It’s never too late to start family traditions! Some traditions begin naturally and stick, like going out for a walk after dinner on Boxing Day, while others are created, like deciding to decorate your child’s bedroom doorway on their birthday, every birthday.
Whether they’re sweet or logical, traditions strengthen family bonds.
They become a unique part of your special family, something to look forward to and they create lasting memories. Above all else, they develop family culture. They become a part of whoa family are.
Today, I’m going to write about 10 of the best ideas for family traditions that I’ve come across.
They might sound really obvious, but sometimes, it’s the simplest ideas that really catch on.
You can use them as inspiration or add a unique twist to make them your own.
Parents around the world might recoil in horror at the thought of this one.
Letting your littles stay up past their sensible bedtime? The time when you guys get some quiet, alone time?
OK, I totally get the need for a few adult-only hours a day, but once in a while, it won’t hurt to let them stay up a bit later and who doesn’t like a movie night?
I’m not even that into movies (far too long to sit still for my liking), but even I love a movie night.
There’s just something special about making the time to snuggle down together, dim the lights and sit for a while.
Movies also come with the added bonus that they give you something to talk about for ages afterwards.
This one always goes down well with the kids and we try our absolute best to do it as often as possible.
With there being a pretty big age gap between our kids, for us, the trickiest part is always finding a movie that’s suitable for everyone.
Taking it in turns can solve this dilemma and goes a long way to helping decide whether we’re watching Dumbo, Moana or The Greatest Showman (again).
So grab a cosy blanket; a bucket of popcorn, some special drinks and relax.
Whether it’s once a week or once a month, getting everyone together for a family meal is perhaps the simplest tradition you can start this year.
Good food brings everyone together and it’s the best way to catch up with each other, especially if (like a lot of families), you’re so busy it feels like you’re ships in the night.
There’s nothing quite like sitting everyone down around a table, banning all mobile phones and handing around plates of food to get the conversation flowing.
Sharing platters always go down a treat. Homemade Chinese with bowls of noodles and egg fried rice; Indian with plates of papadums and naan bread; or buffet style party food.
Pop all the dishes in the middle of the table so that everyone can help themselves.
Just remember to plan things a little in advance. Buy all the ingredients in and leave yourself enough time to get everything prepared.
It’ll save money, time and stress!
Of course, if you feel like splashing out and cooking and washing up sounds like far too much hard work, you could treat everyone to your favourite takeaway.
Now bare-with me here because I know a lot of you will think this is corny. If that’s the case then roll your eyes and scroll on, but from someone who’s actually tried using these, they actually bizarrely seem to work.
So what are affirmation cards?
Affirmation cards are a simple deck of cards with a positive, inspirational message written onto each card.
Messages and sentiments like:
“Today, I am choosing happiness”. “I am creative”. “I like myself the way I am” and “I am brave”.
(They can be a lot more detailed than that, but you get the idea).
The idea is to choose a card (or more); keep it with you during the day and keep the message in mind to lift your mood; to give you courage and confidence, to promote mental wellbeing and a positive outlook.
The written word can be a powerful thing!
Still here? Right.
Professional affirmation cards are often a lot larger than playing cards. They are beautifully printed on thick stock card and are adorned with fun, eye catching fonts and artwork.
You can get them from independent creators, or from online stores like Not on The HighStreet and Amazon.
Although there’s absolutely no reason at all why you couldn’t make your own.
There’s one’s aimed at adults, children or both, so they’re suitable for family members young and old.
You can even get Affirmation apps if you don’t like the idea of having physical cards.
Using affirmation cards is a lovely habit to get into with your whole family that can very quickly turn into quite a unique family tradition.
Try popping one in everyone’s mug at breakfast time; taping one to the front door so they see it before they leave for the day; slipping one into lunchboxes, or underneath pillows at bedtime.
A lot of children today have become mini hermits. Other than leaving the house to go to school, they largely stay indoors, watching television or browsing Youtube. Sometimes growing up without experiencing the outdoors in any real sense at all.
Before anyone comments here – Disclaimer – I know this is a huge sweeping generalisation. I know that loads of children do in fact, get outside all the time, doing a plethora of wonderful activities, but the stats do sadly say that since the 1950’s, the time children spend playing outside has fallen by almost half!
We’re all really busy, I get it. I know how hard it is to squish family time in between the avalanche of homework assignments they all get; the clubs, the work……. but if you can possibly shoehorn it in somewhere, going outside as a family for some playtime together is so much fun!
Just going out to the park or walking together is pretty effortless (and free) time well spent.
Getting outside and enjoying the rain can be something little children love best of all. Plus, it can also make for some amazing photograph moments if you’re that way inclined.
There’s no better way to get children out than having fun than with a raincoat and a pair of wellies. Sheer unadulterated joy as they jump through puddles with no thought given to the mess they’re getting into.
