Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

5 Ways to build family teamwork

The importance of team mentality within a family

Early on in our marriage, my husband and I developed an attitude of teamwork. It was us against the world, so to speak. Once we had children, we wanted to create an atmosphere of family teamwork. We haven’t always been perfect at it, but we’ve found a few reasons why promoting family teamwork is important and how to do so.

Why family teamwork matters

One of the biggest aspects of family teamwork is thinking about other people. In this case, it’s thinking about your family members and what they need. As the old saying goes, “There’s no ‘I’ in teamwork.” And I can’t think of a better way to build good relationships within your family than thinking about what each other needs. I’ve seen my children care for and look out for each other (and their dad and me) at different times that I know is a result of our family teamwork attitude.

Another benefit of family teamwork is that you can more easily celebrate victories together. It helps eliminate competition among siblings. We have often told our children that what’s good news for one of us is good for all of us. We’re not competing to see who is the best or who can get the most. We are celebrating the victories along the way and understanding that those victories look different for each of us.

Basically, family teamwork encompasses the attitudes I want most for my family. I want us to be a safe spot for each other. I want our family to look out for and support one another. And I want to make sure each of us know we are part of something bigger. We are all an integral part to our family and the team doesn’t run as well if a member is down.

What family teamwork looks like

Throughout the years, we’ve seen the family teamwork mentality at work in our family in a variety of ways.

– When our children get a sweet treat without the other one around, they ask for a treat to share with the other so nobody is left out.
– Our kids have worked together to organize their bedrooms and shared spaces. (I mean, two weeks ago, I found them voluntarily working together to sort through and organize their bookcases together!)
– The entire family worked together this summer to redo both of the kids’ bedrooms. We all painted part of my daughter’s bed together, and we all spent an entire weekend sorting through and organizing toys in my son’s room.
– When my daughter is up before me, she makes breakfast for her little brother (and sometimes for me!).
– Our children have teamed up together to plan fun activities like a family yes day.
– We have family laundry folding “parties” and work together to get laundry folded and put away.

Ideas for building family teamwork

You don’t just wake up one day and declare that everyone is a team and that’s the end of it. We’ve been working on it for about a decade now, and we are still finding ways to make improvements. Nobody is perfect by any means. But, there are some things you can do to help encourage teamwork within your family.

1. Work on projects together.

Not much builds teamwork better than working on a project together. Getting the entire family involved in projects around the house helps everyone learn how to work together and builds the family teamwork mentality. Our kids haven’t always been excited about projects we have had them work on with us. We have definitely had discussions about attitude adjustments. We remind the kiddos that we are working together for something to help or benefit our entire family. And we do our best to make sure we also have good attitudes while being clear that bad attitudes won’t be tolerated.

What has ended up happening is that even when the kids grouse about working on a project they don’t want to, they get on board with it. In the end, when we finish the project together, they feel just as good about it as we do.

Another bonus of working on projects together is teaching the kiddos life skills. The kids have helped my husband change the brakes on the car, helped me prepare food, helped clean rooms, helped organize closets and more. Some skills are bigger than others. I wouldn’t trust my 8- and 11-year-old children to change the brakes on the car by themselves, but I love that they have an understanding of how car brakes work and the benefits of being able to do that work ourselves.

Other things, like helping me prepare food, have already paid off as my oldest has really taken a shine to cooking and made dinner for our family as well as multiple other dishes completely on her own. She’s learned the satisfaction of making food for people she loves.

2. Talk about being a team.

While actions speak louder than words in general, words are still important to reinforce the family teamwork mentality. The best way we’ve found to communicate about teamwork is in small ways in the moment rather than sitting down for a long lecture. Because, let’s face it, long lectures aren’t a great way to get through to kids (or adults!).

Instead, we compliment the kids when we see them working together to help each other or one of us. We will literally say things like, “I love how you guys worked together on that.” When one of our kiddos struggles with feeling jealous of something the other one is doing (one child struggles with this more than the other), we instead help them focus on being happy for their sibling. Because, as we remind them, what’s good for one of us is good for all of us. We can celebrate something good happening to someone in our family knowing there will be times the family will be celebrating with us.

It might sound a bit cheesy, but we also will sometimes give high fives and say, “Go, Team Shannon!” None of us are super into sports, but we are super into being together and working well together. Even cheesy statements help us remember that we really are all a team working together.

