Making decisions about how to spend time as a family can be tricky, but you can use the 5 C’s to improve your chances of planning reliably enjoyable family experiences. Check out my free download titled Family Weekends Guide Free Download to learn how.
Family activities can be local outings to parks, museums, and events, or they can simply be setting aside some time to gather at home and play a favorite family game together. A small investment upfront can lead to hours and hours of enjoyment over the years. Whether you have 30 minutes or hours of time to spend relaxing and enjoying time with your family today, choosing age-appropriate activities will help make for a better experience, so check out the age groupings below to find some of the activities our family loves to choose for family game nights and Family Weekend Picks!
Having fun activities available at your house makes it much easier to keep your kids off screens - or, rather, to balance screen time with non-screen time. See my Screen Time Masterclass to learn everything you need to know to manage digital media in your family.Learn more about the Masterclass: Screen Time
Birth - 5 Years
If I had to pick one toy that has gotten the most use by all of my young kiddos, it would be our wooden train set. Hours of fun and endless creativity have come from building train tracks all over the house. I recommend you keep your set in a large basket or bin rather than purchasing a train table to encourage your kids to get creative with setting up train tracks of various sizes and shapes, possibly even integrating elements of your house. Get a larger container than you need initially because you’ll want to add to this starter set across various holidays with track expansion sets and additional trains like these.
Get your young ones primed for years of Lego-building fun in the next age group with these larger building blocks.
Giant Block Tower
These blocks are designed to be a large version of Jenga to be played outdoors, and they are very fun as such. However, we use them as another building toy in the house to design tall buildings, add topography to a train track, create rings for various action figures to battle in, etc. They’re one of our most used toys.
Foam Alphabet Blocks
Soft Alphabet Blocks are a great way to start introducing letter sounds and increasing vocabulary in the youngest learners. This set is space-saving and has fun interactive elements.
Wooden Alphabet Blocks
A set of wooden alphabet blocks is a must for early learners. Use them to start stringing together two to five letter words This set comes in a box to simplify clean up and storage.
We have had a set of magnetic letters and numbers living on our refrigerator for years. Spelling out words together, putting together math equations for your children to solve, and leaving notes for your family makes learning fun.
It doesn’t take many tools to make working with Play-Doh fun. I’d start with a simple set, then add on extra cans of Play-Doh as needed so you don’t have to clean and store a lot of tools.
If your kids are big Play-Doh creators or you host a lot of play dates, be sure to stock up on lots of cans and different colors. Sit down with your kids and create alongside them.
Here’s another great creative activity for young ones. If you’ve got a driveway, you’ve got an artist’s palette. As they age, they can do more and more with sidewalk chalk. We create elaborate tracks along our driveway and play a game called Road Tag.
Let’s be honest, playing card and board games with kids in this age group can be challenging. Uno is my favorite game to play with very young children.
Get your kids outside and play in the dirt. Sandboxes are great, but my kids like our “dirt box” just as much. Get some sturdy trucks and get ready to get your hands dirty.
Hands down the best way to learn to ride a bike. All my kids learned to bike on a Strider balance bike. When they were ready to transition to a pedal bike, learning to ride was a non-event because their sense of balancing on two wheels was already so well developed from riding the Strider bike.
Of course, remember to get them a helmet and teach them early on to wear it any time they’re on wheels.
If you have a playroom or basement rec room with the space, a toddler basketball hoop is a great activity for little ones to stay active even indoors during the winter time. We lived in Virginia for a year when my oldest was two years old, and this was a lifesaver. It provides hours of entertainment, physical activity, and development of hand-eye coordination. I have priceless videos of my kiddos as two-year-olds shooting free throws.
If you’ve got the space, and especially if you live somewhere cold, keep those little tots active inside with a mini trampoline.
The play kitchen is another activity that’s not essential, but if you have the space, it creates a world of interactive play opportunities. Have your child cook you a meal, practice washing the dishes, refrigerating leftovers, etc. All that translates to starting to use the real kitchen, later on, to be helpful and independent in the kitchen. This is a great model that has lots of space for activities and storage, opportunities to practice fine motor skills, and even a clock and weather board.
