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I don’t know about you, but the past three years have given my husband and I some new perspectives on things… primarily on life and what really matters.
After not being able to see so many of our loved ones and friends for a while, we’ve now developed a deeper appreciation for spending quality time with those we love while we can.
Spending time together can involve seemingly simple things… or taking day trips or vacations. Most everything else in life can wait, especially if you know how to prioritize and manage your time.
I am blessed to be able to work from home, as is my husband some days, which has allowed us to spend more time with our four young children.
We are thankful to be home when they return from school and have the ability to talk with them, take them places, do things together… or just watch them be kids.
Children grow up so fast and we won’t get these days back, only in the form of memories. And that, friends, is why you should create a family bucket list.
In this article, I’ll offer 75 ideas for making every moment count with your loved ones… some big, some small. All that matters is you aspire and desire to check some, or all, of them off the list. Maybe even create your own?
A bucket list is a collection of goals, dreams and aspirations that you would like to accomplish within your lifetime. Many people create bucket lists, often written down in a journal or notebook for accountability, which they can refer back to and make changes if necessary when life circumstances change.
For instance, I created a bucket list in my 20’s of things I wanted to do before turning 30. I’m proud to say I did all but two of them – cage diving with sharks and skydiving.
When I began dating my husband at 32, we created a couples bucket list of things we wanted to do together… like traveling to South Africa for the World Cup and having a baby within 2 years. He’d already been skydiving, so that was no longer on our list.
My life changed and so did my bucket list.
Once we started having children, our list evolved once more. Things that seemed too dangerous were removed and so were the items that felt selfish… and with that, our family bucket list was born.
When it comes to adding items to a bucket list, you need to first ask yourself some questions. For starters:
Next, since this is a family bucket list, you’ll want to involve your partner and kids. Ask them similar questions.
Be sure to write all of these things down. A journal, notebook, chalk or whiteboard will do.
Finally, break your wish list down into categories. I suggest:
Categories are good because some ideas require more planning than others. This will enable you to consistently check easier items off your list, while thinking ahead to the larger ones.
I’ll be taking my own advice here and sorting this list into 3 categories. Feel free to pick and choose from the ones best suited for your family’s needs.
Things to Do at Home
- Cook something new together
Cooking is not only a wonderful bonding activity, but teaches kids valuable mathematical skills (shush, don’t tell them that!). As a bonus, even the fussiest of children will often try something if they made it. So bust out your old family recipes, search the web for new ones or try a mail order kit like Raddish Kids designed to get them crazy for cuisine!
- Host a weekly movie night
Everyone should cast a vote for weekly selection.
- Make a scrapbook with your favorite memories
- Bake your own breads
“Baking bread together” is a pretty famous expression for a reason. Traditionally, this referred to sharing a meal together, but it’s since come to describe a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.
Thus, it’s only appropriate that baking bread as a family is meant to bring you closer. Plus it’s delicious.
- Plant a garden
It can be just a few flowers, or fruits and vegetables. Kids will love getting their hands dirty and later reaping the rewards of what they sow. (For more ideas, check out this post to help you make your spring bucket list.)
- Learn a new language
There are many benefits to learning a second language, among them improved cognitive ability and an improved attention span… and let’s be honest, which kid doesn’t lose concentration from time to time?
It’s also been said to boost creativity and self-confidence, while promoting awareness of other cultures. Heck, you can even learn the language of the country you plan to visit on your family bucket list!
Today, you can learn a new language comfortably from home in just a few minutes a day, with apps like Duolingo and Babbel.
- Adopt a family pet
Pets offer unconditional love, while teaching kids responsibility… among other valuable life lessons.
- Read a book together by the fireplace
Reading to your children is always a good idea, as well as allowing them to read to you when they can.
But, there is more to the world than Dr. Seuss and graphic novels. Why not introduce your child to the classics by reading aloud books, to spark deep conversations with your older kids.
- Camp in the backyard
You don’t have to go very far to give your family a traditional campout experience. Pitch a tent, make some smores and grab those flashlights for ghost stories!
- Watch an outdoor movie in the summer (Check out more summer bucket list ideas here!)
- Go tech-free for one week
Yes, I know the very thought of taking a break from social media and binge watching shows seems like torture for most of us… but it can actually be a really great way to re-center and reconnect with your family. Set the ground rules ahead of time and take a break from staring at your screens!
