THE FAMILY YEAR
Especially when your children are small, it pays to regularly capture the joys of family togetherness—and to plan for it. If you possibly can, reserve at least two days a month for time together as a family. Below is a baker’s-dozen list of activity ideas: one for each month of the year, plus a bonus idea for annual special occasions.
But remember: It isn’t true family time unless your full human selves are in it. Beware of the “together alone” trap where everyone goes about with attention on a separate smartphone, and beware equally of “finish-the-list” mentality that would rather photograph ten major landmarks in an hour than take fifteen minutes to appreciate one good view.
For the month of new beginnings, share resolutions and hopes for the coming months over a leisurely family dinner. Include goals for the family as a whole.
Everyone’s mind is on valentines and love. Make a favorite dessert and hot chocolate, and take turns sharing one thing you love about every other family member.
The world turns green for St. Patrick’s Day and the coming of spring. Take a nature walk together and look for signs of new growth.
Both nature and people are at their most playful. Go for a wild romp outdoors, or if April showers are too heavy for that, share an afternoon of jokes and comedy clips.
Mother’s Day and Memorial Day both remind us to appreciate those who have done the most for us. Join a service project to give something back to the larger community.
The traditional month of roses. Gather flowers together, and share supper outdoors after decorating the table with the day’s pickings.
Between Independence Day and the height of summer, outdoor fun is on everyone’s mind. Pack a big picnic and drive a few hours out of town—without a set destination, stopping every half hour just to let the kids (and yourself) run uninhibited through the fields.
The hottest month of the year demands cool fun. Head to the nearest swimming pool; better yet, stay in the back yard and enjoy old-fashioned romping under a lawn sprinkler.
The traditional back-to-school month emphasizes “new starts” and planning almost as much as the New Year. The evening of the first post-Labor Day homework assignment, share over dinner three new things you want to learn and why they will prove useful.
Halloween makes this a month of imagination and make-believe. Share a family night around the fire and see who can make up the scariest/funniest/weirdest story; or tell a group story with everyone adding a “what happened next” in turn.
Whatever your Thanksgiving plans, give the “thanks” more than brief attention. Have everyone grow a longer gratitude list for a full week in advance, adding things as they come to mind. Gather after dinner to read the lists in full.
This is the month for “peace on earth” as well as active celebrations. Schedule a “peace night” to do nothing but sit together by candlelight.
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Let the honoree(s) pick a favorite activity, and include “thank you just for being you” and “something great you did this year” presentations from other family members.