Dad water fight with kids

With another year behind us, January is a time for new beginnings, open possibilities, and enriching habits for your family. Here are a few beautiful – and cheap – ways to bond in 2018.

Cook Something New

One fun way to spend time with your family is to get creative in the kitchen by making homemade versions of foods you love. Are Girl Scout cookies a staple in your house that only come once a year? How about a Chinese food joint you always order takeout from? Learning to make these things at home will delight your children, spark an interest in cooking, and save you quite a bit of money. When I was growing up, my family fostered my cooking projects, and having them participate with me strengthened my love for homemade that continues to this day! As an adult, pizza from scratch (down to the sauce!) is a weekly meal for my family – and a great thing to put in lunches the next day.

Explore a New Town

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I’ve ever lived has had a quaint town with historic storefronts and antique shops within an hour’s drive. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of my mom taking my siblings and I to Havana, Florida, just outside of Tallahassee. We wandered antique stores together for hours, marveling in treasures from the past. It was always fodder for conversation for the next week, and instilled an appreciation for the present moment, history, and family time that I carry with me to this day. Find the nearest historic town, pack a lunch, and get exploring!

Start a Container Garden

Regardless of the season, it’s always a good time to get planting with a family container garden! I’ve had great success with them, growing everything – kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, herbs! You name it, it can be grown in a container. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. For my veggies, I bought an old popcorn tin from a thrift store, poked some holes in the bottom, and filled it with soil! Here’s a simple how-to on making one yourself. Children are thrilled to watch a plant grow, and there’s nothing quite like harvesting food that they’ve grown themselves – plus, it’s a great way to encourage them to eat their veggies!

Watch a TV Series Together

Remember when we were kids and a show would come out one episode per week? My parents and I ordered pizza every Thursday and watched the latest episode of a sci-fi series. Nowadays, everything can be streamed and binged. Instilling family loyalty to watch a TV show one episode at a time embraces the technology your kids are glued to, turning it into something that the whole family can enjoy. There’s nothing like speculating around the dinner table about what will happen next!

Visit an Animal Sanctuary

Across the U.S., animal sanctuaries house abused and rescued animals. While some are stricter than others, almost all allow visitors to come and meet the animals in a natural, peaceful environment. Visiting these tigers, gorillas, and wolves that have been given a chance at happiness is a wonderful way to engage in meaningful discussions with your children about compassion and the environment while seeing something remarkable.


This one is another way to embrace modern technology while spending time with the family. If you’re looking to explore more, see new things, and uncover secrets, Geocaching is one of the greatest apps of all time! Self-described as “the world’s largest treasure hunt”, it’s exactly that: people hide things all around the world for you to find. Check out their website to see what’s in your area! While this app isn’t free (try $10/month), it’s worth every penny. Geocaching is an excellent way to get walking with your family, explore a new part of town together, or make road trips more exciting. Happy hunting!

Learn a New Skill Together

There’s nothing quite like your kid’s satisfaction when they’ve made something themselves. Tap into that joy by learning to make something together! From lip balms to chocolates, the internet is a wellspring of DIY projects waiting to be done with your family. Look up anything that you use together often or have talked about, get the materials, and start making.

Go on Factory Tours

Check out how yarn, chocolate, tea – basically anything – is made at a local factory! Tours are often free and always fascinating. Learning the ins and outs of how something is made is a fun way to spark conversation with your kids about where things come from. Extra bonus: tours almost always give you freebies, like the one at Celestial Seasonings, where you enjoy unlimited tea before and after their (free) tour.

Game Night!

Step aside, Monopoly. With games like Phase 10, Codenames – even a card version of The Oregon Trail computer game – tabletop games are making a comeback. My family and I play Codenames, Uno, or strategy games often. As a kid, my mom and aunt taught me and my cousins how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. We never played for money, but simply having a thrifted poker set and a deck of cards kept us busy for hours! Instilling a game night in your family brings you together in camaraderie and competition that your kids will treasure as lifelong memories.

Explore Nature

Go on a nature walk with your family. Get into the forest and get to know your local flora. There are an abundance of apps out there to help you ID plants and get to know what’s around you. Your children will be able to integrate technology with the great outdoors in a way that is meaningful and educational. Walking through the woods, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your own inner child emerges. Marvel at what is right outside your door, and get your kids out of the house!

There are so many meaningful ways to make this new year magical and expansive for your family, so get up early and tackle one this weekend. What are some things you resolve to do to get your family engaged in new things together?


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