- Volunteer in the community or for a charity
Volunteering can be a humbling experience, especially if you’re signing up to help those less fortunate.
- Train for a 5K
You can start off with a family walk every day and take it from there. Pick a race, virtual or in-person, and stick to a healthy training and diet plan. Together, you’ve got this!
- Have a picnic
- Game night
Game night. It’s a classic, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. Make it a point to do this once a month to start… and maybe work yourself up to weekly for hours of fun for the whole family.
- Put together a slideshow of your favorite pictures
It’s now easier than ever to sort through old photos on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Order take out from every ethnicity you have access to in your neighborhood
Dare your family to try every cuisine under the sun that’s available to you… then have fun writing reviews in a notebook and voting on which you’d order again.
- Start composting
If you’re thinking about starting a garden, or just want your existing one to thrive, you should think about composting.
- Start a gratitude journal
Creating a family gratitude journal is a wonderful way for everyone to name at least one thing they are thankful for daily. Then, make it a point at the end of every month to read it out loud… or sooner if someone is having a bad couple of days.
- Make brunch together on the weekend
Brunch is awesome because it combines breakfast and lunch. And, as if that weren’t enough of a reason to want it, breakfast foods are typically easier for younger kids to put together than lunch.
Making brunch together is your chance to spend time together in the kitchen and equally contribute something to the meal.
- Redecorate the family room
Family rooms should be a place for warm gatherings and laughter. Giving everyone the opportunity to add their personal or creative touch to it can make that feeling of togetherness even stronger.
- Create a work of art
I’m not talking about individual art… but family art. Grab some paints and a huge canvas from the arts and crafts store, or online, and divide it into sections based on the number of family members.
Each person takes their turn decorating their own space, leaving a beautiful collaborative collage at the end for all to see.
- Take in a foreign exchange student
- Build a treehouse
Do it. Build a treehouse! It’s something you’ll all enjoy for years to come, bringing out the kid in all of you… no matter how old you get!
- Bird watching
Binoculars and a field guide are all that’s needed to enjoy this peaceful pastime on the go. If you're at home, think about getting a few bird feeders or birdbaths. You can even keep a journal or photobook of the different species you spot and where!
Day & Weekend Trip Ideas
- Visit a farmers market
Teach your kids the importance of growing local and where the food they eat comes from by visiting your community farmer’s market.
- Go to a museum or zoo
This is the perfect activity for reinforcing what your kids learn in school… as well as teaching them the importance of education, preservation, research, art, science and conservation. Do a quick web search to compile a list of all the museums and zoos you’d like to visit, and check them off as you go!
- Seek thrills at an amusement park
Even if you’re not a fan of the big coasters, or rides that spin you upside down, amusement parks are likely to be a hit with every member of the family. More than rides, many offer shows, character greetings… even safari tours to get up and close with many of Africa’s largest animals.
You’ll be hooked with just one visit to any Six Flags theme park, Kings Dominion, Hershey Park, Busch Gardens… the list goes on. In fact, you should think about buying a map of the USA and start putting pushpins in all the parks you travel to. Then you can frame it when the kids are grown for a really cool keepsake!
- Attend a sporting event
If you enjoy sports, imagine how awesome it would be to involve your kids in your bliss. Picture their faces at their first game of what you hope will be many. Tickets don’t have to break the bank, especially if you elect to catch a minor league club play.
- Take a hike
Even if your kids are young, hiking can still be a great activity… you just need to adjust some things, like taking more frequent breaks and incorporating games of “I spy” into the hike. Or take a camera and make it a photo adventure!
- Go camping on a river or in the mountains
Camping is the perfect way to slow down, recharge and commune with nature. And what makes it even more enticing is the affordability. Campsites, even cabins, usually run much cheaper than hotels in popular destination spots . Check out KOA for more than 500 campgrounds in North America.
- Take snowboard or ski lessons
Whether you’ve always wanted to try this, or are just a big fan of the winter Olympics, there is no shortage of destinations in the US for your family to give snowboarding and skiing a try… many within a few hours drive or a short flight.
- Go into the city
Every state features at least one, if not multiple, downtowns or nearby cities. These destinations are meant to bring the very best in food, culture, the arts and music to life. Exposing your kids to the experience is a great way to introduce them to the many opportunities life offers.
