Sweet times with our children are so precious. The good news is we don’t need lots of time or money to make them happen. We just need a little dose of intentionality. And a schedule that isn’t too rushed.
What is interesting is that children don’t value things the same way we do. The simplest things we did might turn out to be their most treasured memories. For example, that we adults spent one night sleeping in a tent with them in the backyard might be the thing they remember forever and tell their grandkids about.
Sweet times are so valuable so here are some more ideas for you.
A picnic is an adventure to a child! It also means that all the time normally spent on the preparation and clean up for a meal can be spent on sitting and chatting together on your picnic blanket. It is a moment to relax together and enjoy the view from your blanket. As a kid my own mum took us on countless picnics every summer at a beach which had small rock coves which were protected from the wind. Mum usually packed a salad and some fruit into the basket and bought a hot chicken en-route. I now own that very same picnic basket and it has so many good memories! One can picnic at the beach, in a forest or even in the backyard!
I think the best way to ensure they happen is to have a picnic basket set up and ready to go and sitting out during summer months. Get a picnic basket or an insulated bag and pack it with a blanket and picnic ware (plastic dinner set and cutlery). Some other good things are a cutting knife, small cutting board, salt and pepper, a big water bottle and some wipes. A thermos can be god too. Then all we need to do is throw in a bit of food, or pick up something on the way.
Have a pet.
How many sweet moments can a family have with a furry or feathery pet? They are endless! You also have to work together to make sure it gets fed and walked. Our dog passed away earlier this year but he, and our previous dogs, gave us millions of special and hilarious family moments. Even our 3 chickens provide us with funny moments, conversations, and teamwork.
Make Birthdays a high occasion.
We were always inspired by the family of my friend Cath. She and her husband and kids would suspend all routine and honour the Birthday person all day. Even if it was a work or school day. They all took the day off and went out on a special outing. For them Birthdays were sacred. If you get your family in that habit of honouring Birthdays you are guaranteed to have regular family get togethers forever.
Holidays are another time we forget all routines and stop and actually have eye contact. Maybe even play board games or lie on a beach all day together. Our family has moved countries and been through all kinds of good and bad things, but our holidays have kept us strong and bonded. We have done countless cheap holidays like camping and house-swap holidays, and amazing adventures in Asia too.
One year we took our four kids to Thailand for a whole month. This was just before our oldest daughter moved out and we knew it would be hard to gather the whole gang after that. Looking back I am SO glad we did. Since some of our kids were teens at that point we knew we’d need an exciting destination to get them away from their friends for a month! It was not easy getting time away from work either but it was the most important holiday we have ever done. We still talk about it. There is NOTHING like a MONTH long holiday. You really don’t know until you do it. Accomodation and food are very cheap in Thailand so once we paid for the airfares the rest was not that much.
One thing that influenced us to take regular holidays was a conversation I once had with an older friend. His kids had grown up and I asked him what he would change if he could go back in time. He said that he wished they had splurged on more holidays. He said once your kids grow up and move out it’s not a big deal if your mortgage is a bit bigger or a bit smaller, but you will always be glad for the holidays you took with them. Once they get bigger and get jobs and separate lives it is so hard to do holidays together. I usually plan a holiday every 3 months and we have realised that is a good rhythm for physical health, mental health and relational health. Longer than that is too long.
Special Christmas traditions. Forging out some special Christmas traditions for your own household is strengthening for family identity. It might be what you bake or what you do after dinner like a puzzle or game together. It could be the way you give gifts. Traditions at Christmas are the things our young kids get excited about and what our older kids come home for.
In our family we celebrate over two days – 24th and 25th. On one of the days we have our own small Christmas meal and gift swap. Just us. The kids say this is their favourite part of Christmas. On the other day we visit (or host) our bigger family.
Anything we do more than twice can become a tradition and they are the best sweet times because they tend to keep reoccurring.. It is never too late to start new ones!
I hope you can enjoy some sweet times with your children this week. Take some time out to just focus on them. Do something out of the ordinary – sleep in the tent in the backyard with them, or maybe create a new tradition like Saturday pancakes!
In case you missed part 1 of this article it is here.