11 Ideas for Fun Family Activities Everyone (Yes, Everyone) Will Enjoy
From the serious to the seriously silly, there are plenty of fun family activities you can get up to any time of year. Rainy day activities and the like might be constrained by the weather and fall activities might be season-specific, but when you’re with your clan, you can get up to anything, any time of year—and these family activities will give you a little inspiration for planning your next bonding day.
Whether your kids are all young or they’re grown up with their own little ones, these activities will bring you all a little closer together—the happy memories of time together and hours of entertainment are just a bonus. For planners and last-minute-activity-searches alike, here are 12 unforgettable family activities to do with your brood before they fly the coop for good.
Consider it quality time squared: You get to spend the day with your kids, they learn about the joy of helping others, and everybody makes the world a better place.
When choosing an activity, take a cue from the things that your kid loves. If he’s obsessed with dogs, he’ll enjoy rounding up supplies for the animal shelter; a nature nut will dig a trail cleanup.
What’s age-appropriate? Kathy Saulitis of generationOn, a New York City–based nonprofit foundation that partners with youth service groups, has a few suggestions: Young children might visit a nursing home or make cards for people in hospitals, while older kids can collect food for a food bank or organize a car wash to raise money for a cause.
Kick the can
Pass on touch football in favor of something that puts everybody on a level playing field, like bocce or croquet. Or learn the rules of classic playground pastimes, like Capture the Flag and Kick the Can, which are infinitely customizable to the size, age, and ability of your crowd and require little equipment. Find out how to play these games and a bunch of others from bluearth.
Make a time capsule
Preserving your artifacts is a fun way to celebrate your family now and later—just don’t bury the collection.
“When it’s unearthed, if ever, it’s usually a soggy mess,” says Paul Stephen Hudson, a cofounder of the Atlanta-based International Time Capsule Society.
Pile everything into an archival box, then stow it away in a cool, dark place. Include the big stuff (artwork, school reports, notes to your future selves) and the little (movie stubs, a printout of a memorable Instagram post, a toy with its batteries removed so they don’t corrode).
Items that won’t stand the test of time: delicate clothing, food, or tapes and discs that will be outdated by technology. Add a silica-gel pack (which comes with new shoes) to absorb moisture, and set a date for the big reveal in 25 years.
Stick to surefire zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and bush beans, says Charlie Nardozzi, a Vermont-based gardening expert and writer. Use a one-by-two-foot self-watering planter and let your cofarmer handle the watering and harvesting. You may pull more than your share of the weight (and weeds), but if it convinces your kids to eat a vegetable, it’s worth it.
Teach your kids an old family recipe, or start a brand-new tradition by baking bread. If your kiddos can mold Play-Doh and make mud pies, they’ll be experts at kneading dough. (The hands-on fun quotient is the same, but the result is much more appetizing.) Find a foolproof whole wheat bread recipe and get baking.
Your Cloud storage is full of family photos, but drawing self-portraits captures the present in a more revealing way. Preserve the results for posterity by displaying the masterpieces gallery-style on a wall, or scan and upload the artwork, then have the images transferred onto everything from postage stamps to totes and water bottles (try shutterfly.com), so you won’t have to wonder whose is whose.
Pitching a tent in the backyard counts. With the free app Project Noah, kids can finally get an answer to “What’s that weird bug over there?” Snap a photo of wildlife and the app soon sends an ID.
Once the sun sets, keep them entertained with good old shadow puppets. And don’t forget to brush up on ghost stories for around the campfire (er, flashlight).
Start a family book club
Choose stories that appeal to all family members, no matter their age. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jumanji both have humor adults can enjoy, too. Let one person read aloud, or take turns so that you can experience the story unfolding together. With older kids, establish a schedule so everyone has reading time before your family meeting to discuss the book—or check out multiple copies from the library. Afterward, kick back and watch the movie version (if there is one) to see how it stacks up.
Go on a scavenger hunt
Limit the territory to the backyard or inside the house and kids will suddenly notice objects that they usually overlook. Set a time limit (a half hour for 20 clues should do it), and supply each child with a bag to hold his booty and a list of clues.
Spark their imagination with things that are open for interpretation, like “something that smells really bad” or “an object that starts with the letter K.” (This also keeps the kids from clobbering one another while racing to the one blue spatula.) When time is up, tally who found the most items. Aside from bragging rights, the winner gets a fun prize, such as a gift certificate to the movies or the ice cream shop.
Make up a song
Who says your family can't start their own band? End the monotony of long car rides or Saturday morning chores by singing together and creating lyrics no one will forget.
Take a staycation
Treat your staycation like a real vacation—yes, even from chores—and plan ahead, says Matt Wixon, the author of The Great American Staycation ($10; amazon.com). Get day-trip ideas from your local visitors’ bureau or a regional parenting website. Libraries and parks departments often offer fun activities; some craft stores hold art classes. Try to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour with the pinsetters at a bowling alley or the projectionists at a movie theater. (Hey, it never hurts to ask. And you may get free popcorn.)