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If we want to be more effective in educating our children, then we need to work on the foundation of our homeschools—our relationships. When we build strong family connections, we equip our kids to be spiritually, emotionally, and relationally healthy individuals. Do our families have to be perfect? No. But we do have to be intentional. To enjoy one another, connect deeply, and learn to laugh. A lot.
So if you need a little help, here are 100 relationship building ideas, resources, and activities.
10 Ideas for Family Night
Schedule regular family nights. As your children get older, this can be harder and harder to do. But whether it is weekly (recommended) or a little less often, be intentional about making it happen. Put it on your calendar and make it a priority for the whole family.
1. Enjoy a Comedy Night. Do you have aspiring comedians in your home? Each person can share jokes from a favorite joke book or even original material. If you would rather leave it to the pros, watch some family-friendly comedians online or on a DVD. Tim Hawkins is one of our favorites. But check out John Branyan, and John Crist (a homeschool alumni) too!
2. Put on a talent show. Let each person share their special talents or team up. Whether playing a musical instrument, doing a magic trick, or reciting a poem, everyone has something they can contribute.
3. Spend the evening doing puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, mind-benders, puzzle type games—put your heads together and work to find solutions.
4. Cook together. No matter the age difference, everyone can pitch in to make dinner. Whether it is breakfast for dinner, make-you-own pizzas, or grilling hamburgers, the experience of doing it together can be better than the actual food.
5. Read books aloud as a family. It is easy to get in the habit of reading aloud during “school time” but let’s not leave dad out of the fun! An evening read aloud time gives us a chance to connect and talk. (And if you need some ideas, just keep reading this list!)
6. Enjoy a night at the movies (right at home). Let family members take turns picking the movies. Get out the blankets and start a fire when it is cold out. Pop popcorn or buy your family’s favorite snack. Movie night should be an experience of being together, not just watching the show. You can even read a story aloud as a family (#5) such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and then enjoy the movie version. And of course if you are like us, you’ll have to compare the two 😉
7. If you build it, they will come. Choose a LEGO challenge everyone can work on. Create a theme park, a game, or a super-heroes world that everyone builds to make it come alive. Or make a house of cards. (Do you remember the episode of Brady Bunch? Maybe you could have a prize for the winning team like the green stamps they were collecting.) Or set up a domino challenge to see if you can set off a chain reaction without it stopping. And if you want to get educational about it, check this out: Dominoes: More Powerful Than You Think.
8. Create something. Make puppets, draw, paint, or mold something in clay. It doesn’t have to be perfect or elaborate! The point is to have fun. Share your creations with one another. (Or make one big project together—collages are perfect for this!)
9. Invite your friends. Having others join in teaches children how important hospitality is. Keep the menu simple (even a dessert night can be fun) and don’t worry if the house looks perfect. The goal is to build relationships. So eat, talk, laugh, play games, or whatever you enjoy!
10. Play games. Games teach us about losing gracefully and encouraging one another, and are simply fun. And this is such an easy family night idea, I have 10 relationship building games to share.
10 Relationship Building Games
Game night is a great way to connect as a family. Some games, however, work better than others when it comes to relationship building. If you have to concentrate too much on the game—Bridge comes to mind—it leaves little time for talking and laughing.
No (or low) Cost Games
Games for Multiple Players
12. Pictionary —Ages 8+
13. Catch Phrase. Our extended family plays this at every holiday gathering. We have an older version (with actually cards), but this one looks easier to use. Especially for us who are getting where we can barely read the small print on the older version. Ages 12+ according to the manufacturer. But we have paired a younger person together with an adult.
15. Quelf —Ages 16+, Junior Version — Ages 6+
If one of your family members has an issue with losing ;), or if you want a different game experience, check out cooperative games. Players work together to defeat the game itself—whether it is trying to ward off a worldwide epidemic or get off an island before it sinks you have to work together to achieve a goal.
Our Family Favorites
19. Catan Ages — 10+, Junior Ages 6+
And a bonus one (because I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10!):
10 Great Family Read Alouds
Build your relationships through reading aloud together. Through the years, we’ve developed our own family vocabulary around phrases we’ve read in books (and movies and TV shows). After reading The Giver, we often teased one another saying, “Precision of language, please.” And books provide great discussion starters about faith, character, and life. So be sure to mix it up—fiction, biographies, missionary stories, non-fiction, and even poetry.
21. The Bible. I know that may go without saying, but beyond the fact that it is God’s Word the Bible is great literature. The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People provides a great way of sharing the biblical narrative. It comes in several translations.
C.S. Lewis once said,
A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.
I think you will agree, the following books can be enjoyed by all. (A disclaimer: I asked my sons what some of their all-time favorites were, so if it seems to be a bit of a “boy” list you’ll understand. I loved all of these books, too, though.)
22. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. We started with this title from the Chronicles of Narnia using this beautiful read-aloud edition that is no longer in print. But I suggest getting the whole series. Like Lays Potato Chips, it’s hard to stop with just one.
