Having a childhood filled with happy family memories is a cherished gift. As parents, we mean well in giving our family the quality time they deserve, but busy schedules make spending time together difficult. As I began to see this trend in my family, we started setting aside one night a week for family time. Here are 8 activities we used to make family night a success.
1. Board Games: Our family night originated with board games, but that doesn’t mean it was the best option. While we did have a few fun games, the competitiveness and complexity of rules made it less enjoyable. If you use board games, I suggest you prepare yourself for these things. Be gentle in correction. Family night should be fun. If board games aren’t fun, don’t play them!
2. Family Jars: For people who thrive on receiving words of affirmation, hearing them from family members can help form strong bonds. Surprisingly, my teenage son got the most enjoyment from this activity. We gave each person a mason jar to decorate. We placed them on a counter along with strips of paper and something to write with. We instructed everyone to jot down encouraging notes to people whenever they think of something throughout the week and place it in that person’s jar. For our younger children who couldn’t write, we either wrote what they said or helped them draw a picture. Also, when we wrote to our young children, we included a picture of what we wrote. My youngest daughter was delighted at seeing a hand-drawn picture of her putting away her toys. On family night, we pulled out the jars, and everyone went to a private spot to read their notes. We have saved the notes we received. They are precious to read even years later.
3. Spa Night: Little girls love to get their nails done, but older girls do too! We had all the boys of the group try their hand at painting the girl’s nails. Some of the boys, including Daddy, let the girls paint their toes, too! The boys sometimes preferred a good-old-fashioned back scratch. Anything that incorporates touch can promote bonding. We always let the person choose their “salon service”. This was important to be sure that it was enjoyable rather than making anyone feel uncomfortable. For those whose love language is touch, this can be a wonderful, often neglected, way to bond. For those who feel uncomfortable with touch, it can be unpleasant. For that reason, this was on a volunteer basis only.
4. Creative Pictures: To some people, having another person take their picture is important. They feel special. We had everyone come up with creative pictures to take of one another. My daughters dressed up and posed in front of an old tree in our neighborhood. One son made silly faces, while the other posed on his drum set. I picked out some of the pictures to print out and display in frames. Both the photographer and the subject glowed with pride and often showed it off to friends.
5. Movie Night: A movie night might not seem like quality time, but our family felt closer when we popped some popcorn and snuggled on the couch with a favorite movie. We also learned a thing or two about loving others. We talked about letting someone else pick out the movie without grumbling even if we don’t like the movie choice. While we need to compromise as a family sometimes, there are situations where we need to show love by doing something the other person wants to do.
6. Family Meal: While we didn’t always sit down to a dinner table, we did spend quality time as a family by cooking a meal together for family night. We had each person make a dish. Other times, we worked together to complete one big meal. The point was to work together and enjoy the fruit of our mutual labor. Dinner discussion turned into praising each other on their meal and showing pride in what they had made.
7. Scrapbook: There is joy in reminiscing. Photos are a great way to remember past events. We spent some family nights making scrapbook pages. Other nights we took time to browse through a family scrapbook that had already been made. The point was to take time and talk about the photos, engaging each member of the family to encourage participation. We asked what they liked best about a certain trip and encouraged them to tell their version of what happened. We not only made memories, but shared them as well.
8. Letters: The idea came to me when we got a card in the mail from a family member. We read it out loud and worked together to compose a response. The next week, we drafted another letter; this time, to someone who needed encouragement. I have read that research has shown the more bonds we have with people in our lives, the more stable and mentally healthy we will be. We want to do everything to encourage relationships with members of our extended families. This provides a way for this to take place.
Even though my children are older, we still have family night. It has come to be something they talk about with many fond memories. If you are interested in strengthening the bonds within your family, starting a family night is a good way to do that. These activities are great ways to start. They will all provide some way for each family member to feel like they are loved and belong. Even if your children complain at having to put down their game controller or your spouse balks at turning off the television for a few hours, your family will see that you care enough about them to set aside an entire evening just to be with them. This is what the bonds of love are made from.