33 Fun Family Activities to Do in 2020 That'll Benefit Everyone
These amazing family activities will strengthen your bond and create lifelong memories for your loved ones.
Family life tends to center on routine and rhythms: work, school, meals, playdates, extra curriculars, sleep, and repeat. But as much as routines and rituals provide children with security and structure, it's the non-routine outings and afternoons spent together that strengthen familial ties and create lifelong memories. So in 2020, make it your mission to do some fun family activities that'll stick with you and your kids for a lifetime.
In fact, spending time as a family is one of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children, according to Debbie Zeichner, LCSW, a parent coach and Mindful Parenting practitioner. "Family activities promote bonding, togetherness, and shared experiences," Zeichner says. "Because our brains create stronger pathways to information when feelings are generated during learning, sharing emotions is key. Experiencing joy, anticipation, surprise, or even frustration—that ideally leads to solving a problem—during family activities can create lasting memories as well as stronger bonds between family members."
If you're looking for some ideas, we've compiled a list of 33 amazing fun family activities that you and your kids will be talking about for years to come—and they won't cost you much either!
Create a family scrapbook.
Creating a scrapbook is a tactile and lasting means of preserving family memories in the form of pictures, ticket stubs, hotel stationery, or any other memorabilia you may have. "Scrapbook creation gives us the chance to look back and talk about the past; family members can offer their own memories of a particular photograph or period in the family history," says Claire Cameron, PhD, associate professor and director of the Early Childhood & Childhood EdM and PhD programs at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). "This promotes empathy because each person may have slightly different perspectives on what happened!"
Have a family game night marathon.
Stay in for the evening, cozy up in pajamas, and host a game night marathon. From board games to card games to charades, gaming accommodates every age and skill level—and prizes can be as lavish as gift cards or as simple as extra screen time.
Research your family tree.
Mapping a family tree with your kids is a creative way to make them aware of their roots and introduce them to genealogy. While generally the domain of adults, family tree construction can involve even the youngest family members. For example, you can try creating this sweet hand- and footprint tree!
Go berry picking and bake a pie.
The perfect homemade pie is all about the freshness of the fruit, the perfect crust, and a dash of love. A visit to a local fruit farm shows kids where their food comes from and allows them to pick their favorites. "There's nothing like cooking and baking together to give parents and kids a sense of togetherness," says Zeichner. "Spending time in the kitchen helps kids improve math, reading, and attentional skills, while also promoting healthy eating."
Be a tourist in your own city.
There's a lot more to your town than the grocery store, the library, and the mall. Explore beyond your standard family hangouts by being a tourist in your own city: Visit new shops, restaurants, art installations, or that park you've driven by dozens of times. You may realize there's a lot more to your town than you thought!
Create a podcast.
Creating podcasts at home has many educational benefits, including strengthening skills in research, writing, and collaboration—and podcasting is easy to learn and do. "Creating a podcast with your child or as a family is an amazing way to inspire and promote cooperation, decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, as well as stimulate the imagination," says Zeichner.
Sleep under the stars.
Warm summer evenings are ideal for hauling out the sleeping bags and setting up camp under the stars right in your backyard. Have a fire pit? Make s'mores, sing songs, and tell stories to lull one another into dreamland.
Complete a ropes course.
Scaling into treetops, walking a tightrope, or zip-lining to various platforms are a few of the challenges a ropes course provides. It also demands full team cooperation in order for each member to succeed. "Some families may bond while feeling challenged, even a little scared, together," Cameron notes. "It's important that any activity like this be focused on cooperation and helping one another rather than competing against each other."
Try a new cuisine.
Has your family ever tasted phở or Ethiopian food? Have your kids never had ramen, or tasted a cranberry? There's a world of flavor we've all yet to sample. Adventure to a new restaurant with as-yet-untried cuisine, or even peruse the offerings at an Asian grocery store for a sampling of what may turn out to be some of your new favorites.
Perform a random act of kindness.
Whether it's volunteering at an animal shelter or donating to a food bank, giving without expecting anything in return is a valuable family lesson. "Kids learn how to 'be' in this world by watching their parents," says Zeichner. "Doing random acts of kindness together is a beautiful way to teach and model what kindness, compassion, and empathy look and feel like in action."
Learn a new language.
New skills are learnable at any age, so why not learn a new language? Apps like Duolingo and Little Chatterbox create a fun and interactive experience for adults and kids alike. Learn the language of family ancestors, or of a vacation destination you dream about visiting together one day.
Create vision boards.
Gather a stack of old magazines, scissors, and glue and collage your family vision for the future. Whether it's dreams for a new family pet or individual goals, a vision board allows each member to contribute to your collective future vision. "Creating vision boards together is a wonderful way to promote decision-making and self-awareness, while teaching the valuable tools of goal and intention setting," Zeichner says.
Take a factory tour.
More than just a unique family experience, touring a factory together can also be highly educational. Find something near your home or a pitstop on your travels, like a John Deere Factory Tour for big-equipment aficionados, a Jelly Belly tour for sweets lovers, or watch your currency as it's printed at the United States Mint.
Create an herb garden.
