When asked, children say the number one thing they want most from their parents is time. Parents don’t have to spend a lot of money to spend quality time with their children; any time spent together sharing an activity is considered quality time.
Children grow and change quickly, so family time is a wonderful time to get to know your child better. It builds strong family ties and creates lifelong memories. Family time also creates an environment that builds self-esteem and character in children.
Ideas for Family Time
Here are a dozen things families with teens and preteens can do together as a family.
1. Eat Meals Together
Eating our meals together, especially our evening meal, had been a big part of my childhood. I always knew this was a tradition I wanted to continue when I had children of my own. Times have changed, however, and coming together for dinner is more difficult than it was in the 70s and 80s.
Parents are working longer hours. Kids are involved in more extracurricular activities – sports, school clubs, etc. We’ve thereby made family meals a priority. Though some nights we have to juggle, the majority of our evening meals are enjoyed with each of us seated at the dining room table.
2. Cook Meals Together
This is an endeavor we have only recently begun, but it certainly more fun to prepare a meal with one another than to do all the work oneself. The way our kitchen is laid out, only two people can be actively cooking or preparing a dish. There just isn’t space for more. When Patrick and I are cooking, the kids like to sit at the island and engage us in conversation. It helps to extend our family meal time.
3. Go for an Evening Walk
After we’ve cleaned up our meal and taken care of any pressing tasks demanding our attention, we often enjoy a short walk around the neighborhood. These strolls provide us a chance to catch up and focus on one another without distractions. Sometimes it’s just hubby and I – a great time to assure we are on the same page. Other times, it’s the four of us.
4. Take on a Challenge
Going for walks together is something we have always enjoyed. Shortly into the new year, we challenged ourselves to hike 52 different trails together as a family. We started the year strong, visiting new trail heads in parts of the state we had not previously explored.
One of the stipulations we made for ourselves is that all four of us needed to be there. In other words, Patrick and I can not count the hikes we did during our romantic weekend away to celebrate our anniversary. The kids can not count the hikes they do at summer camp. Illnesses, schedule conflicts, and other obligations have thereby set us back for a couple months.
5. Play a Board Game
It’s well-known that kids need plenty of exercise, but it can be hard to pry them off the couch and away from their electronic devices. One way to get them moving is to engage the whole family in games that are simple and fun. There are many spectacular games available today. Some of our favorites include: Carcassonne, Takenoko, Timeline, & Tokaido. Host a family board game night, invite your friends, and find new favorites. You’ll be glad you did.
6. Take a Class
My daughter and I have taken several classes together ranging from seaweed art and foraging for mushrooms. Each class has provided us with opportunities to bond with one another and share our passions.
I have long desired to take a dance class as a family but thus far, we haven’t been able to work this experience into our schedule. I haven’t given up, however, and will continue to hope. Other ideas include cooking classes, martial arts, swimming, creative writing, guitar lessons – wherever your heart leads.
7. Go Camping
In years past, we went camping on an annual basis to our favorite county park. As the kids have gotten older, they have expressed an interest in going more often. I love this for many reasons but namely because it enables us to squeeze in more hikes and detox from screen time. This year, we have camped twice already and three more weekends are planned.
We keep it simple – we tent camp and have agreed that an RV just isn’t necessary. We plan easy meals and cook over the open fire. Bring along a fun outdoor game like Bocce ball or Kübb (a Viking lawn game) and Let the Fun Begin.
8. Take a Road Trip
As a family, one of the things we most enjoy is traveling. In the past few years, we have been blessed to have the time and financial means to travel abroad regularly. As our financial circumstances have changed, we know we won’t travel as often or as far in the near future, but travel is something we have agreed is very important to us and we thereby make sacrifices in other areas to assure we can continue to explore our world.
While not everyone may desire to travel abroad, road trips are a fabulous experience; providing opportunities to connect with one another and to learn more about our nation’s history and natural areas.
9. Enjoy a Book
Whether we are going about our errands around town or enjoying a road trip across state borders, we always have an audio book in our car. This is a great way to squeeze in genres and classical literature that your children may not otherwise choose for themselves. I love the conversations that we have as a result of experiencing a great book together.
There are many volunteer opportunities for kids. When we first moved back to Oregon, Geneva expressed interest in volunteering at the art museum. As she is not yet 16, I am required to go with her. It has been a great experience for us both – exposing us to artists and mediums previously unfamiliar to us. It has also given me the opportunity to observe her professionally.
Likewise, both children and I volunteer together in a variety of capacities at the estuarine research reserve and marine learning center, providing us with experience doing real science (fish seines and annual counts, biomonitoring field work), education outreach, and interpretation. We have also enjoyed volunteering while on vacation.
11. See a Concert or Go to the Theatre
As a classically-minded homeschool family, we try to see a play at least once a year and hope to eventually see Shakespeare’s entire canon. We also try to see live concert events whenever possible. This is especially important to us as both kids are young musicians. While Geneva plays for self interest, Jeffrey has expressed a desire to possibly pursue it as a career. We are most looking forward to seeing The Piano Guys perform again next month.
12. Engage in a Friendly Competition
Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, there are a wide range of entertaining “runs”. I am sure you’ve heard about them in social media: bubble runs, color runs, mud runs, etc. are all the rage. There is nothing competitive about them other than seeing who has the most color on them after the race! There’s no timing, no timing clock and no placement awards. Just a great excuse to come out and have fun with your friends, family and kids while doing something healthy!
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What do you do together as a family? Leave a comment below and share your favorite activities.
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