You’ve dialed in your daily routine and can pull of the work-life-school balance without too many major hiccups, but what about some quality time together just being your wonderful selves? Here are six ideas to spend time together as a family that won’t cost you anything but time. Scroll down to see our list.

photo: UltraBobban via flickr 

Stage a Dine-In

Yes, you eat dinner together most nights, but do you dine together? Tonight, try for the rare non-hurried meal. This doesn’t mean you have to cook it, it just means you celebrate the ritual of dinner together. Spread a tablecloth, light a few candles, put flowers or a centerpiece on the table. Even if you are eating take-out pizza, use nice plates and napkins if you have them. Ask everyone to share their favorite memory from the day and name one thing they are looking forward to tomorrow.

Write a Short Story Together

Believe it or not, a little tale of make-believe only takes minutes and it can be enjoyed over and over. Think of it as mad-libs without the pre-written prompts. Mom or Dad or an older sibling can start it off with an intro phrase like “Once upon a time there was a _____ who loved to….” You can take turns writing or just assign a scribe. This one is sure to induce some giggles.

photo: Nom & Mac via flickr

Play a Simple Game

You do not need a board game or even a pack of cards to create an engaging game that the whole family can be part of. Just pick a simple subject: animals, food, things you see at school, etc. The first person starts with the letter A, and names an A word (aardvark, apple) and the next person B and so on through the whole alphabet.

Go for a Spot Walk

Even if it’s just a 5-minute walk around the block, this one is well-worth it. Tell each member of the family to try and “spot” something they want to remember. Once you get home, let each person say what they observed. Talk about if anyone else saw the same things. You might be surprised by the different perspective each person offers. Bonding and fresh air? Okay!

photo: Francisco Martins via flickr 

Adventure Dice

With a little bit of prep, you can have an adventure without leaving town (or even your neighborhood). You can play this in the car or on foot. Just grab a pair of dice. Determine in advance what each number means. For example, if you roll a 1, go left. If you roll a 2, advance 100 yards (or to the next stop sign). If you are driving, be sure you are in a place where you can go slow safely. You are letting the dice determine which way you go. After each family member has had a turn, assess where you are. Coffee shop? Park? Stop sign in the middle of nowhere? Keep going or buy a cup of joe, etc. Play until you reach somewhere fun, end up back home or run out of time.

Hint: Set a time limit. As in, we’re going to do this for 10 minutes and see where we end up. This will help ease protests of noooo.

Family Photo

Holiday cards and special occasions get documented with pictures but what about the every day? Organize an impromptu family photo,, just because. Have each person take 5 minutes to put on something special, silly or downright glam. If you’ve got a nearby neighbor or friend ask them to take the photo or set the timer on your phone and snap the ultimate family “selfie.”

Here comes the tricky part: print your photo. If you don’t have an at-home printer, upload that shot right away and order a print, frame it and hang it up.

What’s your favorite easy way to bond as a family? Share your ideas with our community of parents in the comments below. 

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