Gardening and growing your own herbs is a fun and experiential way to promote a healthy lifestyle—and it requires no more space than a wooden crate or Mason jar. "In terms of learning tasks, creating something new where nothing existed before involves the most advanced cognitive processing," says Cameron. "Also, making something together, especially a garden where you have to wait for seeds to grow into plants, exercises patience and activates long-term thinking and planning."
Overcome a fear.
Life is too short to hold yourself or your children back from new experiences due to an irrational fear or anxiety. One proven means of overcoming a fear is to have your loved ones by your side, encouraging and supporting you as you face it head on. So, hike to a mountain peak, board that roller coaster, or swim in the ocean—2020 is your year to finally conquer that fear as a family!
Sitting along the water with a pole in hand allows family members undisturbed time to relax and share each other's company; catching a fish is purely a bonus. "Sharing experiences in nature is not accessible to all families, but offers most urban-dwelling people today a lot of novelty," says Cameron. "It's an activity shown to promote calmer brain and body processes. Fishing takes cooperation, self-control to be quiet, and patience, too."
Learn a magic trick.
The thrill of a coin vanishing from a palm or a bouquet pulled out of a sleeve never gets old. Magic trick tutorials are abundant online, and each family member can master one before staging a family magic show.
Visit a dude ranch.
Want the experience without the price tag? Local stables offer the cowboy/cowgirl experience without the overnight expense.
Go ice skating.
Ice skating is an ideal way to incorporate fitness into a fun family activity as you glide around the rink hand-in-hand. Frozen ponds, lakes, or rivers provide some of the most scenic ice skating rinks around the world. And any time of year, there are plenty of indoor rinks to visit, too. Bonus points for anyone in the family who can learn to skate backwards!
Perform a science experiment.
Want to make "lava" spew from a volcano? Experiment with magnetism? Even discover which treat makes your pet most responsive? Go from hypothesis to conclusion by creating your own science experiments—and learn the scientific method as you do.
Complete a jigsaw puzzle.
Haven't touched a jigsaw for ages? Puzzles demand complete concentration, mindfulness, and focus. Add family teamwork, and even the most intricate image will quickly take shape.
Run (or walk) a 5K.
A 5k is the optimal experience for teaching children that it's not necessarily about winning; sometimes, it's about doing one's best to meet a goal. For extra fun, find a themed race—there's everything from mud runs to superhero runs—or find a 5k that supports a local organization.
Visit a national park.
National parks have something for everyone, from camping to fishing to hikes through remarkable landscapes. "Spending time in nature as a family does wonders for our physical and emotional well-being," says Zeichner. "Taking time to notice the beauty around us promotes gratitude as well as appreciation for the environment. Visiting a national park offers an opportunity to bond while discovering the history, vastness, and beauty of our natural world."
Make your own pizzas.
Children may be notoriously picky eaters, but everybody loves pizza. Knead some homemade dough and create a pizza bar of toppings from which each family member can create a personal pie. You might just discover a new favorite combination!
Go on a scavenger or treasure hunt.
Running from site to site in search of listed booty is proven family fun. "Family scavenger hunts are a fun way to promote teamwork and problem-solving, while also sparking curiosity and imagination," Zeichner says.
Make tie-dye T-shirts.
Have a water balloon fight.
When summer starts to sizzle, use the hose to fill dozens of these latex fun-makers and target your family members, all while trying to keep your driest. Even if everybody gets wet, everybody wins!
Attend a play.
A night or afternoon at the theatre offers something for everyone: music, drama, and laughter. Whether a local play or a full-scale professional production, theatre provides the timeless experience of participating in a live audience, and of allowing ourselves to empathize with a varied range of characters.
Make an origami animal.
The Japanese art of origami involves crafting squares of paper into intricate pieces of art. Renowned for its ability to boost mindfulness, origami ranges from the simplest crane to wildly detailed designs. "I like this idea because it is simple but also poses a challenge in creating something new together," Cameron says.
Go to a classic arcade.
Grab your tokens! For the price of a roll of quarters, the entire family can be inducted into the fellowship of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Galaga enthusiasts. Locating your nearest classic video game arcade is the first step to being the next top scorer.
Visit a historical site.
Who says history is boring? Move beyond the classroom at a nearby historical site, one that depicts the heritage and cultural significance of our ancestors. As Cameron points out, "such visits can activate empathy if people are encouraged to explore the question, 'What was it like to live back then?'"
Maybe feeding others at a soup kitchen matters to you, or clearing litter from a beach, or petting animals at a local shelter. Determine a cause that means the most to your family, and resolve to make a difference today. "Volunteering has benefits for the volunteers and it promotes cooperation and empathy," says Cameron. "Putting yourself in the shoes of others, asking, 'What is it like to be them?' is the root of empathy, and to succeed, many volunteer projects demand cooperation from everyone."
Road trip to somewhere you've never been.
Travel doesn't have to translate to a journey around the world—it's simply visiting somewhere you've never been. Check out a new park on the other side of town, or day-trip to a nearby burg with quirky landmarks you've always wanted to see. As with everything in life, it's not about the destination; it's about the journey!