23. Redwall by Brian Jacques
24. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien
25. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
26. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
27. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
28. The Giver by Lowis Lowry. We read this when my sons were in middle school, and my youngest declared, “I really like dystopian novels.” (It actually falls into two categories—dystopian and science-fiction.) Once again, be sure to watch the movie.
29. The Childhood of Famous American Series, the Sower Series, and Heroes of History were all popular in our home.
30. Read Aloud Poems for Young People by Glorya Hale, The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems, the Poetry for Young People Series, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein—there are so many great collections!
10 Ways to Connect During the Holidays
31. You may have heard of Arnold Ytreeides’ books for Advent (below), but you won’t want to miss sharing his story Amon’s Adventure in the weeks leading up to Easter.
32. Invite someone over to share in your traditions (even the more “unique” ones). At Easter we have friends and family over for an EPIC easter egg hunt. All of them are in their teens or young adults so we make it super difficult, with each person’s name on the eggs they have to find. (Of course there is one problem…my husband and I usually forget where we hid all the eggs.) Then we fly kites if the weather permits.
33. Want a read-aloud perfect for the fall season? Try Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick and learn more about one of my favorite holidays of the year.
34. Create a Thankfulness Jar. Throughout the year, have each family member write down things they are thankful for on strips of paper and put them in the jar. At Thanksgiving the next year, take out the slips of paper and read them.
35. Prepare for the Christmas season with an Advent story. Arnold Ytreeide has a wonderful series. The first is Jotham’s Journey. We lit our Advent candles each night after reading the story.
36. Our family enjoyed The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions by Lisa Whelchel. Filled with ways we can use Christmas traditions to point to the One who is the reason for the season, both parents and children will enjoy the many stories and activities.
37. Write a family newsletter. Include pictures, editorials, advertisements, and articles sharing your family’s year. Be creative! Then send it out to families and friends at Christmas or the New Year.
38. Give to others. Participate in Operation Christmas Child, adopt a child or family from an Angel Tree, or buy some toys to donate to Toys-for-Tots. My boys always loved to shop for other kids so be sure to do it with the whole family.
39. Create your own family traditions. Our city has a big Christmas light display, so each year we load into the car (when they were younger they would often go in their pajamas) and bring a blanket and travel mugs filled with hot chocolate. Then we go see the lights around the city and return to watch a Christmas movie.
40. Evaluate if you are on mission. The end of the year is a great time of reflecting on the past and planning for the future. So take some time to have a family meeting. If you haven’t created a family mission statement, consider doing it for the next year. And if you already have one evaluate whether you are living in light of it. What will your family focus on in the coming year? What will you focus on?
10 Communication Building Ideas
41. Use your mealtimes together to really talk (and listen!). Ask questions, have each person share something good and bad about their day, or discuss current events. Need some other ideas? Subscribe to my email list and receive 33 Mealtime Conversation Starters.
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42. Start listening when your kids are young, Dear Mom of Little Ones.
43. Play a game that requires good communication. For example, cooperative board games require working together (see the list of games above). Or go outside to play this game: One person puts on a blindfold and the other family members help guide them using voice commands only.
44. Help young children learn to communicate how they are feeling when they aren’t in the middle of the feeling. Role playing can be very effective with children. For example, if you have a child who doesn’t like to lose when they play games, pretend to play a game and lose. Show how not to lose (throw a fit, pout, whine) and then show how to lose gracefully (Say, “Good game” or “That was fun.”)
45. Tammy, or “Tea”, has a series of creating quiet moments with your children. You’ll find her posts at Homeschooling With Tea.
46. Use driving time. Sometimes when our kids are teens we feel like we spend just as much time in the car taking them places as actually being at home. But that is actually a great time to talk about what is going on in their world. Teen boys especially do better with “side-by-side” instead of “face-to-face” communication. And there is no better place than the car to do just that.
47. And speaking of driving time, find out 10 Things Your Teen Son Wants to Say to You.
48. Learn to communicate in a way your teens will hear. Check out 5 Ways to Hurt Your Relationship with Your Teens.
49. Learn to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” And stop there. When we go on with the word but we have nullified the apology because we put the responsibility of our actions on them instead of us. Sure, we may have lost our temper after they misbehaved, but they don’t make us yell. We make that choice. So own it and you will teach them a valuable lesson on taking responsibility too.
10 Ways to Connect on Vacation
On the Road
51. Turn off the electronics. Enjoy playing one of these great travel games.
52. Listen to stories. We really loved Hank the Cowdog, Jim Weiss stories, and Adventures in Odyssey.
53. Stop at cheesy tourist spots. The more billboards leading up to the place, the better 😂 Trust me, this is a real memory maker—and don’t forget to take a picture.
54. Laugh when things go wrong. They always do. In our family we call it the “3 Hour Detour” because at some point we always add an extra 3 hours to our trip because we missed a turn or something.
55. Take a detour on purpose. Unlike our “3 Hour” ones, take a detour because you were in an area and found something that looked interesting. Which means if you are a scheduler, you’ll have to leave some margin in it to enjoy your trip to the fullest.
