16 Family Tradition Ideas to Pass Down to Your Kids and Grandkids
Family time worth cherishing
Southerners treat family traditions much like our family heirlooms. Once they’re in the family, they’re in it for the long haul. That is, we hold onto them tighter than a tutu on a piglet and make sure to pass them down to the younger generations…lest they forget where—and who—they came from. Not only do they keep us all connected by a common familial thread, but they help create memories worthy of sticking in the “Happiness Jar.” (More on that later.)
While each family has at least one or two traditions that are unique, we’re always open to fresh suggestions. For those looking to start a new family tradition with their children or grandchildren, we’ve rounded up a list of family tradition ideas that will create a lasting impression. Whether done weekly, monthly, or annually—Remember: Consistency is key—these fun traditions will bring your family closer together. Pick a few to try out at home, and you’ll be making new memories in no time.
Go on an annual family vacation
If you’d like to offer this tradition to the extended family as well, good for you. (And good luck to you.) It’s a great way to experience new things, explore new places, and make life-long memories together. Think of the Griswolds, but everything goes smoothly. To help your planning, explore our favorite family vacation spots.
Cook a weekly themed dinner like Taco Tuesday…or Pizza Friday…or Fried Chicken Sunday
As we said: When it comes to tradition-making, consistency is key. Knowing that a build-your-own taco bar is going to be waiting after a stressful day at work or boring hour of homework? Motivating, to say the least.
Give back with family service days
This tradition is not only a tech-free way to spend time together, but it’s the perfect opportunity to teach your family the importance of helping others. It can be a weekly, monthly, or seasonal thing. For example, serving breakfast at a soup kitchen is a great weekly goal, but serving Thanksgiving dinner each year is another way to give back.
Schedule one-on-one “daddy dates” or “mommy dates”
In the busiest of times, we often forget to give everyone a little undivided attention. These “dates” are a way for each parent to connect with their children (young or old) in a personal way that’s special only to them.
Plan a weekly game night
This one is easy—because nothing garners more laughs, shouts, and old-fashioned rivalry like game night. Pick your favorite family game to keep tally of wins, or rotate who gets to pick the game each week.
Remember childhood secret handshakes or signals
There will never cease to be instances when a mother-daughter duo needs to signal that it’s time to gracefully exit a party, conversation, or grocery store aisle. (Like when Gossipy Gail is trying to bait-and-switch you both into talking about your mama’s best friend? Not today, Gail.)
Likewise, there will be plenty of exciting moments when nothing but a father-son handshake will do. (When the clock runs out and your team has won the SEC Championship, for example?)
Pick something fun to do from the “Yes Jar”
The idea behind a “Yes Jar" is that each family member can put in slips of paper that say something he or she wants to do: go on a bike ride, go to the movies, head to dad’s favorite barbecue joint, etc. Once or twice a month, pick something from the jar and do it! No takebacks. The fun part is also the most harrowing: You never know what you’re going to pull.
Go camping (at least once)
Listen: Camping isn’t for everyone. It might test even the strongest of relationships—Ever tried to cook a campfire meal for five without losing your patience?—but that’s exactly why you should do it together. If anything, you’ll come out on the other side with great memories and, sorry, a few bug bites.
Make up a birthday tradition that every member will love
You can celebrate half-birthdays, make the birthday boy or girl wear a special—read: embarrassing—birthday hat, or give sole selection of the birthday dinner spot to the honoree. (If your son is turning nine, you’ll likely be heading to the hibachi grill. That’s a big, big year for the “hibachi phase.”)
Bury a time capsule
The focal point of this tradition is to measure the passing of time and how things have changed over the course of five, ten, or more years. Make sure every family member includes something that characterizes himself or herself at the time of burying, as well as handwritten notes to revisit later. It will be bittersweet—but totally worth it—to see how things have changed when you dig it up later.
Make a spring cleaning list to tackle together
And make it fun! While not necessarily the most exciting of traditions, it fosters a healthy relationship with teamwork. Throw some music on, and get to work. Doing it all together makes spring cleaning feel less like a chore for everyone involved.
Create a summer activity to look forward to
For some families, this might be making homemade pie using fruit from the farmers’ market. For others, it can be kayaking on a nearby lake. Possibilities are endless.
Pick a holiday craft that grows with the family
Whether it’s making homemade ornaments, stringing popcorn garland, or baking cookies for gifts, a Christmas craft doesn’t ever get old, even as we do. Create a memory doing something festive together that you can pass from generation to generation.
Store memories in the “Happiness Jar”
Ultimately, the idea behind making a “Happiness Jar” is about preserving memories and helping us all document the little things. Whether daily or weekly, write down a special memory (or simply something that made you happy) and put it in the jar. After a few years, your family will be chock-full of fun tidbits to read aloud.
Keep up a Saturday ritual together
For some, it’s a morning walk around the neighborhood. For others, it’s cooking a big breakfast together. Or, perhaps it’s just chilling in bed with a few cups of coffee. But make it a regular thing—these are what they’ll remember when they head off to college or move out permanently.
Always have Sunday supper around the table
While it’s tempting to do your own thing on a Sunday, it’s important to kickstart the week with a touch base that, ideally, involves fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Make time between pre-weekday prep craziness to have dinner around the table.
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