Click through for 18 more unique ideas for starting family rituals at your place.
There’s a reason that “old-fashioned” board games are still going strong in a digital world – they bring people together. Next weekend, ditch the ‘family movie’ and bring on the ‘family Twister’ or ‘family Cluedo’ or ‘family Trouble’ instead. There are games that are genuinely fun for everyone in the family.
Related content: Bring Back Family Games Night: All That's Old is New Again
School kids and up
Older kids and adults
Image: Kate Fairlie
Most of us get that birthdays are important and special and birthday kids all over town get indulged and treated. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be! But do give some thought as to how you can make birthdays into a special family ritual too. Birthdays just beg to be turned into memories.
Try one of these ideas:
Image: Susan Phillips
Daily gratitude journalling has been a ‘thing’ for a while now. Most of us have caught onto the fact that being grateful makes us happier, but science has also confirmed that gratitude makes us physically and psychologically healthier too. Even better, it’s a fun thing to do together as a family. Create a gratitude journal like this one by Polkadot Chair and encourage every member of the family to get involved. You can draw, write, take a photo of or cut out a picture of whatever it is you’re grateful for. Working on the journal can be a daily or weekly practice, but whatever you choose, down the track you will certainly be grateful that you have this record of abundance.
If you’re not sold on gratitude, here are some other ideas for family journal keeping:
Image: Polkadot Chair
Now, before you start panicking at the thought of taking the kids to the shops (gah!), let me explain: Supermarkets are not a family’s friend. There is nothing even remotely fun about them and they have no business being on this list of family fun activities. But you knew that already, right?
No, forget the supermarket and shop for food at your local farmers’ market instead. You may think you don’t have a local farmers’ market, but I can pretty much guarantee that you do. You can find yours by using the Australian Farmers’ Market Directory.
If a supermarket is family fun kryptonite, then the market is Superman. It’s just super-fun there for everyone. Mum and Dad get a really fresh cup of coffee, the kids get an apple so fresh they think it’s a treat and everyone gets to pick out fresh produce for making yummy dishes during the week. I am 100% certain that our fortnightly trips to the local farmers’ market are going to be an enduring memory for all three of my children.
Do not underestimate the power of a little mum-note tucked somewhere to make a kid feel special. School lunch box notes are an obvious spot to put a little loving – you can put a joke inside, an encouring message, a note saying thank you or one of these sweet little Mad Lib Notes. Something like this is a great way for a family to have fun together, even though they’re not able to be together. My kids also love it when I tattoo a secret message on their banana or pop a special ‘Friyay’ treat in with their standard lunch.
Image: Chelsea Foy
Growing up, on Friday nights we went to the beach year round for a fish and chip dinner. If you can possibly afford it, a regular take away night gives you a break and provides a rhythm to family life. You might be the kind of family who experiments with a different kind of take away each week, or you might be the kind (as clearly my parents were) who like the same thing, year in year out until the kids leave home. It’s totally up to you.
One thing I would highly recommend, however, is taking your take away away. It’s nice to have a meal outside once a week – at the beach (if you have one), a park, a friend’s place or over to Grandma’s. That way, a meal becomes an event.
Sometimes the best rituals are ones that keep on going for years. We have a fun ritual like that: our Family Memory Jar. Throughout the year every member of the family writes something they’ve loved about a particular moment on a card and ‘posts’ it into the jar. We read the cards on New Year’s Eve and then I put them into a box labelled with the year that was – just in case anyone ever wants a special trip down memory lane. The cards have all kinds of things written on them from “8.1 We went to Disneyland Paris!” to “23.1 Max snorted milk out of his nose.” It’s riveting stuff, let me tell you!
We live in the city and for many of our friends the changing seasons are marked only by remarks like, “Isn’t it getting cold?” or “It’s finally warming up”. But the seasons are so much more than hot or cold weather and a lovely family activity is to celebrate the uniqueness of each season throughout the year. You might mark the coming of autumn with the first lighting of the fire pit and marshmallow mania. Winter chill could be marked by drinks and nibbles around the fireplace inside with friends. Spring is always good for a party – invite all your family friends around for a barbecue and nature hunt. Summer might be the first beach picnic or boating excursion. In every season, you might also find an opportunity to do a home-based activity together, like:
Whatever you choose to do, do it each quarter as the seasons turn and do it annually, so it becomes a part of the rhythm of your children’s days.
We all love travel and kids love a holiday, but affording one is not always on the agenda. Instead, we like to visit different areas of our own neighbourhood, treating the day as a day of ‘travel’. We try to go every month to somewhere new and it’s a different member of our family who chooses where we’ll go next. My husb and I help the kids with their ‘research’, but generally they have a pretty good idea all on their own. We’ve trained-it across the city to eat pho, visited a kids’ market in a neighbouring suburb, been to the movies in a completely different part of town, hit up some amazing local festivals and been farm-gate shopping on the outskirts of our city. There is so much to explore, we’ve just got to challenge ourselves to get out of our daily routine and into a new part of town. I promise your kids will continue to surprise you with how patient they are when they are waiting to explore something new.