3. Keep competition fun.

Competition in families should happen only in games and nothing else. Any other competition is not going to build a family teamwork mentality and will most likely cause it to crumble to the ground. In a good team, everyone is working together for the common good. Nobody is working to look better than their own teammates. Comparing the abilities of our children to each other is not going to help build a team mentality. Instead, it will end up dividing our children rather than bring them together.

And beware of ways your children might perceive that you’re comparing them, even if you aren’t. For example, I grew up as the youngest of two kids. Sometimes I felt like I had to live up to something my older brother did and that my parents were comparing us. Looking back now, they weren’t comparing us. I just felt that way. So I try to be intentional about reminding my kids that they are both doing a great job and they both have different strengths and skills. All we want them to do is their best. Will that look different for them? Absolutely, because they are different people!

4. Play cooperative games.

I’m not necessarily thinking of team-building exercises like trust falls, but I’m thinking more of games in general that you can play together as a family without competition. We even play some competitive games, like charades, without keeping score. Listen, I’m a competitive person. I want to win when I play games. But I have found I most love playing cooperative games with my family that we work together to win.

One of my recent good memories with my family was playing a game of Monopoly together on the Xbox. My husband ran the controller and our family played collectively as one game piece. We each had input on strategies and what we should do as we competed against computer players. When we pulled out a victory after thinking we were going to get beaten, all four of us celebrated together.

Another great team building game we’ve played recently is story telling together using the alphabet. One person starts a story by saying a couple of sentences with a word that starts with letter “A.” The next person starts with a “B” and adds a couple of more sentences. The story builds itself through to the end of the alphabet. Nothing is competitive about the game and it just results in lots of laughs as you work together to tell a story. Ours have taken all sorts of twists and turns I didn’t see coming!

5. Be an all-inclusive team coach.

If we go with a sports analogy for family teamwork, the parents are the coaches and the children are the players. That’s how it ought to be. But that doesn’t mean the team members never get a say in what the team is doing. Though my husband and I get the final say on family decisions, we get our children’s opinions in some matters as we are making plans.

For example, this year we were trying to decide what to do for vacation. My husband and I came up with four destinations and presented all four to our children. As a family we discussed what we liked about each option. Then we talked, voted and came up with our final selection together. When the kids were younger, we didn’t do this, because they were too young to have a say or really care. But as they are getting older, they love being able to have a say in decisions.

Any time you can involve your kids in decision making for your family, go for it. While it does help them build important skills about decision making, it also helps them feel more connected and part of the team. My husband and I definitely make many decisions without their input, because we are the adults and have the experience and wisdom to make good choices. But in other areas, we love to let them be involved. In the vacation example, the kids also learned how much work goes into planning a vacation and finding things for us to do that are fun. Since they got to be involved in the planning, they were even more excited for the trip and we were able to better choose the things they wanted to do.

How to have a family yes day (and why you should!)

Ideas for making a family yes day fun for everyone

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

A couple of months ago, my kids watched the movie “Yes Day” on Netflix at my parents’ house. Since then, they’ve talked about how they wanted to have a family yes day as well. In fact, as we made a list of activities we wanted to do this summer, family yes day made it onto the list.

And so a couple of weeks ago, we picked a Saturday and declared it would be our family yes day. My husband and I had some concerns and weren’t all that sure what to expect. The kids forbade us from watching the “Yes Day” movie beforehand, though they shared about some of the antics in the movie. Just like that our yes day was underway, and I’m so glad we did it!

What exactly is a family yes day?

A family yes day is a day when parents say yes to anything the kids ask them. Basically, it means the kids get to be in charge. The yes day in the movie lasted 24 hours, according to the movie trailer. Our yes day was from the time we woke up (at a time our kids chose) until we went to sleep that night.

Saying yes to anything kids ask for sounds a bit scary and potentially alarming. So, as a family we agreed to a few ground rules ahead of time. We tried to keep the rules simple and straight forward. My daughter wrote them down for us.

  1. All rules apply!
  2. Parents may sit out when involving major fears or inconveniences.
  3. Any toy purchases come from the kids’ own money.
  4. No asking for living things.
  5. Say yes!

