This is a total mom thing to say, but I think our family’s traditions will be the secret sauce that keeps our family ties strong over time!
Whew. Ok, I said it. I’ll just be over here putting on my mom jeans and my old Reeboks now.
Today I’m talking about real life ideas for simple traditions that you can easily put into action with your own crew. Don’t expect perfection: sometimes the kids will whine or it won’t go as planned, and that’s ok, your tradition is not ruined. It is not about magical-matching-outfits-and-instagram-worthy-pictures (although I do love those so much!!). It’s about simply repeating something – together with your people – in a positive way, just like you did last year and the year before, and building on those memories.
Here are 9 family traditions to start today with your family!
1. Secret Handshakes
Try a family handshake, like a fraternity! 😝 Years ago, without even knowing it would become our thing, I made a secret one up with Robbie as we were holding hands walking into his first day of preschool: I squeezed his hand three times, and told him each squeeze meant “I, Love, You.” He did it right back. To him, it felt like a secret that only he and I were in on. He is 10 now and it is still our thing. This coming from the child who can’t be seen talking to me in school!
2. Roses and Thorns
At dinner time, go around the table and tell each other your Rose (your best moment of the day) and your Thorn (the worst moment). We don’t do this at every dinner, but it’s pretty common for one of the kids to shout out at dinner, “Let’s play roses and thorns!”
3. Friday Family Nights
Friday Family Night is a great way to sneak family time in! Eat a kid friendly dinner (pizza or pancakes!) and then pick either a movie or a game to play together. We have some sillly games our family does that sound lame but they make us laugh. We have toooonns of singing contests, play a lot of Jenga, and Charades is huge with the kids. (If you want a game that you will dread playing, but it will make your kids laugh like crazy, try this one or this one). Oh and treats usually accompany a game. Obviously.
Watching a movie together? Make it fun- don’t just throw on the TV! Pop popcorn, bring out the sleeping bags and their teepee, cue the matching pajamas (you knew they were going to make an appearance!). Camille and Leo have to have their popcorn in their cute little Smilo snack containers on family nights! They are shaped like little cars and boats. (I love these things because they make it hard for the snacks to spill, as opposed to a bowl).
4. Backyard Campout
Sooo full disclosure, I make my husband tackle this one with the kids. We started this tradition in the fall once the weather cooled down. This one is a great memory builder, and all you need is a backyard and a tent. One night a year? Not too bad.
5. First Day of School Cookies
I bake the kids cookies on their first day of school. Simple as that, and the kids expect it! I actually prefer to bake them while they’re at school to have it out of the way. When they come home, the cookies are waiting for them on the counter.
6. Back to School Party
Celebrate the kids going back to school with a dinner party just for them the night before school! I wrote about all the details of our back to school party here. Let them pick the menu, have them wear crowns with their grade written on them, and decorate their chairs with balloons, etc. If you’re really feeling extra, wrap up a small school themed gift for them and have it out on the table for them. One year I did waterbottles, this year I did pencil bags and inside were light up pens, chapsticks, and fun erasers.
7. Tea Time / Date Your Kid
If you have more than one child, you know how kids crave that alone time. But you can actually have dates without leaving your house! Tell the chosen one it’s ‘tea time’ and bring that child into your room for ‘tea’; meaning you have your coffee or tea, and they drink a little chocolate or sweet soy milk etc.! Split something yummy like cinnamon toast. Sit down together and have a little chat… it doesn’t matter what you are talking about, your child will feel so special to be singled out for alone time just with you; they will remember doing this for years! This would be key if you also have an infant!
It is also nice to take them on a true date and go some place fun. Some of our ideas are coffee shops, the bookstore to pick out a book, or go shopping for somebody else together! Two years ago I was really lacking creativity but I had promised Sofie a date. I was exhausted so I just took her down the road to McDonalds. She thought it was amazing. She climbed into the front seat with me and we just sat in the McDonalds parking lot, sharing one of those totally processed horrible for you blueberry pies and hot chocolates. No joke: she still remembers every detail of that day. She will bring it up and say “Hey Mom, remember when…?” I remember it too because we actually had a pretty hilarious conversation in the car together. Good thing I didn’t bail! 😅
8. Heart Attack
There are a variety of ways to do this Valentine’s tradition! Here is one way: on February 1st, put out a bowl of Hershey Kisses, heart shaped notecards and a pen. Tell your kids they can come by at any time before Valentine’s Day, and write the reason why they love someone else in the family on the notecard. In return for each note they get a Hershey Kiss. They can write as many as they want, as long as it’s heart felt and unique. Leo of course asks us to write his notes for him, but last year he was great about expressing his affection. Pass them out on Valentine’s Day. I like to put the hearts on the fridge with magnets so the kids can be reminded next time their fighting!
You don’t have to wait until February to start this tradition. You could do this the month of someone’s birthday and only write notes about that person. Or just pick any random month. The kids love reading what their siblings wrote about them the most, so I know it’s healthy for their relationships!
9. Kids Cook Dinner
Have your kids take over dinner once a week as a summer tradition! This is a new one for our family. My older kids (7 & 10) each made dinner one night out of the week all summer long. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I talked about our experience the first week we tested this out here. I’ll be doing this next summer again for sure!
I hope this list gave you some new ideas, and proves you don’t need to take your family on the same expensive beach vacation every summer to have your own family traditions! (Although if you are going, take me!) With just a little thought and effort, you can put into place some fun rituals that will be special to your family for years to come!