Several years ago my husband and I began the weekly practice of having “family night” with our children every Saturday after dinner. Although we already eat supper together every night, we wanted to add something more intentional to bind us together once a week. It started out with the adults planning each activity, but now all five of us take turns being “in charge.” If you’re looking for a new family routine that doesn’t have to get boring, why not consider some of these ideas:
1) Go for a walk around your neighbourhood. If you want to give a focus to the walk, it could be looking for beautiful plants or little insects, picking up litter, praying silently for neighbours as you pass their homes, or tracking the number and types of dogs that are out and about. Consider bringing a snack along to share part-way through the walk.
2) Play a board game together. Some of our favourites are Carcasonne, the Settlers of Catan (this one has many different variations), Artifact, Boggle and Anomia.
3) Play tree tag at a park. One person is “IT.” If you are touching a tree, you cannot be tagged, but the idea is that players will be running among the trees whenever “IT” is not looking at them.
4) One person makes a list of 8-10 general words, such as “bear,” “funny,” or “music.” After the person reads one of the words, each person has to get an object from somewhere in the house that is associated with that word. When everyone has returned, all the items are set down. The group votes to say which item best represents the word. For example, “bear” might bring things as diverse as a jar of Kraft Peanut butter, a teddy bear, and the storybook of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
5) Set out plain note cards or drawing paper. Each family member writes a card or draws a picture for someone they know that needs cheering up. Either mail or deliver these promptly.
6) Cooperative story writing. Each person begins with a blank piece of paper and writes a sentence that could start a story. As the papers are passed, a new writer adds to the story. At the end, read the stories and laugh together at how zany they become. With younger children, you could do progressive drawings instead.
7) Family book share. Give some advanced notice of this activity so that each family member can tell a little bit about the book he or she is currently reading and read aloud a small portion of it.
8) Cycling. There are many creative things you can do in this category in addition to taking a trail or biking to an ice cream store, such as having a coasting race down a hill (how far can you go without pedaling) or a slow race on level ground (who can go slowest without losing their balance).
9) Family Feud on the Internet. Gather around a computer screen and work together to come up with the most popular answers to the survey questions.
10) Act out a skit or read the parts of a play as “reader’s theatre.” Old school readers may be a good source for plays.
11) Invite some neighbours to join you for “make your own” ice cream sundaes.
12) Stick races. Go to a river, stream or city storm waterway with flowing water. Each person finds a stick to drop into the water at the same time. Walk along as the current moves the sticks downstream to see whose stick goes fastest.
13) Creative building. Gather one set of identical items for each family member. For example, a black LEGO brick, a piece of string, an empty yogurt bucket, a spoon, a Popsicle stick, and a paperclip. The people separate and put the items together in their own creative “scene.” After everyone is finished, take a tour of the scenes and receive an explanation of what each scene is depicting.
14) Make a 500 piece puzzle together while listening to some favourite music. For younger children, a few smaller puzzles to do together may be better.