While our kiddos had about six days to plan their yes day after we made these rules, another option is to just pick a day and say yes to whatever the kids ask without them knowing ahead of time. I suggest letting them do some planning, though. At least for my kiddos the anticipation is half of the fun. (Another bonus is it gets them to work together on something!)

Making plans

Once we had finalized our rules for yes day, our kids got to work coming up with ideas of what they’d like to do for the day. They sequestered themselves in my daughter’s room so we wouldn’t know anything. The pair of them even made arrangements with grandparents for things. They asked my in-laws to watch our dog for the day. And they asked my parents for a day to come over and do some work for yes day.

Meanwhile, my husband and I were beginning to wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into and what they were going to have us do!

I learned after the fact that the kids did some online searching for ideas. They checked the weather forecast. Rain was predicted for the Saturday we chose, so some activities wouldn’t work out well. Because my daughter is much like I am, they also made an itinerary for the day complete with approximate times for everything. They were well prepared!

Earlier in the week as they were making their plans, I mentioned to my daughter that I wanted to make sure her little brother had an equal say in the day. I do see that could certainly be an area of conflict among siblings. My kiddos feel very strongly about being fair, though. They did a great job at balancing the day with things they both wanted to do.

Ideas for family yes day

Let’s get to the fun stuff of what actually happened for yes day! The kiddos told us we needed to be ready for the day by 7:30 a.m. and that we shouldn’t eat breakfast.

A breakfast treat

Our first stop was a local doughnut shop where we each picked a sweet pastry for breakfast. My 8-year-old son chose to wear his PJs for the first part of the day. We don’t usually let him go places in his PJs, but we couldn’t tell him no!

Shopping

The next stop was Walmart for my son because he wanted to do some toy shopping. He used his own money and purchased a truck set he’d had in mind. (Thanks to not being out much for the past year and a half because of the pandemic, my kids both had a decent amount of money in their spending. They were able to have small shopping sprees!)

My daughter opted to wait until we got back home after that stop and order online. She’s wanted a giant teddy bear for years. We’ve always said no, because where are you going to put a 5-foot tall bear?! But, we couldn’t say no on family yes day. Plus we had just finished cleaning out and reorganizing her bedroom with her, so she really did have room for the bear. She also added in some stickers she’d been eying to use in her new room decor and some new scrunchies that you can store small items in.

Getting crafty

The kids asked to make fluffy slime. We hadn’t don so for a while, but thankfully we had the ingredients needed for fluffy slime: shaving cream, glue, baking soda and contact solution. We’ve made this slime recipe a couple of other times and it turns out well, but we hadn’t made it for about two years. We were overdue. And my sweet kiddos gave me my own glob, because I love slime!

Water fun

Our next activity was a bit crazy. We live in the Midwest where July weather is usually hot and humid. On our family yes day, however, we had an atypical cool day with highs in the low 70s and rain forecasted. But that didn’t deter my kids from wanting to have a water balloon fight. We’ve never done that and evidently it was something they’ve been pining to do.

On their day with my parents, they went shopping and my parents got these easy-fill water balloons. We got them filled pretty quickly and then proceeded to chase each other around the yard with them. There were lots of shrieks and giggles!

Lunch

After drying off, we were all ready for lunch. We made our typical lunches, but the kids had a rule that we could eat anywhere except the kitchen table. One sat on the fireplace hearth and the other on the dining room floor. My husband and I opted for the couch!

Obstacle course

During virtual school, we had a couple of times that our gym assignment was making an obstacle course. The kids wanted to do that on family yes day, so I helped them sit it up downstairs using kitchen chairs, stools, a yoga mat and some fabric squares. Basically, it worked like “The Floor is Lava” where they couldn’t touch the ground. They did a couple of tweaks as they went and then wanted to time themselves to see how much faster they could get.

Downtime

The kids had extra time in the schedule, so we had some family downtime for a bit. They had planned some family downtime, but we ended up with just a bit more than they had planned, which was nice for their tired parents!

Chuck E. Cheese’s

The next activity was a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s to play games. I wasn’t super excited for this idea, and it was the busiest place we’ve been since before the pandemic, but my son really wanted to go. Plus, how could we say no? So we spent 45 minutes playing games. My daughter, who isn’t as excited about Chuck E. Cheese’s these days, was sweet to humor her brother.

