Dedicated quality family time has many benefits, including improved academic performance, fewer behavioral issues, increased self-confidence, better conflict resolution, stronger communication skills, and more. It’s not something to put off and it’s something you should cherish whenever you can get it. However, with busy lives for parents and kids alike these days, it’s not always easy to organize. That can be doubly so if you want to go somewhere or feel you need to in order to make family time more special.
Yet this presumption just isn’t the case. Quality family time can happen just about anywhere, especially in the home where everyone can feel most comfortable and have easy access to everything they need. In fact, big events and places can often distract families from interacting with each other, being overall counterproductive to the goal of spending time together.
What are some of the ways you can spend time with your family at home to make the most of it? The sky is the limit when it comes to ideas, and you know your family and their preferences best, but here are some suggestions we have to get you started:
Make Watching TV an Active Event
While you may think of watching television with your family as a passive activity, something done either out of routine or when there’s nothing else to do, a bit of planning can change all of that and turn it into an effective activity to bond together as a family.
There is always something on television that would be interesting for your family to watch, and this is especially the case if you have a cable subscription, added features, or additional channels you know you love. Even if you don’t think this is the case when it comes to live programming, you can likely find pre-recorded content from your DVR, or prepare for a night by creating some settings and making sure there’s enough to watch throughout the evening.
When you make a plan like this, try to make sure no one is using their phones for the evening (they can go without for just a few hours) and that you’re all actively engaged with what you’re watching. That goes for yourself as well, and it’s easy to get caught up in another screen, even if you think you’re paying attention to both.
Before you start, you might want to check to see what people around the house are interested in and what they like to watch. After this, try to find some shows just like it and move on from there.
Make Use of Your Backyard
If your home or apartment building has a yard or outdoor area you can use it to create a wonderful space that’s a home away from (but not too far away from) home. An early evening outside with the whole family can be a great time. If you want, lay out a blanket and have a picnic right in the backyard. It’s convenient if you forget something and allows you and your loved ones to better appreciate the outdoors. This can be fun even if you have a patio or a porch, and it will shake up your normal routine. If you want to take things to the next level, you can set up a tent (or a couple of tents) and have a small backyard camping expedition over the weekend. It beats a trip that takes a few hours to drive to (where you’ll inevitably forget something) and depending on where you live, local laws, and what you have available, you can get a small fire going as well.
Try Some Board Games
We are living in the middle of a board game renaissance, and if you didn’t think of having a board game night with your family because of how simple or (we’ll go ahead and say it) boring some of the games of the last century were, then you should be pleased to know there are so many better options out now that you could spend days looking into them.
If you’re worried about where to start, you can either do a search online or go to a friendly local game store and ask. People will be happy to help, and no matter the age range of your family and the number of players, they will be able to find the perfect fit for you.
If you want to encourage the imagination a bit more while having fun, you may also want to try a tabletop RPG. Much like how there are many board games, there are many options if you aren’t interested in or worried about what Dungeons and Dragons has to offer. You can take turns creating worlds and solving problems together as a family, and you can customize it to precisely your liking.
Make Something Together
Arts and Crafts Making something together as a family can be a great endeavor, and whether it’s a project for the house or something arts and crafts related, as long as it’s fun, it can either be productive or entirely unproductive (if you consider how messy some arts and crafts activities can get). And while kids might play Minecraft or do something on the computer to be creative, you should show them that it’s still fun to make something real with your hands you can later place on your shelf with pride.
Some creative ideas include:
A fun painting night, whether that involves getting a couple of canvassing, watercolors on the kitchen table (you should get some placemats for that), or finger paints for the younger (and older, if you’d like) ones. Let everyone express themselves and maybe even put on some nice background music to get everyone in the creative mood.
Paper crafts might be a fun and unique activity as well. Attempts at origami can lead to some fun creations, and the same goes for construction paper mosaics.
Coloring books are still along, and a package of crayons and even coloring sheets printed out online can make for an affordable and fun night with the family. With what’s available online, you can move past the generic princess and superhero books (unless that’s what you want). With the right tools, you can even turn your family photos (or any other photos) into coloring pages.
Practically anything else your heart can think of! There’s no shortage of fun ideas online, and you can use practically anything in your house, even things you’d otherwise throw away (for example, you can have a lot of run with old boxes and some duct tape).
Fixing Up the Home
There are also the more productive home improvement projects. Do you have a door that needs replacing or a garage that needs to be cleaned or fixed up? Turn that chore into an opportunity to bring the family together! While you’ll want to take the appropriate precautions based on how skilled your family members are around tools and how old your young ones are, putting something together or adding something to your home can make everyone feel more invested and teach them important skills at the same time. Just don’t focus too much on the goal to the point where it’s no longer fun or interesting for everyone, or that the goals of education and family bonding are forgotten. Sometimes efficiency isn’t everything, and that door isn’t going anywhere. You can take your time together with it.
