Family life is notoriously busy. Between extra-curricular activities, 9-to-5 work schedules, and seemingly infinite additional responsibilities, it's hard enough to get dinner on the table—let alone make time for family bonding. But as hard as it can be to come by, family time has profound benefits for all family members.
No matter your family size, we hope these fun ideas—none of which include TV!—will help bring your family closer together and create lifelong memories.
You don't have to have endless acres to get your kids excited about planting a garden. Even city dwellers can reap the benefits of gardening. If you have limited space, put together an herb garden. A gardening calendar, such as this customizable planting calendar from the old Farmer's Almanac, is a great way to see what should be planted according to the seasons in your city.
Want to put your child in charge of watering? Make sure to provide him with the right-sized watering can. He could even decorate it to get excited about his new chore. Also, repotting is the perfect activity for curious little green thumbs: It's fun and messy!
You can also use small indoor pots to keep a mini garden growing during the winter months. Get started now with this list of 10 herbs you can grow indoors year-round.
No matter which type of garden you and your family plant, the best part is that the plants will grow right alongside your little ones.
Want to introduce your kids to the responsibilities of pet ownership? Volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Call ahead to make sure your kids are old enough; some shelters prefer older kids (middle-school aged and up), while others accept kids at any age, as long as their parents work with them.
Even if you and yours already count a little four-legged family member in your pack, volunteering is a great way to help your kids understand how lucky your pet is to have a good home, as well as the importance of helping less-fortunate animals find a home of their own.
Whether you use your camera phone or want to take this opportunity to teach your little ones how to use an "old-school" camera, a hike-and-photoshoot day is a great way to get kids excited about nature. You can even use an app to identify different plants and flowers you encounter—try PlantSnap, or Garden Answers.
Fire up the grill and turn off the phones, because a no-tech BBQ is a fun way to bond as a family—and with other families, too!
Coordinate with your neighbors to have a screen-free fiesta. The only rule: No screen time (e.g., iPads, video games, even cell phones) allowed. Propose alternative activities instead of TV—charades, anyone?
Speaking of charades, a family game night is the perfect way to introduce your little one to your own favorite childhood game.
Whether it's backgammon, chess, or even vintage PacMan, you'll be sharing old memories while making new ones. And let your kids return the favor; if there's a computer game your little ones love but you haven't tried, now's their chance to teach you.
You likely already know the benefits of family dinner night: It promotes language skills, fosters better report cards, and above all, allows for daily bonding. So why not take that tradition a step further and make family dinners a family cooking night, too?
Let your little one pick out a recipe from a cookbook for kids, or online. Here are some great recipes that are also kid-friendly. Who knows: Maybe the trick to getting kids to eat their veggies is to have them make them in the first place!
Family life is worth celebrating. We hope these ideas help you build and grow new traditions as a unit!