Early dinner

If my kids can pick anywhere to eat, they always pick Fazoli’s. So we weren’t shocked that’s where they wanted to have dinner on our family yes day.

Cake decorating

According to the kids, the next activity was a bit last minute. They had planned for us to go see a movie, but that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, which they realized the day before. Instead, we came home and they wanted to have a cake decorating competition. I got a slightly modified cake in the oven in two round pans and then whipped up some buttercream icing.

My daughter found an image of a bear and we divided into teams. Our objective was to recreate the image of the, but we didn’t have to use the same color as the bear. My husband and daughter worked on a brown bear, while my son and I decided on blue for our bear. We let grandparents pick the winner via photos or video without telling them who did which cake. My son and I won just barely.

And then, we had some tasty cake at the same time the kids would usually be going to bed!

Our cake inspiration
Cake A from my husband and daughter
Cake B from my son and me

Fort building

As we were getting into bedtime mode, the kids had planned to make a blanket fort in the loft and sleep there. They switched to making it our bedroom, though. My son planned to sleep in it all night. My daughter hung out there until she was ready to sleep and then went to her own bed. The fort turned out very well using our kitchen chairs, blankets and some clamps.

The blanket fort before it got filled with glowing balloons, blankets and pillows

Glowing in the dark

The final activity for yes day was using all sorts of glow bracelets and balloons that they had gotten from the Dollar Tree with my parents. As we blew up balloons, we put one or two activated bracelets in them to create glowing balloons. Some glow bracelets stayed out.

Benefits of our family yes day

My husband and I were quite surprised at what our kids picked to do for yes day. We had visions of them wanting to go on excursions out of town or do major activities. But instead they really just wanted to do fun stuff. Chances are, we would have said yes to many of these things at different times. I know we wouldn’t have said yes to them all in the same day. And, honestly, some of them seemed like more effort than they actually were.

I don’t want my kids to always think of their dad and me as saying no. Of course we can’t usually say yes to everything, but letting them have the freedom to just have fun with our yeses was more than worth it. They completely loved the day. I was proud of how they worked together to plan the day. Seeing them excited to be calling the shots and in charge was so much fun!

The best part to me is that we made good family memories. I took photos. We laughed. We won’t forget yes day any time soon. The kids asked to have another one again sometime. Our answer? Yes!

The life of a mother

From messy to together, the life of a mother has it all!

I’ve been a mom for nearly 12 years now. I’ve certainly learned about the life of a mother by living it. Motherhood is filled with so many bittersweet moments, contradictions, challenges and love. And that’s what this is all about.

Sometimes and other times in the life of a mother

Sometimes I wash, dry, fold and put away laundry all in the same day.
Other times, the laundry stays in the dryer for three days before I get it out to fold.

Sometimes I prepare homemade, balanced meals to feed my family.
Other times, I order pizza or go through a fast food drive-thru.

Sometimes I have an abundance of patience for my children.
Other times, I hide in the bathroom with the door locked to regain my composure.

Sometimes I plan fun activities for our family to do.
Other times, we sit on the couch and watch YouTube videos.

Sometimes I empty the dishwasher while the dishes are still hot.
Other times, I plan lunch around disposable dishes so I don’t have to empty the dishwasher.

Sometimes I’m perfectly content as I do the same tasks over and over and over again.
Other times, I long for something different in my daily routines.

Sometimes I plan our meals for the entire week.
Other times, I have no idea what we’ll have for dinner until a half hour before dinnertime.

Sometimes I take my kids to the park or splash pad.
Other times, I struggle to be motivated to turn on the sprinkler in the backyard.

Sometimes I have my kids’ drawers organized with only clothes that fit.
Other times, we sort through stacks of too-small clothes in their drawers to find the ones that work.

Sometimes I think I’m the only one who sees a house full of chores to do.
Other times, I notice the chores my family does and appreciate them.

Sometimes I question whether I can ever be a good enough mama.
Other times, I feel like I’m rocking my motherhood journey.

Sometimes I worry I discipline too much.
Other times, I worry I don’t discipline enough.

All the time in the life of a mother

But then, there are the constants in the life of a mother.

All the time, I love my children more than the air I breathe.

All the time, I want the best for my children.

All the time, I need Jesus to give me strength.

All the time, I try my hardest, even when it may not look like it.

All the time, I want to be better and do better.

