When my husband and I had our first child seven years ago, I wanted to start creating some of our own family traditions.
Unfortunately, we stayed so busy for the next half-decade that we just never slowed down enough to think about it!
Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten so much better at being intentional about making family memories. Though the first month of 2020 has already pretty much FLOWN by, there’s still time to plan out a full year’s worth of memory-making.
I thought I’d share some of our ideas, and I’d LOVE it if you’d share any of your own in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to make memories.
New Year’s Day
This one’s super simple — and common, so you’ve probably already seen it on Instagram or Pinterest. But I thought it was worth a mention because even just four weeks in, we’ve really had fun with it.
Buy a cute jar or just use something you already have at home (anything from a mason jar to an empty oats canister) and place it in a special place in your home.
Every week (we do Sundays after Sunday school), as a family, think over the past seven days and choose a blessing, special memory, or something you’re thankful for, to write on a slip of paper. Fold the paper and put it in the jar to be read next year on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
We write the week number at the top of our paper (e.g., “Week 1”), and each of us writes our own favorite highlight from the week. So each week my husband, my 7-year-old, and I all write something different. Sometimes we read what each other wrote, and sometimes we leave it as a surprise for the end of the year.
You could also pick only one thing as a family each week instead of writing individual items.
We actually don’t have a good family tradition going for Valentine’s Day right now, though I’d love to do something with my kids — so drop me your ideas! We homeschool, and I feel like Valentine’s Day is such a low-key holiday for my 7-year-old compared to what it was for me growing up, with the school parties and dozens of Valentine’s cards.
However, as a married woman, I LOVE doing Valentine’s Day with my husband.
Going out for Valentine’s Day is great, but restaurants get crowded, and it’s hard to get a babysitter when everyone else is going out for Valentine’s Day, too. For that reason, I try to find something meaningful to do at home.
Last year I purchased a countdown-to-Valentine’s-Day box from the Dating Divas, and my husband and I agreed the Memory Book from the kit was our favorite part.
I looked on their site, and I don’t see the physical version of the product available, but this digital version appears similar: Operation Valentine from Dating Divas.
The Dating Divas site has lots more Valentine’s ideas in their store (here). My plan for this year is to incorporate some of the ideas from the Valentine’s box I bought last year, but spread them across the four weeks of February to make it a month of celebration.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day/President’s Day/Etc.
If you’re lucky enough to have everyone in your family off for a three-day weekend, turn it into an opportunity to go to the zoo, a nearby park, or a fun place. Last year we spent several hours as a family hiking at nearby Inks Lake State Park on President’s Day. It ended up being one of our most special times there.
Other things we’ve done on these types of holidays have included Dinosaur World (2-hour drive), a nearby zoo (1-hour drive), and putt-putt and bowling (45-min drive).
The Fourth of July
I love the 4th of July so much . . . What says “carefree summer days” like American flags, patriotic parades, and family-and-friends barbecues?
These past two years, we’ve gone out to see our local 4th of July parade as a family and then invited friends and family over to our house to hang out over food. We have a convenient view of the city fireworks from where I live, so it’s always such a good, cozy time for kids and adults alike.
If there’s anything I love more than the 4th of July, it’s autumn. One of our favorite fall family traditions is to hit the pumpkin patch in late September or early October.
Last year, however, I started a new fall tradition that we’re definitely doing every year. Since we don’t do Halloween, I planned a huge family night for October 31st. I talked it up all month, so by the day of, my 7-year-old was super excited for it.
We started our family time with a walk around Inks Lake State Park, which is 15 minutes away from our house. (We’d bought a year pass to Texas state parks so that we don’t have an entry fee every time we go.)
At the time, we hadn’t been to Inks Lake in a while because we have a new baby, and hiking isn’t what it used to be. But it ended up being such a beautiful, special evening where there was such a feeling of contentment and simple joy over the whole afternoon.
When we got home, it was getting dark and chilly, so I sent my husband and my son to the store with $20 and told them to get “anything that’ll make your evening cozy.” (I expected snacks and soft drinks, but they came back with firewood.)
While they were gone, I set up a treasure hunt via clues I’d found (and tweaked a bit) off Pinterest. I hid two small treasures at the end of the treasure hunt — one for my son and one for my husband.
We had such a blast that night! Our new baby was all into the excitement while my son and husband ran around both inside and outside the house pursuing clues. It was such a good night! Many of the things I planned, I found on Pinterest.
In addition to the treasure hunt, we had a silly string war, and we also played a game that involved whipped cream, paper plates on our heads, and pumpkin marshmallows. For dinner, we made a homemade pizza and did family Mad Libs I’d found on Pinterest around the dinner table.
At the end of the night, my son spontaneously made up a hide-and-seek game for us to play as a family, and we probably laughed harder then than we’d laughed all night!
The night turned out to be everything I’d hoped for, and we’re looking forward to next year.
Like fall, Christmas could take up its own blog post when it comes to bucket-list items and family traditions! But here are a few of our favorites from this past year:
A Christmas concert.. . . The kind you have to buy tickets for!
We’ve actually done this two years in a row around Christmastime, and it always makes for such a special family night — OR a date night, as we opted for this year. (We’re waiting for our baby to get older before attempting a concert as a family again!) We keep an eye out throughout the year for interesting concerts and events happening in our area.
Christmas lights scavenger hunt. We had SO much fun doing the scavenger hunt from “The Ultimate Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt Challenge” I found on The Dating Divas’ website. We printed the list, and after a church meeting one night, we drove around some of the best neighborhoods for lights in our area listening to Christmas music and marking items off our list. (Hot chocolate — or ice cream, as we opted for — is a bonus!)
Watch for local events. One night we saw that an elementary choir was singing at our Walkway of Lights, and we took that as an opportunity to get out of the house and make memories. Another huge favorite is the Walkway of Lights parade the city does right before Thanksgiving. So much fun!
A Christmas Day treasure hunt. Often, on Christmas Day, presents, devotions, and breakfast are done early on, and then there’s not a whole lot left to do for the day other than hang out . . . which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But we wanted to extend that Christmasy feeling of anticipation a little longer this year. Since my son had been begging for another treasure hunt since October, we saved a small Christmas gift for the end of the day, and he found it via a treasure hunt right before bedtime.
Community service. There are so many ways I want to cultivate this within our family over the coming years. One thing we did as a church that my son was able to get involved in, was adopt a family for Christmas via our local family crisis center.
While my son didn’t help with the Christmas shopping, he was super excited about going with me to deliver the gifts to the crisis center. It was so simple, but it’s a memory we made, and I’d like to think it helped him think about others.
We took this picture right outside our community after delivering the gifts:
. . . Which leads me to a huge tip for whatever you plan this year: TAKE PICTURES. We have so many photos from each of our activities, and they are truly invaluable to me.
There’s the age-old question, “What would you save if your house was burning and you could take only one thing besides your family?” For me, that would definitely be my Chatbooks! There is nothing as precious as looking back over the memories my family has made, reminiscing, and noticing how much my kids have already grown in so little time! (If you’ve never used Chatbooks, check them out here. And get $10 off your first order with my referral code UKNV6WUM!)
If you’re wanting to make more wholesome family memories this year, I hope this list has given you a jumpstart!
And again, please let me know anything special your family does throughout the year. (As you can see, I’m missing some important holidays on my list, like Easter and Thanksgiving. )
Our families are one of the most special things God has given us stewardship over. Every effort we make to strengthen the family bond is time well spent.