56. Consider ditching the GPS. Use one of those old fashioned things called a map. Let your kids help you plan how you will get there before you leave. Consider letting a teen act as the guide.
While You Are There
57. Make sure each family member gets to plan an activity. And make sure the entire family is supportive of one another, even if it isn’t their personal favorite.
58. Take a lot of pictures (and then put them in a photo book when you return home!).
59. Try new things—new activities, new foods, new experiences.
60. Take some time to relax. Don’t feel like you constantly have to go and do while on vacation. Be sure to relax some, read together, play games, take time to just be.
10 Community Service Opportunities
61. Deliver meals with Meals on Wheels.
62. Serve dinner at a homeless shelter in your community.
63. Volunteer for community events.
64. Participate in fund-raisers for organizations you support.
66. Check with your church. We have a program to connect our members with people needing things in the community from rides to church and upkeep of homes.
67. Invite people over who don’t have their family around-older adults, service men and women (we live in an Air-Force town), singles, etc.
68. Help build a home with Habitat for Humanity.
69. Be ready when disaster strikes. Our college group went to Houston to help clean up after Hurricane Harvey devastated the area.
70. Visit a nursing home together—especially when it isn’t around Christmas. Many groups sing carols and visit during Christmas, but let’s not forget the other times of the year!
10 Family-friendly Activities
71. Play miniature golf or go bowling. I know. It seems pretty obvious, but how often do we take advantage of the things right in our own towns when it isn’t a special occasion?
72. Go on a picnic. Bring kites or a frisbee, or toss a baseball or football—whatever you enjoy— but take your time enjoying the afternoon.
73. Take a hike. It may just be around your neighborhood or at a local park. Or maybe you have access to beautiful mountain trails. But whatever you have available, take advantage of getting a little exercise and fresh air.
74. Play at the park. Let your inner child come out and actually play with your kids at the park. Go down the slides, climb, dig in the sand. I wish when my kids were young I would have sat less on the sidelines and more in the sandbox.
75. Go camping in your backyard. Set up the tent, roast marshmallows, and get away from the electronics. Tell stories, sing, and if the neighbors look at you funny, ask them if they want to join in.
76. Plant a garden. If you don’t have a lot of space, check out square-foot gardening or herb gardening.
77. Invite friends over for a Saturday cookout. Sometimes we wait for special occasions like the 4th of July, but let’s not forget to do it other times too!
78. Learn a sport the whole family can enjoy. Tennis, running, swimming…there are many ways to exercise and have fun as a family.
79. Ride bikes (or scooters or skateboards). If you notice, I seem to have a theme of getting outside when you can! But if you can’t…
80. Build a fort inside. Since you can’t be outside all of the time, you can bring the fun indoors too! And since the whole family is working on this, make sure to build an epic blanket fort.
10 Faith Building Ideas
81. Study the Bible together. Yes, I suggested reading the Bible as a read-aloud, but consider doing more than reading too. Our kids really enjoyed Grapevine Studies.
82. After church on Sundays, at lunch go around the table and let each person share something they learned or thought about during the services that day.
83. Memorize scripture. Correlate it with what you are studying or use a Scripture memorization plan.
84. Pray together. Yes, pray for each other and your family, but also use it as a time to model the importance of praying for others.
85. Serve in a church ministry as a team. My friend and her teen son have worked in our Wednesday night kids program for years. He now goes to training with Child Evangelism Fellowship and works with Good News Clubs.
86. Go on a mission trip as a family. It doesn’t have to be out of the country or expensive. Really a mission trip is simply going somewhere and working to meet needs.
87. Choose a ministry or missionary you will support as a family. Whether it is financially or through prayer, support someone or a ministry that you can follow through newsletters, emails, or reports to your church.
88. Read missionary stories together. Talk about their faith and the impact of their ministries. Some of our favorite series include the Sower Series and Christian Heroes: Then and Now.
89. Read and discuss books about topics on faith. If you have younger children, Lee Stroble has a series for kids including Case for Christ for Kids.
90. Model what it means to go through trials trusting God. Sometimes we want to shelter our children so they won’t worry. But when my husband was laid-off from his job several years ago our pastor told us to use it as an opportunity. We shared what was going on, but were able to assure them that God would provide all we needed.
10 Books to Strengthen Relationships
91. Love and Respect: The Love She Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs
92. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller
93. Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith by Heidi St. John
94. Grace Based Parenting: Set Your Family Free by Dr. Tim Kimmel
95. Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline by Lisa Whelchel
96. Mother & Son: The Repect Effect by Emerson Eggerichs
97. The Life-giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson
98. The Life-giving Table: Nurturing Faith through Freasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson.
99. Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls by Gary Thomas
100. Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow
The Most Important Thing
We all want to give our kids the best education we can, but in the end what really matters is our relationships. So in our quest to teach our children at home, let’s not neglect one of the most important parts of their education. May we be intentional when it comes to building strong relationships.
And be sure to have fun along the way.
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