All the time, I want to be patient.

All the time, I want my children to know they are loved.

All the time, I think first of my family before myself.

All the time, I thank God for the blessing of my husband and children.

And never ever do I regret becoming a mama.

So many things at so many times

The days may be long and the years be short, but I am thankful for the mundane and hard. I’m thankful for the stressful and overwhelming. I’m thankful for the joy, the love and the sweet moments.

I cannot imagine a different life now that I have this one.

The life of a mother is so many things at so many times. I pray that I somehow enjoy the ride and have enough energy left to get through each moment and recognize it for its preciousness.

Back to school clothes for middle schoolers

10 Great options for back to school clothes for middle schoolers you and your parents will love!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Clothes are one of the hardest things to some up with ideas for. Today I decided to do the shopping for you, and came up with 10 awesome finds for back to school clothes for middle schoolers! I looked for pieces that would be easy to mix and match while also being comfy and practical for a day of middle school.

These four shirts, four bottoms, one dress and one jewelry set will help you get through this upcoming back to school season in style.

First, try this cute graphic tee with back jeans. And I love the reminder to be kind! We need more kindness in middle school — and everywhere!

This cute T-shirt dress comes in about 40 other colors. Pair it with leggings or shorts for added comfort and modesty.

Another option is this cold shoulder style shirt, which also has a color variety. I think it is quite cute and a great way to kick it up a notch from a plain tee!

This adorable pullover jacket, which I like best in pink, also comes in other colors.

I also found this long-sleeved top I liked. The only other color is green!

When it comes to back to school clothes for middle schoolers, being able to buy staples in bulk is a good thing. And, according to me, you can’t go a year without black leggings! You also can’t have too many of them!

Jeans are also a necessity so I thought I would list a pair! I love ones that are comfy and soft. They work for so many outfits!

Back to school starts out hot most places. These shorts are another great option, which you can get in lots of different colors.

I also like this skirt, which yet again comes in multiple colors. I’m a fan of black because it works with so many other colors and options.

And we can’t forget accessories. Check out this super cool jewelry set that would work well throughout the entire school year.

Looking for more ideas for tween girls? Don’t miss these posts!

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more from Girls with Grace:

Talking to your tween

Ideas from a mom and daughter on talking to your tweens and connecting with them

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Caught somewhere between being a child and a teenager, tweens (kiddos age 10-12) are growing and evolving in ways their parents often struggle to keep up with. Talking to your tween is a bit different from when they were younger kiddos and requires sometimes being intentional — and patient!

With that in mind, Lexi from Girls with Grace and I (Stacey from Families with Grace) have put together our ideas about talking to your tween based on our own experiences. Lexi is a couple months away from turning 12. We don’t always have our stuff together and communicate like a tween dream team. But we have found ways to change and grow our relationship and communication as Lexi has gotten older.

Ideas for ways to talk to your tween from a tween

Lexi: Talking to your tween can go so many different ways depending on your tween’s personality. Therefore, the first step is to figure out exactly what that is. Starting off, decide if your tween is the open, talk-about-it type or the type that will NOT talk about it.

If he or she is the open type, then just ask your questions head on. (EX: Do you think the new kid is cute?) If that doesn’t go well, try a more indirect approach. (EX: Who is the new kid?)

If he or she is less open, try out a trade-off journal. You can find journals with prompts to write about and exchange, or just use a blank journal. Ask the questions on the page and let the other person write about it.

If that fails, try just leaving a book or something in her room about the topic you are trying to talk about (EX: boys). In order to get her input on the subject, leave three to six (depending on the length of said book) notebook pages with one question each throughout the book. Ask her to read and then answer them. Make it clear you will read the responses and write a paragraph or two on anything you want reply. For example, maybe her response to a question is “Conner is kinda cute.” Then maybe you respond “When I met him, Conner seemed very nice.” Give her the option to respond or not.

Ideas for ways to talk to your tween from a mom

Stacey: One of the things I’ve learned these past couple of years is to find time when my tween is feeling chatty to talk with her. There are certain times of day Lexi feels more like opening up about what’s going on in her life. Right now, the best time for us to talk is in the evening before bedtime. While I’m an early bird, I understand that my night owl kiddo wants to talk in the evening, so I’ve made that a priority as much as possible.