- Watch the sunrise on a beach
- Charter a fishing boat
Fishing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but going out on a fishing boat is a really great way to pass the time. Whether they actually want to experience the thrill of the reel or just breathe in the open air, there is nothing quite like a sail on the salty seas to awaken the sea captain in all of us.
- Rent a kayak or canoe
This country is chock full of lakes, rivers and oceans… practically begging you to jump in and explore!
- Play a round of golf
If you want to get the most out of it, walk 18 holes instead of taking a cart for an awesome calorie burn of 900-1200 calories.
- See the circus
Animal cruelty arguments aside, every kid should see a circus at least once! Ringling Brothers has been around forever, but you can find traveling circuses anywhere if you look hard enough.
- Go to the theater to see a play
“Plays are like movies in 3D”. That is something my old high school English teacher once said… and I’m glad she did. There is a play for almost any situation and story these days, “on broadway” or “off”. Community theater is also a great and less expensive option to explore.
- Go skydiving
If you recall, I removed this from my bucket list once I met my future husband and had kids. I wish some days that I hadn’t. It may go back on!
- Go sledding
- Horseback riding
Whether you live near a dude ranch, or out near a working farm, horseback riding can be a humbling experience. It is also really cool on a beach.
- See a drive-in movie
Drive-in movies were more popular back in the day… but in some places, they are making a comeback. It’s worth looking into.
- Take a train ride
Whether it’s a train across the country or just across a historic farm, there is something soothing about the whistle and melodic rhythm of a train ride.
- Visit a working farm
Farms are usually open to visitors… petting and feeding animals is usually a bonus.
- Go fly a kite
- Attend a concert or music festival
- Go ziplining
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Go in search of a new restaurant that serves your favorite type of food
Our Dream Vacations
- Visit Europe
The train system in Europe makes it easy to get from country to county in no time… German trains are very prompt… so be on time!
- See Niagra Falls
It’s a classic. Maid of the Mist. Canadian side. Lightshow.
- Take the kids to Disney World
Every kid, big or small, should visit this place at least once. It may cost as much as a trip to Europe, or one year of college, but you won’t soon forget the magic.
- Visit the Caribbean
For pristine waters like no place else… some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world.
- Hike in a national park
Trails for all skill levels make this a worthwhile venture.
- Swim with dolphins, turtles and stingrays
- Visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras
New Orleans… where the people are friendly, food is delish and the nightlife electric!
- Go on an African safari
- Drive cross country
- See the giant redwoods in California
- Go to Canada at Christmastime
- Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River
- Take a tour of the Von Trapp estate
If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, this trip is for you.
- Parasail in Aruba
Known for some of the best tradewinds in the world.
- See kangaroos and koalas in Australia
- The Great Wall of China
- Trek through Nepal
- Rio de Janeiro
Carnival and Christ the Redeemer. Rainforests and amazing music. Need I say more?
- The pyramids of Giza
- Take a guided tour through a rainforest
- Cliff diving
Speaking from experience, this is a leap of faith you’ll want to take at least once!
- Cruise around the world
- Tour the Grand Canyon
Helicopter. Donkey. Foot. You’ll want to see this!
- Visit an Indian reservation
The Native Americans founded this country… and despite some setbacks, some reservations are still willing to educate and entertain guests. It’s worth a visit to learn a lesson not taught in many schools.
- Visit a Trappist Brewery
If you are a beer lover, you won’t want to miss this. And the kids will enjoy the zen gardens, reflection and delicious snacks.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to spend quality time with your family. We’ve suggested ideas for every situation and budget. Some are meant for families with older children, while others are suitable for most any age.
For any of these ideas to be hits in your home, all you really need to do is plan them together… and commit to seeing them though, while limiting distractions.
There is nothing worse than the look on your kids’ faces when you break a promise and make excuses, so don’t tell them you’re going to do something and not follow through.
Family time is more than just doing things together… it’s you sending a message to your kids that they are your top priority in life, which will go a long way in boosting their self-confidence. For more information on raising your kids to be the best version of themselves, check out this article on the growth mindset.
If you're looking to creating a bucket list with your partner, this article on relationship bucket list ideas might help.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.