Here at LearnDoBecome, we don’t talk about “getting organized” for the sake of getting organized. I personally don’t believe that it really matters in the end if our homes are messy or clean. What does matter, however, is how our environments influence our lives…specifically our relationships.
As you are clearing your space, setting up your Command Central, and getting your mind into a state of calm and serenity, I genuinely hope that you’ll shift some of that newfound energy into the people in your lives.
You probably already know this from your own experiences, but having “fun” is one of the best ways to relieve stress and feel closer to the ones you love. In this post, I’m sharing 10 specific things that have made our home life feel happy (they’re generally applicable to all family sizes/ages of children), and I would LOVE for you to add some of your own in the comments! I’ll include relevant links at the end of this post.
Here we go!
(1) A shower speaker
Eric bought a bluetooth speaker and hung it on a Command hook inside our shower a couple of years ago. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in our morning routine. We typically turn on dance music for 20 minutes or so while we’re getting ready for the day, and even if there are some concerning things on our minds, this is a gentle reprieve that gets us both smiling and starts the day with a party.
We also got a simple bluetooth speaker for the kitchen, and whenever we need to clean the fridge, make dinner, or do a 3-minute task like emptying the dishwasher, we turn on a song or two and sing and dance while we work.
(2) Disco lights
Our friend Teresa introduced these to us a few years ago when I was looking for something fun to entertain our children’s friends (that didn’t involve a screen). We immediately bought our own set–and ordered a set for each of our LearnDoBecome team members. Tuck these away in a kitchen drawer, and whenever you have friends over–or need to mop the floor when it’s dark outside, you plug in the lights and your kitchen becomes a dance hall. Honestly, your family and friends might not feel super excited about these at the beginning, but when you pair these lights with the bluetooth speaker mentioned above, it’s awesome.
(3) Spotify playlists
Last one on the music/dance theme, but I couldn’t leave this off. Two playlists, specifically, have been great for our family: the “Family Car Fun” playlist and the “Mom Singing in the Kitchen” playlist. I add to these every month when I hear a song that resonates with me/the family, and then when people are grumpy on a long car ride, I’m not trying to rack my brain to find a song we’ll all like. Or when I am working in the kitchen, I have my favorites all ready to go.
If I ask, “How do I want the car/home to FEEL while we’re together?” and then choose songs that match that feeling, it’s amazing how immediate we can go from grumpy/tired to happy/upbeat.
(4) Mind-body-soul time
This is a concept introduced by parenting expert Amy McCready (I’ll link to her free class below!). She taught us how important it is to spend 10-15 minutes of child-directed quality time with each child each day. It was a little trickier when we had four children at home, but even done imperfectly, it makes a big impact. For example, Spencer (age 14) will come to me and say, “For mind-body-soul time today, I want to show you this video of car-drifting.” I’m not naturally jazzed about drifting, but I’m jazzed about Spencer, so that time we spend together ends up being a great way to find out what he loves, why he loves it, and how I can engage with him in positive conversations. Making MBS time a regular activity is worth it–even when life feels heavy.
(5) Jokes after Sunday dinner
We started this about 5 years ago–where after Sunday dinner, when we’re all sitting around the table (no longer hungry and cranky), we open our phones and search “Clean Family Jokes.” Yes, a lot of them are corny, but we’ll take turns finding them/telling them, and it creates a shared experience that is now a regular activity.
Here are a couple examples that made me laugh:
- My teachers told me I’d never amount to much because I procrastinate so much. I told them, “Just you wait!”
- Me: “Dad, make me a sandwich!” Dad: “Poof, you’re a sandwich!”
- What do you call a joke that isn’t funny? A sentence.
- Hard to tell if people are interested in joining my Sarcastic Club or not…”
I know–you might be groaning a little at these, but seriously, some of our best memories are either laughing at the funny ones or commenting on how NOT funny some of them are. 🙂
If you have the geocaching app–paid or free–you’ll see that there are lots of hidden “caches” all over your city. When our children were little, we’d go on a family drive, find 4-5 caches, and then call it a day. Spencer does these on his own or with friends now, and it’s fun to see how clever people are when they’re creating their hidden objects and clues. One woman put hers in a fishing line that went into a storm drain. Another person sprayed a rock with glow-in-the-dark paint, so it was only available at nighttime. We even made our own last year, and it’s in a place we can see from our front window, so we get to watch people come and find it.
(7) Ping-pong set
Whether you have a room for a whole ping-pong table, a table-topper, or just a stand-alone net that fits on your kitchen table, this has been the best activity for times when you want to stay indoors but need something active to do. We’ll do occasional family tournaments or just play for 10 minutes before bedtime, but it’s fairly simple, it gets you up and moving, and it’s an easy game for friends to play when they come for a visit.
(8) Balloon animal kit
YouTube has SO many balloon animal tutorials–totally free–and if you buy a package of colorful balloon options, a pump, and maybe stickers for eyes, this becomes an activity that is great for older children/parents. We keep these in a basket near the TV, so they’re always available, and although it’s not something we do every single day, it’s easy to start/stop, and it makes for some fun photos and memories.
(9) Spontaneous meme parties
Throughout the week, whenever we see something clean and funny on social media, we save it to our favorites list, and then when we get together, we have a “meme/video party.” Especially as our children have become adults and moved out of the home, this has been a way to connect and laugh together–even over a Zoom or Messenger video chat. Or when adult children come home to visit, we all snuggle up on the couch and either look at one phone–or “Airplay” the phone screen to our TV. It’s silly and frivolous, but super connective.
(10) Family home movies
A blessing that comes with smartphones is that we can capture videos SO easily. The challenge, however, is that it’s really hard to review them/share them with one another on a regular basis–especially when you have 5-6 phones all capturing different experiences.