We have been intentional about having one-on-one (or two-on-one when we include my husband) time throughout the week to check in with Lexi. Reading relevant nonfiction books together has been a great way to connect and talk. American Girl (yep, the doll maker!) has a terrific selection of “A Smart Girl’s Guide” to everything from cooking to puberty to room organization to boys to clothes to friend drama. We’ve read through a few together and had some great conversations as a result.

Another way Lexi and I have connected as mom and daughter is through the shared journal she mentioned. I can more easily write about my feelings than talk about them, so it’s a natural fit for me. Lexi has inherited my love of writing and reading so it works well for us. We talk about random things and deep things in the journal with prompts. We’ve enjoyed the shared journal so much that the two of us are working to create one together.

Check out and download this sample of our journal for free to try with your own tweens!

Advice for moms of tweens from a tween

Lexi: Try to take time out of your day to make her feel special. (Especially if she has siblings.) Take her out to go get ice cream, or watch an episode of her favorite show with her. Even if it is as simple as making or ordering our favorite food, it does make us feel better. Also, we love compliments. (Check out these compliment pencils from my most recent blog post!)

Advice for moms of tweens from a mom

Stacey: Having quality one-on-one time together is often the best way for connecting with and talking to your tween. We’ve found being in the car together is a great time to chat. And we’ve had some mom and daughter dates. Neither of those things happened as often or as easily during COVID-19. But once the weather got warm again this spring, Lexi and I went to Dairy Queen and shared an order of chicken wings and each got ice cream. We sat outside in the sunshine and just enjoyed chatting together and being out of the house. I really do think usually the small stuff makes the biggest difference!

Advice for tweens from a tween

Lexi: Remember your mom is with you to the end and your one friend from class probably won’t be. Therefore, talk to her. Tell your mom about your day, give her a card (and maybe a gift) on her birthday and other special occasions. Even if you just make your mom dinner or draw a picture for her, it still counts. Maybe even start a Bible study club with each other! Just do stuff together, because it really does make all the difference.

Advice for tweens from a mom

Stacey: Be patient with your parents is my biggest advice. Just as you are figuring out how to be an older kid with more mature tastes and interests, we are figuring out how to be your parents. We still remember how tiny you started in the world. And we are doing our best to let you grow up. But sometimes we mess up. Know we are always doing our best to love you and connect with you.

After patience, I offer the reminder that your parents were once your age. We may not have lived your exact experiences, but we do have experiences to draw from. And we love having a chance to talk with you about any and all of it. Mostly, though, we just want to connect with, talk to and love on you.

Why talking to your tween is important

Lexi: Parents and tweens do need to stay connected. Whether you know it or not, this is the phase of life your tweens are deciding to keep you or not. It is possible we decide you are annoying and don’t engage with you any more than necessary for the next five years. Maybe instead we decide you are awesome and hang out often. It all depends. Staying reasonably connected can make us keep you.

Stacey: Honestly, Lexi’s comments on this floored me. When I think back to my own tweenager days, what I wanted most was to feel heard and understood. My parents weren’t perfect (and neither am I!), but they were there for me in so many ways that our relationship stayed in tact.

As a mom, I do my best to make sure my kiddos feel heard and understood. It isn’t always so easy. I want them to be able to come to their dad and me with everything they have going on. I want to be their support system as they grow and change. And none of that happens without talking and connecting on a regular basis.

How to make a better connection

Lexi: Parents can do things they don’t even realize kinda break it for us. First of all, don’t push something. If you think something is wrong, then you can ask if we are OK. But if we don’t tell you anything is wrong despite your efforts, then please realize we either honestly don’t want or need to talk about it or nothing really is not wrong! If you have done well as a parent, then we will be open with you when we want or need to be, OK?

Also, when picking something that has to do with us, ask us what we want. You want to take me somewhere to celebrate my half birthday? Yay! You took me to McDonald’s, the one place I didn’t want to go? Boo! Point is, just ask what I want instead of trying to guess, because it is very possible you will get it wrong.

Stacey: Making a connection with your tween is about more than talking to your tween. It’s also about really listening and taking an interest in them. And it’s about knowing when to back off. For me, backing off can be the most difficult, because if my kiddos are upset, I want to know what’s going on and try to help! However, I also know that for me personally someone being too pushy with me is going to result in me being even quieter. So, I do my best to give space to my kiddos when they need it.

