Every night before our youngest child goes to bed, we gather as a family in her room for night prayers. As our prayer time winds down, we each share one thing that we are thankful for from the day. Our children are free to say whatever they’d like, as long as it’s heartfelt. So we don’t mind when our daughter says she’s thankful for her stuffed piggy for the tenth day in a row, or our son says he’s thankful for the yogurt bites he eats literally every single morning. It’s a little daily tradition that brings our family so much joy.
Traditions don’t need to be big. They also don’t need to revolve purely around holidays. Family traditions can keep everyone connected, even when life seems to be pulling us all in different directions. If you’re looking to create some new family traditions, consider any of these 15 ideas.
1. Family breakfasts
We grew up with family dinners together nearly every night. It was an incredible tradition that I hope to maintain with my own kids, but I know that many families are running in a million different directions at dinner time. Family dinners might be impossible, but many families can manage family breakfasts, even if it means waking up thirty minutes earlier every morning to gather around the table together.
2. Family intention tree
A few months back, my kids and I were at a play date with some friends, and I noticed that the wall behind their dinner table was covered in Post-it notes with names on them. Our friends had turned their wall into a prayer intention area, and during their daily prayer time as a family, they would offer up prayers for everyone on that wall. Alternatively, you can pick one name per day, and offer up all your family’s actions for the intentions of that one person.
3. Family gratitude tree
Every November, I put up an image of a bare tree in our dining room, and every morning from November 1st to Thanksgiving, my kids add one leaf each, with something they’re grateful for written on them. By the end of the month, the tree is filled with multi-colored leaves, and the kids have listed more than 50 people, places, and things that they are grateful for.
4. Weekly “fancy” dinners
My college roommate grew up in a family that held “fancy” dinners once a week. The kids would dress nicely, and the family would break out the nice dishes. They learned all the proper placements for utensils and practiced using good manners with their parents. It wasn’t always a tradition that my roommate and her siblings appreciated as kids, but they’re all grateful for it now.
5. Birthday letters
I am a huge letter writer. I’m one of those people who have kept a journal since I was in elementary school and write notes in all of my holiday cards. I wrote letters to my husband before we met, and now I write letters to my kids that I plan to give them when they leave the house. Birthday letters can be a wonderful tradition that will allow you and your children to see how you have all grown as a family from year to year.
6. Family walks
Whenever my husband is home in the morning, we try to get outside for a family walk. The fresh air is good for all of us, and it’s a stress-free way to chat and catch up with each other’s lives. Alternatively, you can try hiking or biking instead.
7. Reading aloud together
My husband and I read aloud to one another every night before we go to bed, and it’s a tradition we plan on passing down to our children. When they’re too young to read, parents can just read aloud to their children, but once your kids can read, invite them to take a turn as well! It’s a great way to spend time together, read good books, and practice your reading skills in a stress-free environment.
8. Adopt a family for Christmas
Every Christmas, our family has the opportunity to adopt a family for Christmas. We purchase all of their gifts and mail them. We don’t know the family, but we always try to adopt a family similar to ours. Then I take the kids out, and we go shopping for all the kids’ gifts, and of course I pick up some coffee and chocolate for Mom and Dad too.
9. One-on-one dates with kids
Every month my husband and I each take one of our kids out for a one-on-one date. Usually, it’s just lunch (both of our kids’ love language is food), but occasionally we might take one of them to the movies, or ice skating, or to the zoo. Sometimes it’s as simple of drinks and snacks at Starbucks. The important thing is that we give our undivided attention to one of our children for a period of time. This tradition is pretty easy when you only have two kids, but I know a family that swears by this and they have ten kids.
10. Sunday morning brunches
Some of our friends host or attend Sunday brunches after Mass. In some cases, brunch is a family ordeal with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, but I know one family that hosts brunch for the different families in their church community, one family at a time. Our family tries to reserve Sunday afternoons for time spent with our extended family, since by the time we get home from church, we’re usually getting close to nap time.
11. Monthly kids-cook dinners
On a monthly basis, have your kids work together to prepare dinner for the family. They might need your guidance and assistance at first, but as time goes on, they’ll develop the skills to handle this one of their own. An alternative option might be to cook together as a family once a month.
12. Commercial break workout sessions
I once met a family that committed themselves to doing sit-ups during every commercial break during family TV time. This is a fun way to combine two fun family activities- watching TV and exercising together.
13. Family movie marathons
Do you have big Harry Potter fans in your family? Star Wars? Lord of the Rings? Dedicate an entire weekend to a family movie marathon. Buy lots of snacks, stay in your pajamas, and order in pizza for dinner. Just make sure you pause between movies for bathroom and shower breaks.
14. Saturday mornings in bed
When the kids are really little and love to wake up at the crack of dawn, even on the weekends, parents will do just about anything for a few extra minutes of sleep. If you want to delay getting up on the weekends, even for a little bit, invite your kids into your bed on Saturday mornings. If they’re quiet, let them play in bed while you get some extra shut-eye, but if they’re not, hand over the tablet and let the kids watch some TV.
15. Saturday morning movies
Movie nights are great when kids are older and have later bedtimes, but most parents of young children don’t want to keep their kids up past regular bedtime. So try Saturday morning movies instead. In our house, we take turns watching movies on Saturday mornings as a family. You can even consider serving breakfast on the couch to get a bit more of the movie in.