Here’s what our process looks like for fun family movie nights:
- We save all of our photos/videos to organized folders (by year/month) on our digital hard drive.
- Then once a quarter or so, we gather in the family room, and I plug my computer into the TV–with the hard drive connected.
- We go back to earlier videos (usually 5-10 years in the past) and when we open a file, we sort by “media type.” That way, all the movie files are together.
- Then we scroll through and watch the little video clips–typically laughing about how little the children look/how young Eric and I look/how much fun we had together.
The reason I love this so much is because we typically only press “record” when we’re in a good mood or doing something special, so when you WATCH all those clips together, you typically end up feeling happy and appreciating the great life you have. All those hard moments kind of fade into the past, and you get to focus on the “essence” of who you are as a family.
These ideas above are obviously not an exhaustive list, but my hope is that they’ll spark some additional ideas for you–or remind you of things that your family does to feel more joy on a regular basis.
If you’ve read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, he has a whole chapter about play. For those who are feeling overwhelmed with life–or who perhaps have a tendency to focus on “achievement,” making time for play might seem like a luxury. I used to think that, as well, but now I firmly believe that making time for joy, fun, and replenishment not only contributes to our personal health, but it up-levels the health and experience of the whole family.
Looking at either the ideas above–or considering additional ideas that have come into your mind, identify either a task, routine, or current project you could put into place that will bring more fun into your family relationships. (And share below!!)
***Remember*** this month in ARISE, we’ll be diving deeper into having more fun and joy in our lives, so if you want to join the virtual party, click here to become an ARISER!
I live at home with my two brothers and our parents. My brothers and I are all in our 30s, but our family still tries to have Family Night at least once a week. We might watch a movie, have guests over, do a 1,000-piece mystery jigsaw puzzle, build an intricate LEGO set, or play an adventure game, board game, or solve a puzzle box. We have done all of these things, and they really do keep life exciting. It’s easier to handle a tough week at work knowing that there is at least one bright spot coming up.
April Perry says
LOVE these ideas!! And I love that your family is staying close. So beautiful!
I thought at first you were going to suggest organizing projects to bring out the play in our homes. My mind went to my bookshelf cuz I love books, but it is in a dark corner, overstuffed and I have a hard time reading the bookends and even accessing the books, so they are no longer fun. Also I would love to play my old albums but my record player is set too high with stuff on top. You have inspired me to FREE THE FUN in my home!
April Perry says
Nancy, your ideas are amazing! Yes! Structuring your home for the fun is so important. Can’t wait to hear how it goes! I’d love to see a picture of your record player in a spot where you can listen to the records more often. 🙂 You could post it in our community Facebook group, if you’d like! https://LearnDoBecome.com/FBfamily
Allison Tran says
We have a family chat group on our phones that the oldest constantly changes the name of (currently it is BORKEN COLLORBONE from a misspelling on the youngest’s x-ray). We share calendar items, silly experiences, updates on grandparents, memes and so much more. It really connects us – even the in-laws. We also made a list of things to do this summer so everyone gets to do something they want. We have made homemade ice cream, watched a movie outside, went fishing and are going to an amusement park.
And I purchased those disco lights – they are So. Much. Fun!!!
April Perry says
Allison, this all sounds amazing! I love what you do to bring so much connection to your family. 🙂
Debbie Fumanti says
My husband had a stroke and is recovering. Yay! But he is limited at this time in how far he can walk etc. we have been 2 lumps of coal at home. We have a fun little convertible so you got me to thinking… why not take a little road trip every weekend. We can find a fun car route and drive to someplace new and go to lunch, and drive home! It will get us both out, riding in our convertible which we live, and charging us up with someplace different other then all our usual haunts. Thank you for the idea!
April Perry says
I read this out loud to Eric. 🙂 We are both so proud of you! What an amazing idea! Sending lots of love to your family as your husband recovers from his stroke. I love picturing you having JOY in the process!
Lauren Yaffe says
Here’s one for your joke share: Past, Present, and Future walked into a bar. It was tense!
April Perry says
Totally laughing…. Thank you, Lauren!
Lauren Yaffe says
EXERCISE: My husband and I are (mostly) empty-nesters now too, but we were doing this before our younger child moved out. My husband and I do a calisthenics exercise routine every other day. It’s a good workout but we’ve gotten bored with the video so we play it on a tablet with the volume low while we watch an episode of whatever series we’re working our way through. On the other days, we like to dance. Sometimes we join a zoom morning dance group; sometimes we play a Spotify playlist. Our dog has really gotten into the dance time as well since she gets treats if she is quiet in her crate. 🙂
KID CONNECT: Recently, to reconnect to my two kids better, I’ve started a routine of going out to lunch with each of them separately, every other week.
April Perry says
Such great ideas! You guys are the cutest!!
Gail Ahern says
I love to read but often don’t the time to do it. So I’ve started listening to books on my phone. When I am doing a more or less mindless task either inside or outside, I listen to whatever book I’ve downloaded for free from the library on my phone. Doing dishes, ironing, folding laundry become something I look forward to because I know I’ll be “reading” a book while doing these tasks.
April Perry says
Love, love, love!! Thank you for sharing this, Gail!
Great suggestions. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite Spotify playlists. We are switching over to Spotify as our preferred music source. Tired of trying to camp in cool and rainy or dreary weather, my four kiddos and I spent hours yesterday in the closest town riding bikes and geocaching. It was a great way to get exercise, breathe fresh air, explore, and have free family time that kept everyone engaged.
April Perry says
The image of you out riding bikes and geocaching with your children makes me so happy! You’re making memories that will be yours forever. Love it! Keep up the great work!
I do/did a number of these. When my son was little, we used to do Geocaching. We have a ping pong table! Such fun! I save videos on Instagram to show my husband.