Aside from talking, doing special things for our kids is important and helps them feel valued, but we need to do the things they enjoy. For tweens, we also have to realize that what they enjoy may not be the same as it was two years ago (or even two months ago!). My husband and I started a policy early on in our marriage that asking isn’t a bad thing. Neither of us are mind-readers, so sometimes we just have to ask what the other needs or wants to do. The same is true with our kids. Just asking what they’d like to do for a special moment together can make all the difference on whether it’s successful.

Family fun night activities at home

10 Easy family fun night activities you’ll all love!

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I love family fun time. One of the best things about having kids who are older (currently 8 and 11) is that we get to have fun together and make good memories. And we can often do so without even leaving the house, which is another bonus! We’ve found quite a few family fun night activities that we like to do together.

The best family fun night activities don’t require a lot of planning, work or clean-up. Honestly, if something takes too much work, we are less likely to do it. So, everything on this list offers minimal effort for maximum fun.

1. Play hide-and-seek with toys.

I’m not sure what else to call this, but our kids like playing hide-and-seek with toys. It started outside because we don’t have a lot of good hiding places for people in our yard. But we have also played it inside a few times. It’s sort of like an Easter Egg hunt. Someone hides a relatively small toy and the other people try to find it. Of course, when it gets tricky, the hider can give some hints or declare the finders “hot” or “cold” as they search.

If you are playing inside, I suggest you pick one room or area in which to hide the toy or the game might go on forever! When we first started playing this game, our son was 5 or 6. So, he often paired up with an adult or his big sister to both hide and find the toy. Definitely work in pairs or groups with younger kiddos to make it fun for everyone.

2. Color.

I’m nowhere near artistic, but even I enjoy coloring. Coloring is a good family fun night activity because each person can choose what he or she wants to color and find something based on their skill and comfort level. But the best part of coloring is that while you color, you can also talk. With having a tween, I love anything that lets us just relax and chat together.

Sometimes while we color, we play music for some additional fun. We pick favorite songs or even just turn something on in the background we all like. One evening, we ended up listening to classical music while we colored. I felt very cultured! My kids’ interests have varied. My husband likes to color superhero pictures with fancy markers, shading and all sorts of stuff. I like to color Barbies or princess coloring pages with crayons and give them makeup to match their dresses. Do what you like!

3. Play with your pets.

If you have a pet who loves playtime, turn playtime into a family event. This probably won’t be your entire family fun night activity, but it’s still a good one to be part of your time. Bonding over the cuteness of a pet is good.

Our family loves playing with our beloved Pixel the Pup together. Our cheeky Lhasa Apso loves playing fetch. Sometimes we make it a family event simply by all being out with him together, even if just one of us is throwing the ball for him.

4. Take a walk.

This one easily combines with the previous one if your pet is a pooch. But even without a pooch, a family walk is a nice way to connect and spend time together. A stroll around your neighborhood together is a good way to spend time with one another and get a bit of exercise in as well. If you want to take this activity away from home, you could go to a nature area near you, but neighborhood walks are just as fun. The point is less about where you are and more about who you’re with.

One of our favorite family walks happened two years ago when Pixel was a few months old and we all walked through the neighborhood and then decided to walk a couple of blocks away to get ice cream from a nearby family restaurant that has an ice cream parlor. Thanks to the pandemic, that didn’t happen last summer and this summer the restaurant is remodeling, but I have a feeling we’ll do that again sometime. It was a spontaneous and fun treat during our walk.

5. Play board games together.

What board games you play depends on your family and what you like. My husband and I love playing games, and we’ve shared that love with our kiddos. We’ve played a variety of games with them and found our family favorites tend to be cooperative games where everyone is playing together to beat the odds. One of our favorite cooperative games is HeroQuest, which is board game from when my husband was a kiddo. A new version is coming out soon. Another cooperative board game that is similar is Marvel United, which we all have fun playing as superheroes working together to defeat bad guys.

But not all games we are play are cooperative. We’ve played lots of others that have been fun like Uno (including Harry Potter Uno and Jurassic World Uno), Uno Attack, Toilet Trouble, Dragon Snacks and Trouble.

