By Holly Lebowitz Rossi | Updated on June 1, 2022
"1. Involve Everyone
When the whole family is involved in planning fun activities, you'll have more opportunities to experience special moments. "Family glue" is what Pat Tanner Nelson, professor of Human Development & Family Studies at University of Delaware, calls those moments that connect your family and build deep, healthy relationships. "Spending time together as a family takes planning, but it's a good investment," Nelson says. "When children feel close to their parents, they try harder to please them and make them proud, which then makes the whole family stronger." It doesn't have to be complicated—with a little bit of effort, you can turn bonding into a lifetime of funny, sweet stories and lasting memories.
2. Plant a Family Garden
Encourage everyone to get their hands dirty by digging a patch to plant flowers or vegetables in the backyard. Tuck tender seedlings into the ground and watch them grow and blossom—like your kids are doing every day. As they witness green shoots turn into stunning plants, your whole family will gain a new respect for the natural world, all while learning patience and perseverance as you divvy up the tasks of keeping the garden weed-free, well-watered, and strong. And if someone squeals upon discovering a squirmy garden worm? That's a hilarious family moment for the scrapbook!
3. Plan a Family Vacation Together
You can set the budget and a suggest geographically convenient location but let your kids research attractions, coordinate travel times, and check the weather forecast. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, for example, you might suggest Colonial Williamsburg, and your children's itinerary could include an archaeological dig, meeting farm animals at the Peyton Randolph Yard, viewing 19th-century toys at the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, and kid-centric tours of the former capital and royal governor's palace. They'll feel proud, trusted, and independent as they take on a leadership role in the family, and you'll be proud to spend a wonderful day together with the children at the helm.
4. Conduct Family Interviews
Members of your family's older generations, like grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles, have many fascinating stories of growing up in different eras. Have your kids ask them what life was like in yesteryear and use a voice, or video recorder to capture their tales, voices, and expressions. Then turn the microphone around and encourage older family members to take turns interviewing someone, including the kids. By collecting personal anecdotes and memories, you'll have a time capsule of family history. As kids learn about their heritage, they can start thinking about their own legacies. Transcribe the interviews to create a book or digital file of photos for a slideshow to accompany the interviews.
5. Plan a Family Photoshoot
There's no better way to make and preserve family memories than by planning a family photoshoot. You can schedule a portrait session at a local studio, but to capture those real candid moments that will make you smile when looking back on them, seek out a photographer with a photo-journalistic style who knows how to handle kids during lifestyle shoots. If you're shooting in your neighborhood, pick a spot for the shoot that your family already loves, like a local park or playground.
Another option is to book a photographer while on vacation to capture your family's adventure. That's right: You can get the whole family into a good picture, no selfie stick required! To find a great photographer out of town we suggest using Flytographer's booking service— they work with photographers in more than 250 destinations who can help direct your photoshoot to get real smiles from you and your kids. Book an hour session to capture a family of 4 in two locations in your vacation town. [Use the code Parents25 for $25 off your shoot, Flytographer.com]
6. Cook (and Eat) a Family Meal
The benefits of eating dinner as family are multifold. Studies show that kids who dine frequently with their parents have improved academic performance, increased self-esteem, and a reduced risk of obesity. Regular dinnertime conversations are also linked with more open communication between kids and parents.
"The more you can get into the habit of really listening to your kids and having these conversations from early ages, the more likely it is that kids are going to talk to their parents in adolescence about issues that are troubling them," says Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist and the author of The Parents We Mean to Be. Start with a collection of recipes and then assign everyone an age-appropriate job (no knives for toddlers!). Get creative with ingredients and techniques to forge delicious memories."