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8 Fun Activities That Stress Family Time Over Material Things

From the time they are infants, children are conditioned to want things: toys, candy, video games… you name it. It gets to the point where they become convinced that the only path to happiness is through collecting material objects. But as a wise person once said, the best things in life aren’t always things. So how do you teach your kids that they can be happy, have fun and put family time first without spending money and acquiring material goods? Try these eight fun activities with your kids and see for yourself:

  • Family History on Film
: Grab the video camera or smartphone and record your children telling you about the traditions your family celebrates. Let them describe the history behind the traditions and what they mean. If you have older children, have them do some research online. Challenge them to "teach you something you didn't already know" about holidays and other traditional events. Don't let them off the hook too easily – ask questions, show them family photos from the holidays and special events, and share your own memories. If you make this an annual event, you and your kids can have fun looking back on previous years’ videos to see how the family has changed!
  • Kids’ Cuisine: If your children are old enough, have them cook a meal for the whole family. They can plan a menu, make a shopping list and go with you to the store to find the necessary ingredients. Tell them that the only limit is their imaginations. Be aware that you may end up with ice cream and cookies for the main course, but also that your kids will know the satisfaction of making a meal everyone can enjoy.
  • Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt
: Before leaving in the car to run an errand or go on a trip, give everyone in the family a list of items they must spot before returning home. These can be things like a house with a red door, a certain kind of car in a driveway, a special kind of tree, a word on a billboard and others. When you get home, prepare a plate of healthy snacks and have everyone tally up their “spots” to see who found the most items. Note: It’s a good idea to scout out the neighborhood ahead of time for items so you’re not driving around till the sun comes up!
  • Sentence-at-a-Time Story
: Tell a story as a family… one sentence at a time. Have everyone sit in a circle and have one person start with a sentence about his or her favorite family memory. Then, have other family members take turns chiming in with the next line of the story. The goal is to create the most funny, amazing and unbelievable story ever.
  • Wrap Race: Split the family into two teams – the kids against the adults – and give each team a roll of toilet paper. Now, give the kids three minutes to wrap up Mom and Dad (and other adults) like mummies. Take pictures of the adults when the kids are done, then have the adults wrap up the kids and take pictures. Have everyone compare the pictures and judge which team did the best “wrap” job!
  • Find the Alarm: If you have a smartphone with customized musical ringtones, pick a fun tune, set it as your alarm and hide the phone somewhere in the house. Then have your kids try to find the phone before the alarm sounds (5 minutes is a good place to start). If they can’t find it, your alarm will sound, leading everyone to the phone’s location! Sing the tune together and then repeat the game so every family member has an opportunity to pick a tune and hide the phone.
  • Time Capsule
: Get a box and have the whole family put in items to create a family time capsule. Any item will do – newspapers, clothing, photographs, notes, old report cards, drawings… anything that represents and embodies your family. Then, in a special ceremony, seal up the box, write “Do not open until (add a date)” note and place it somewhere safe and secure. This works great if you start when your kids are little. By the time they’re 7 or 8, they can start opening old time capsules while they continue to create new ones!
  • Movie Night: Designate a non-school night as “movie night.” Let your kids choose the movie (or movies), make some treats and have everyone snuggle under a blanket for the big show. As a special feature, you can let this be a time when the kids (and adults!) get to stay up as late as they want!