6. Watch something together.

If you’re looking for easy family fun night activities, it doesn’t get much easier than watching a movie or show together — as long as you know what to watch. Deciding and agreeing on what to watch can definitely be the most difficult part! We like finding movies and shows to watch together that we all enjoy. Don’t go for shows just the kids will like. You might as well enjoy it, too. We usually add in pizza (homemade, frozen or delivery) or popcorn. To kick it up a notch, popcorn snack night often involves some candy as well!

We subscribe to a few streaming services, so I’ve organized the list based on where we watch them, but some of them you can find other places. Don’t forget that your local library usually offers DVD rentals as well if that works better for your family.

Netflix
The Mitchells versus the Machines (movie)
Into the Spider-verse (movie)
Animal Crackers (movie)
Hotel for Dogs (movie)
Green Eggs and Ham (series)
You versus Wild (series)
Pup Academy (series)
Camp Cretaceous (series)

Amazon Prime
The Pack (series)
World’s Toughest Race (series)

YouTube TV
Battlebots (series)
Supermarket Stake Out (series)
Food Truck Road Race (series)
The Wall (series)

Disney Plus
The Mandalorian (series — best for older children)
It’s a Dog’s Life (series)

7. Do water activities at home.

Obviously this family fun night activity is weather dependent! If it is cool or rainy, this one won’t work. But for hot summer evenings (or days) you can have some fun cooling off together as a family. Get out your sprinkler and enjoy the cool water flowing over you, have a water balloon fight or spray each other with water guns. If you have smaller kids, consider getting a water mat sprinkler. (I got one for my son last summer when he was 7 and again this summer and he loves it!)

8. Let the kids be in charge.

For a few years now, one of our kids’ favorite activities is having one-on-one parent time. With two kids, my husband and I can easily switch between them. With more than two, you’ll have to get a bit creative. Basically, we set a timer for a predetermined time (usually 20-30 minutes) and each of us spends time one-on-one with a child. We switch kiddos at the end of the time. The kiddo gets to pick what we do. Now that our daughter is getting older, her one-on-one time is usually less about playing and more about something she’s interested in that she talks to us about or shares with us.

Then other times, we switch this up to have time as a family and let each child pick what activity the entire family does. We do the same thing with setting a timer for 20-30 minutes and let them each be in charge during that time. The rules are the child deciding the activity needs to pick something we can all do, and the other child needs to participate as well.

9. Play non-board games.

We really do love playing games, so it is fitting games are on the list twice. But outside of board games, there are other games great for a family fun night activity. A long-time favorite of our kiddos is charades. You can get a charades game where you pull out a card with choices, use a free online generator or let your family pick on their own. We have played all three ways. Usually we have at least a few that the kids pick on their own. Our only rule is it has to be something we all know and can’t be a made-up creation. One of my favorites was when my son was a newspaper lying on a porch!

You can play charades with teams, timers and scores, but we play it all together. We don’t keep track of time or scores. We also just go in an order so each person gets the same amount of turns. One time we tried playing where the person with the correct guess went next, but that doesn’t work out so well for some kiddos’ sense of justice. (Trust me on this!)

Another non-board game we recently tried and liked was alphabet story-telling together. One person begins telling a story with a sentence that starts with the letter “A.” That person says a couple of sentences and the next person continues the story with a sentence that starts with “B.” The story goes that way through the entire alphabet. I think we laughed more playing this game than any other in recent memory!

Finally, video games can be good for your family as well. If you all play video games and can do so together at the same time, then go for it. For my family, video games means that one person has the controller and we all have input. Our recent favorite was playing Monopoly together on the Xbox. My husband ran the controller and we played against computer characters. Our whole family was strategizing together, celebrating together and moaning together. We spent a few evenings playing one game, and it was so fun. When our character won the game, we had a living room dance party.

10. Serve up special treats.

Of everything on the list, this one takes the most planning just because you have to have ingredients. Having a special treat can make any family fun night seem all that more special. We have roasted s’mores in the fireplace (and over our indoors s’mores maker), popped popcorn in the popcorn maker (instead of the microwave) and had an ice cream sundae bar with a variety of toppings.

Other fun food we’ve had before is a variety of appetizers or an array of finger foods like crackers, cheeses, fruit, veggies and dips. We tried fondue with the kiddos once making a mild cheddar cheese dip, but neither of them liked it. But if your kiddos are into fondue, that’s another fun, special treat option as well.