Spending time doing enjoyable activities together is a foundational element of family relationships. One of the things tearing away at the strength of families in our hectic, hyper-paced lives is the lack of time spent bonding through enjoyable activities.
According to numerous studies, our leisure time is shrinking and the amount of time we spend together as families is suffering. A study done by the Pittsburgh Priority Management Company revealed that the average working couple engages in four minutes of meaningful dialogue with each other per day—and only 30 seconds with their children!
One evening at a fantastic family event called Family Fun Night in Paradise, California, I had the privilege of conducting an activity. I asked all the children and adults in attendance what their favorite family activities were. I then made a list of all of the activities, printed it out, and gave it to each family so they could leave with some new ideas of things they could do together.
The families came up with many good ideas of things to do when you’re on a budget. Going bowling, fishing, biking, or just taking a walk can give everyone a chance to talk and bond. However, I am going to focus on activities that can become real family traditions.
Making a Funny Movie Together
This can be a downright hilarious activity. Almost every phone now has a movie camera and most computers have free movie editing software preinstalled or easily downloadable.
It doesn’t matter what type of movie you make. You can just come up with a general idea and let everyone ham it up. Setting up stuffed animals or plastic toys and adding dialogue can be really fun, but not as much fun as filming the family pet and imagining what they would be saying. Everyone can play their favorite role whether it’s an actor, director, or cameraman.
It takes some work, but it’s a good way kids can practice hands-on computer skills outside of school. A bonus is being able to share the end result with friends, family, classmates, and colleagues on Facebook or YouTube.
The key to a good game night is to make sure everyone gets a chance to play their favorite game. You don’t want anyone left out. Games are inexpensive and good ones can provide hours of family fun time. If you need to freshen up your supply of games, read the reviews on Amazon. There you can find a lot of highly rated games that many people don’t know about. Or, you could return to simple classics like Pictionary or charades.
There is also nothing wrong with video games as long as they involve everyone together. Nintendo especially has put in a lot of effort to make games that families can play together. Game night is a great time to teach turn-taking, integrity, and how to be a good winner or loser.
There are endless resources on the internet and in craft books to come up with fun craft projects that everyone in the family can enjoy together. Make sure you pick an activity while keeping everyone’s interests and abilities in mind. Doubtful family members can be tempted to join in if they see everyone having fun. This is a great activity before the holidays because it can result in ready-made gifts.
Movies usually don’t allow for as much bonding as other activities, but the reality is that sometimes they are the only thing that a busy family has the time and energy to do. As long as everyone watches together, it does provide some bonding time as well as a shared experience that the family can reference and discuss afterward. Save movie nights for when you are too tired for anything else and definitely don’t make it your family’s one and only tradition.
When the weather is nice enough to get out and about, a scavenger hunt can engage just about every age group in the family. They key to a fun scavenger hunt is to come up with a really great list. Luckily you can look online for inspiration where there are endless ideas for interesting objects to hunt down. The nice thing about scavenger hunts is the opportunity for cooperation. People on the same team will build camaraderie. So, create the teams strategically.
Make It a Tradition
Some people just don’t know how their children or spouse has become so distant from them. If all interactions you have with your family are about getting things done and taking care of business, then you will form a business relationship instead of a personal one.
The point of all of these activities is to create opportunities for families to come closer together, and family traditions are a great way to build stronger family relationships.
If game night is every third Friday of the month and your family always does a scavenger hunt near the first day of spring and fall, traditions begin to form. The shared time you spend together will help foster a positive family identity that can be passed on to future generations and is well worth the effort.
Michael Courter is a clinical social worker, family therapist, and entrepreneur in Northern California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.