On Sundays, my Dad would make ‘Campfire Beans’ and serve them up with bacon and eggs. They were the best and I’d love to be able to share the recipe with you, but my Dad is hanging onto it. I suspect he knows what a special place those beans have in his kids’ and, now, grandkids’ hearts and he doesn’t want anyone else to take that spot. I get that. I want that – wouldn’t you love to have a recipe that brings your family together like that? I know I’m definitely working on one.
In the meantime, it’s Sunday pancakes at our place, eaten outside on the covered back deck, rain or shine. There’s usually a few chickens clucking underfoot and someone always spills the maple syrup all over their pancakes (usually my son Max and generally accidentally-on-purpose). It’s a wonderfully rambunctious and strangely calming way to start a lazy Sunday.
This is a particularly good one for families with more than one child. It’s hard getting one on one time, isn’t it!? A Daddy or Mummy date is such a great solution – you can do something together that you both like, but that others in the family might not enjoy so much. My eldest daughter and I love going to our local skate park together. Arabella gets her skateboard out and joins in the fun, while I’m happy to watch and encourage her. One time I thought I’d “join in the fun” and ended up unable to sit for a week after stacking it. I think I embarrassed Ari so much that she’s never wondered why Mum doesn’t get involved. Rather, she’s happy that we are there together, just us two.
My younger daughter and I enjoy ice skating together and my son and I go to the library. I adore spending time with each of them one on one, no matter where we go.
I have always loved a scavenger hunt and my kids are massive fans too. Somehow, adding a treasure hunt to an everyday activity turns it into something memorable and fun. Take cleaning up, for instance. I create a ‘treasure hunt’ for the kids based on all the stuff they leave around the house. They then need to race around the house and find everything in the order I’ve set it out. They put their found items into a basket and then at the end of the game, they have to put their things away in order to receive a prize (usually a home baked treat or sometimes cold hard cash!). Result!
I also like to add a nature hunt when we go on a bushwalk or visit the beach. A list of things to find in nature occupies us for ages, especially when I put really obscure things on their that are genuinely hard to find. The harder the list, the more the kids seem to love it. Just don’t go overboard and make it impossible because the frustration will turn them off lists for life.
I’m not the most active person in the world, but I do love a good walk and sometimes a run. The best thing about it is that I can do it with my kids. We have been in a few ‘fun runs’ over the years and they are genuinely good fun. The Colour Run and the 7 Bridges Walk are our favourites, but there are lots of small, local fun runs that are good to get involved in. You don’t have to run in a fun run – walking is perfectly acceptable and any old pace is fine. The atmosphere on event day is what makes us keep coming back (because, it’s face it, we can walk around our neighborhood any old day). Kids really thrive on the crowds and the ‘running for a cause’ ideal. The fundraising can be half the fun.
The benefits of walking for individual health have been well documented and the benefits are just as wide-ranging when a family heads out together. Kids benefit from developing a healthy habit from a young age plus walking makes you feel good, especially when you’re out and about experiencing the world with your family.
No doubt about it, walking is good for the soul and the older our kids get, the more we find that a walk helps them open up about their day. A wind-down walk around the neighbourhood after dinner is a good way to surrender the day and talk about tomorrow.
It doesn’t matter what festival you go to, just as long as you go. We try to go to something every year because family-friendly festivals are awesome fun for everyone. So far, we’ve been to the Mullum Music Festival (pictured), the Byron Bay BluesFest, Woodford Folk Festival, Henley on Todd and Confest. You can find a suitable festival for your tribe here or ask your friends whether they’ve ever been to one.
It’s fun when one of the kids’ friends comes to sleepover, but even more fun when everyone has a friend to sleepover at the same time – including mum and dad. Actually, that sounds a bit cheeky, doesn’t it, but you know what I mean! We have friends who live interstate who come to ‘sleepover’ once a year – they have two girls to match my two and then my son, Max, gets to invite a school friend along for the weekend. So everyone has a buddy. We eat outside and stay up late and because nobody has to drive, it can be a very big night indeed!
It’s great fun, but I will warn you that the house gets trashed and none of the kids sleep very much. That’s the stuff childhoods are made of, right?
Fishing is all kinds of naff when you think about it, but it’s still a really nice way for a family to spend time together. We’ve been many times and actually never caught anything more interesting than a toad fish, but that doesn’t seem to stop us from packing up the bait and trying our luck again and again.
There’s a reason for that: spending quiet time together as a family opens space for important things like idle chat, silly jokes, peaceful silence and shared memories. I highly recommend it.
My friend’s family goes on a late night bushwalk once a month on the full moon. I really like the idea of that. Doing something ‘on the full moon’ seems special and it’s a great way to make sure you actually do something monthly, rather than just say you’ll do it. The walk doesn’t have to be a long one, even a stroll around the block to admire the rising moon is a nice idea. Observing the moon’s activity gives kids a real sense of place and time. It adds to their sense of wonderment about the world and how they might fit into it. Walking at night can help them feel more comfortable with the dark too, showing them that it’s just the same old world with the lights turned off. These are all such important elements of a rich life to nurture in our children.