said before, getting the family together for some quality bonding time doesn’t have to be so difficult – it just takes some effort and a little creativity. We hope these tips help you get together for a laugh and a lesson with your family, as memory building activities.