It’s the beginning of a new year, a time to reflect on the past year and a time to look forward to all sorts of great stuff happening this year. Resolutions have never really been our thing, but we love the idea of starting some new traditions as a way to create memories and experiences with the entire family. And with a fresh new year upon us, there seems to be no better time to start than now.
We’ve got 16 must-do new traditions to bring your family together. You don’t need to do all of them, the key is to find something that resonates with your family, that’s the only way you will stick with it throughout the year. So read through, talk it over with your family, and decide together on what you might want to do next year.
Memory Jar: each time something fun or funny or exciting or noteworthy happens, write it down on a piece of paper, add the date and put it in a jar. Encourage the entire family to write memorable moments down. Then, next New Year’s Eve, go through the jar together as a family and reminisce about your favourite memories!
Family Dance Parties: we crank up the tunes after dinner and get jiggy with it. The whole family dances up a storm. It’s a great burst of physical activity and we find it gets the crazies out of the kids before settling in to bed. Enlist someone to play DJ or use a music-streaming app.
Bedtime Stories: we love piling up in bed with all the kiddos and reading a few stories before everyone heads off to sleep. It’s even more fun with the kids start reading books themselves as then they can take a turn reading to the whole family (trust us, your heart will be bursting the first time this happens). Not only is this ritual a great opportunity for family bonding, it is proven to increase cognitive abilities in kids.
Secret Family Handshake: this is such a fun idea; create a secret handshake for your family. It can be a complex series of movements or as simple as three little squeezes to mean “I Love You”. Then bust it out whenever anyone needs a bit of encouragement, as a reminder of how much you love them, or just before everyone heads off on their day.
Q&A: asking a question a day to each of your kids and writing down the answers can be a fun activity to do during breakfast or dinner. You can purchase books that have questions already listed for you or you can create a list of your own. Keep the questions simple, and ask them again every year on the same day to see how answers change over time!
52-Week Savings Plan: each week place an amount of money in a savings jar. You can have it at a standard amount each week ($25 / week gives you $1,300 at the end of the year), you can have it increase throughout the year (week 1 = $1, week 2 = $2), or have it be a random amount, whatever you can afford to put aside. The idea is to get into a habit of saving. The savings jar can be a physical one or an online account that you transfer funds to on a weekly basis. Get the entire family involved – encourage your kids to contribute money they receive from chores or find in couch cushions to the jar. Make the goal a family trip or family purchase so that everyone is motivated to contribute.
Weekly Family Meal: commit to eat one meal together as a family each week. It doesn’t need to be dinner, or even happen on the same day each week, it just needs to happen once a week. There are countless studies that show the benefits of sharing a meal together as a family: better nutrition, increased vocabulary, higher academic achievement scores, fewer instances of eating disorders, fewer cases of high risk behaviour, and decreased stress levels.
Toy & Clothing Purge: after all the new gifts roll in from Christmas, January is a great time of year to go through old toys and clothes and pick out what is no longer used. Donate your purge to a local charity.
Family Bucket List: sit down together as a family and list out all the things you each want to try this year – recipes, restaurants, activities, events, venues to visit, trips to take. Bonus next step: place each idea on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. The next time you have free time, put your hand in the jar and pull out an activity to try!
Annual Art Show: collect artwork created by kids throughout the year and host an art show where family can purchase special pieces for a dime or quarter each. Anything leftover can then be tossed without guilt. Add your earnings to your savings jar.
New Year’s Eve Questionnaire: each New Year’s Eve, sit down with your family and have everyone fill out a simple questionnaire. Repeat this on an annual basis and look back each year. It’s fun to see how the answers evolve and even how the writing evolves. Even the littlest family members can take part by answering the questions aloud while someone writes it out for them, or drawing their answers, or a combination of the two, they draw their answer and mom or dad translates their answer into words so it’s easy to read back in future years. Create your own questionnaire with questions like “what’s your favourite colour”, “what’s your favourite book”, “what’s your favourite food”, and “what was the best thing you did this year”.
Volunteer Day: pick a charity and volunteer together as a family. Take turns picking charities. Do this on a monthly or quarterly basis or at least as many times in a year as you have family members so each person gets their turn to pick!
Full Moon Walk: whenever there is a full moon head outside with the entire family for a fun moonlit walk around the neighbourhood or favourite park, rain or (moon)shine.
10-Minute-Tidy: every day each person in the family spends 10 minutes tidying some place in the house. It can be anything they want: clear out the Tupperware drawer, organize their closet, vacuum a room. It doesn’t take the place of ordinary chores or things that need to be done on a daily basis, but is a fun way to get the other places of the house clean little by little. Set a timer and make it a challenge to see how much each family-member can get done!
Even and Odd Day Decisions: if you are parent to more than one kid you are often faced with kids wanting to do different things in a day, or kids who argue over who gets to sit where or play with certain toys. An easy way to decide is to assign each kid an even or odd number and, depending on the day, that kid gets to make the decision (if it something that doesn’t need to be decided by an adult). This works bests for families of 2 kids. For families with more, you can always assign days of the week, or just rotate decisions in birth order.
Parent For a Day: each kid gets a turn at being mom or dad for a day. They get to pick the meals and activities (and help execute them). They can even tuck mom and dad in and read them a story for bedtime! Do this monthly or a few times a year, giving each kiddo a couple of turns!
We hope this list has inspired you to take on a new family tradition or two for 2016. And we wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.