Have a Party
Much like when you were in your early twenties, you don’t need a reason to have a party. In fact, you can order a cake right now and no one would stop you. We won’t, we doubt your kids won’t, and the bakery sure won’t. Having a small party for family members, and perhaps a few invited guests, can be a great time and provide something to look forward to for all involved. As for party favors, you can be creative with it! Make some individualized treats (healthy or less than healthy) for everyone to enjoy, or pick out a few candies that are hard to find (have you ever imported candy from another country?). If you want to personalize it further, bring something that means a lot to the family as a group, perhaps décor that reminds everyone of a nice time or vacation. The ultimate takeaway for family party planning? There are no rules except those you make yourself. No one else will care or even know what you’re doing, so remember that anything that everyone enjoys is the right answer.
Make a Schedule and Make It a Priority
By this section, we don’t necessarily mean making a schedule together as a family for quality time, even though it might teach time management skills and keep everyone on the same page. Instead, we mean that if you want to have more family time, then you’ll have to make it a priority. How do you do that? You make a schedule and you stick to it, giving family time the same level of importance you’d give a doctor’s appointment, work, or holiday gathering. A spontaneous family night can be great, but it also might not be realistic if family members have other obligations and responsibilities. With a bit of time to plan, schedules can line up or be rearranged with minimal effort, and it’ll give you more time to make sure everything goes off without a hitch on the night. If you plan ahead, it can also give everyone something to look forward to!
While it may not necessarily be an activity that in the moment will bring you closer together, reading together or sharing stories can absolutely provide quality time together. Picking a book each month as a family and going through it and talking about it when possible can provide a great opportunity to open up a discussion and talk about topics that might be otherwise hard to broach. Not only this, but you will be promoting reading skills throughout the family. It’s one thing to tell your kids to read, but another thing entirely to show them you practice what you preach.
If you don’t mind taking a short family outing first, then everyone can take a trip to the library and everyone can check out a few things that pique their interest and then share their thoughts later that week.
Cook as a Family
Maybe this might not be the best idea for the larger families, as there can be too many cooks in an average-sized kitchen, but there is a lot to be said about cooking together as a family and then enjoying the meal together and talking. Not only will you be teaching basic cooking skills (or more advanced ones for the teens in your family, which will be great for later), you will let everyone have a little say in what to eat.
Try to think of some meals that have some prep time and would be fun to make together (pizza, tacos, making a fancy cake). If it requires cooking time, you can try out one of the other ideas on this list while it’s cooking and come back to it when it’s ready. If you want to keep away from the oven, there are still plenty of options! Assemble small sandwiches for later in the day, cake cookie bars, make your own party mix, or put together something else entirely.
Whether it’s working on schoolwork together or just looking through a few pages online, learning together is a great way to bond. It can build important skills, generate interest in new fields, topics, and hobbies, and make for great conversational material.
A few fun family learning night ideas include:
Curating a list of interesting and educational videos to watch as a family together, and then discussing them.
Just going on a random YouTube dive with the right controls in place to make sure things are family-friendly. Has someone seen an interesting video? Go ahead and give it a go. Hours can easily fly by this way.
Have everyone study a topic for a day and meet up for dinner to talk about their findings. If it’s the same topic, it can turn into an excellent discussion about conflicting sources and verifiability.
The key to making this a fun time is not focusing it specifically on any schoolwork or strictly your own personal interests. Find topics everyone sincerely wants to learn about and work from there.
Ask for Suggestions and Tweaks
While we have plenty of great ideas for making the most of your home, you should do what you can to ensure your family is on board. The end goal is for everyone to have a good time together, not necessarily abide by a set of instructions or suggestions you read online, so ask your family what they might want to do instead of unilaterally deciding. Even if you can’t work with the idea exactly, you can gauge general interests.
Remember the Importance of One on One Time
As important as family bonds might be and time spent together as a whole (or with at least most of you there) can be, it’s also important to remember that a family is also a network of individual relationships that should grow and be cherished as well. And those bonds can be developed at home just as well as on a camping weekend. Having a weekly date with your daughter to watch their favorite show, for example, can provide a great space to talk, and nearly any of the above activities can be done with only a couple of people, just in a different context.
And while some of the activities mentioned above might not be great for your whole family, one person might really connect with it, and you should encourage that as well. As with everything we mention above, being open to reactions and understanding the needs of your family is key. As long as you’re doing that, finding quality time together won’t be as hard as you think.
Quality time doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money, nor does it require weeks of planning. It can be spontaneous and just as enjoyable as anything outside of the house, which can be especially great if you’d have to deal with major obstacles otherwise just to have a little fun. With the internet, what’s available to you in your home, and a little imagination, you’ll be able to have the family day of your dreams.