Go somewhere special when the weather’s wet and make the most of it. Turn it into a family tradition of yours this year – even if you do end up with a little extra laundry to do.
My grandma told me a story when I was younger - her Mum would gift her ten of her favourite sweeties every year at Christmas. She couldn’t afford them on any other day, so they were the best present ever.
My Mother told me a story of her own. Of little oranges that only ever appeared at Christmas time.
I’ve always loved this idea and thought the sentiment was so sweet and best of all, memorable.
Now I like to gift my children little tokens every year on certain special days. Little gifts or activities that that are either the same as, or similar to the ones given the year before.
So they can look back and think “My Mum always did that nice thing on those days”.
The tokens don’t have to be anything extravagant and they don’t just have to be given at Christmas.
How about buying ice creams or taking them swimming or to the park after school on the last day of the summer term?
Getting them a book or magazine to read before going on an unusually long journey (unless they get travel sick that is)?
Giving them £1 to spend on anything they like after an important test at school?
A reward jar is one of the most successful and most uncomplicated traditions we have ever introduced in our home. Nothing expensive required.
The idea is that every time someone does something really special, they can add a token to the reward jar. Once full, they get a reward.
In our house, we have one family jar, rather than one jar per person. This way, it gets filled in a reasonable amount of time and the reward is always to go somewhere or do something together as a family.
Rewards can be for anything, from getting certificates at school, finishing an extra tricky book, spending time on a very special painting, or helping out around the house (more than usual).
Whatever the activity, it should be significant enough to earn a reward token. It kind of takes the point away if rewards are given out for absolutely anything!
* * * *
Simply take a large transparent glass jar or container with a lid.
Something around the size of a standard jam jar works pretty well, as if the container takes too long to fill, everyone will lose interest.
If glass is going to be risky around little people, a transparent plastic container will work just fine.
Hint - Just make sure the opening is big enough to insert your tokens.
Then you’ll need some tokens to add.
You can actually buy rewards jar tokens, some of which are even personalised, but large coloured buttons or dried pasta shapes work equally well.
If you have more than one child, they could have a colour each. Buttons are available in every colour of the rainbow
Season tickets and annual memberships are a really great way to ensure you ALWAYS have somewhere to go and something to do, even right at the end of the month, when there’s more month left than money, or when the weather is absolutely terrible.
When I was younger people seemed to associate season tickets only with football clubs, but not anymore!
Do you like historical buildings or beautiful gardens? Join the National Trust, English Heritage, The Royal Horticultural Society or opt for passes to the Historic Royal Palaces.
How about a National Art Pass, giving you access to over 200 galleries, museums and other arty locations?
Or if you’re looking for something a little more exciting, look out for Merlin Annual Passes that give you access to theme parks, aquariums and other famous attractions up and down the UK.
Just make sure you look out for sales and discounts! There are usually some really amazing offers between Christmas and New Year.
Season tickets might seem like a big investment at the time, but for both adults and children they’re a sure-fire way for you to regularly spend time together throughout the year and have a great time too.
Since the youngest of my little crew was tiny, we’ve always made the most of local annual events and outings, everything from Pick Your Own strawberries and raspberries in July, to visiting the lavender fields in August, pumpkin picking in October to firework displays in November. We’re particularly lucky that our town council puts on a huge variety of free events, but there’s nearly always something on if you scour your local newspapers and Facebook groups.
Search for Easter egg hunts, Halloween trails, summer fun days, free outdoor music concerts, craft markets, art exhibitions and Christmas fairs.
Things you can go to every year that your family will start to look forward to.
If you’d rather stay at home, why not start a family tradition around one of the many different seasonal holidays? Something you can do every year.
Gift wrap a large box and let them add one sweetie each to it per week, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, to help with the countdown.
Make your own Easter tree and decorations, then have your own Easter egg hunt in the garden.
Get the BBQ out every August Bank Holiday for an afternoon of fun with friends, family, children, pets, food and ice cream.
After all, if it doesn’t rain, is it really a bank holiday bbq anyway?
Whether you tuck your little one in every night with a kiss and a bedtime story or sing a silly sleepy song to them as they drift off to sleep, bedtime rituals are something to be cherished, remembered and loved.
With tiny ones, it’s often the perfect time to snuggle and answer random bedtime questions, whereas with older children, it can be the best time to talk over the best and worst parts of their day, allaying any worries and wishing them happy dreams.
Keep a transparent jar on an accessible countertop or windowsill, together with a pencil, some post it notes or note cards, for thoughts, feelings and dreams.
A plastic container works just as well if glass is going to be hazardous.
Whenever anyone has a thought; a dream; something on their mind or something important they want to remember, they can write it down on a note card and pop it in the jar.
Notes can be private or for all to see – you just have people write ‘for the eyes of---’ on the outside of the note.
Messages can be discussed if needed, at a good time for everyone.
Sweet and simple.
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