5 Years - 11 Years
Your kiddos love of trains will likely continue well into the 5-11 age range. Hours of fun and endless creativity have come from building train tracks all over the house. I recommend you keep your set in a large basket or bin rather than purchasing a train table to encourage your kids to get creative with setting up train tracks of various sizes and shapes, possibly even integrating elements of your house. Get a larger container than you need initially because you’ll want to add to this starter set across various holidays with track expansion sets and additional trains like these.
Some kids are much more comfortable learning to build with LEGO from a set with instructions - like cooking from a recipe. That’s my personal style too, and it’s great to encourage that, though the big sets can get very pricey. If you can provide your kids with a bin of Legos and encourage them to build from their imagination, you’ll be amazed by what they can create. I am constantly in awe of the creations my little budding engineers come up with. LEGOS are hands-down my favorite activity in this age group. Try picking a theme and having everyone design their own farm animal or vehicle or house. We’ve had some darling holiday moments where sibling make each other LEGO gifts. LEGOS are amazing!
Magnetic letters and numbers are wonderful in this age group and have lived on our refrigerator for years. Spelling out words together, putting together math equations for your children to solve, and leaving notes for your family makes learning fun.
This is a great age to introduce Mad Libs. They provide silly and fun entertainment while developing word skills.
Next, they moved on to Polymer Clay which bakes briefly in the oven to firm up their creations.
Here’s another great creative activity for big kids. If you’ve got a driveway, you’ve got an artist’s palette. As they age, they can do more and more with sidewalk chalk. We create elaborate tracks along our driveway and play a game called Road Tag.
Uno continues to be a really fun game in this age group. You can also advance to Uno Flip! for a little more complex game that's lots of fun.
Sleeping Queens Game
Sleeping Queens is one of our family’s favorite games. The rules were pretty easy to pick up, even at a young age. There’s even a fun math component.
Deck of Cards
Be sure to have a standard deck of cards available at this age too, for learning games like Speed, War, and Rummy.
Chess Teacher Board Game
Chess and checkers are classic games that all kids will learn to play one day. You may be amazed how early kids can learn these strategic games. Don’t shy away from exposing your 7, 8, or 9-year-old to chess. These games are great for developing higher-order thinking skills like. Plus, they can provide hours of entertainment.
Classic Stackable Wooden Checkers
Once you have a chessboard, all you need is a bag of checkers for a space-saving option that doubles your game options.
If you started your child on a balance bike (see the 6 Months - 5 Years age group above), then they’ll likely be ready to skip the training wheels and head straight to a pedal bike at this age.
In addition to a bicycle, scooters are an essential part of being a kid. Razor scooters are sturdy and have held up really well through years of tough use at our house.
If you have a yard with a sturdy tree, a thick climbing rope makes for an awesome activity for kids. If you have a couple, you can even do Tarzan moves on them! This is always a huge hit during play dates and at backyard birthday parties.
We are an acrobatic family and absolutely love having a trampoline. Trampolines come in all shapes and sizes, and what fits best in the space you have is an important factor. We love both rectangular and circular trampolines. Circular tend to have more of a “sweet spot” in the middle of the trampoline that is ideal for jumping, whereas rectangular models tend to be bouncier throughout the jumping surface. That is nice when multiple kids are jumping at once.
11 years - 18 Years
Deck of Cards
Try card games in the evening after dinner to keep kids off screens. From Hearts to Rummy, there are endless opportunities for fun.
Chess & Checkers Game Board Set
Older kids may want to upgrade from a teacher chessboard to the classic wooden chess and checkers board. This one is pretty handy because the magnet feature can overcome minor bumps to the board during gameplay.
Pickleball is a great activity to play with your pre-teens and teens. Find a local tennis court that allows pickleball and enjoy an activity together.
Older kids can have a lot of fun with friends and with their parents playing yard games.
Teens have a blast jumping together on trampolines; it’s a way to play together as they get older and move away from toys. Trampolines come in all shapes and sizes, and what fits best in the space you have is an important factor. We love both rectangular and circular trampolines. Circular tend to have more of a “sweet spot” in the middle of the trampoline that is ideal for jumping, whereas rectangular models tend to be bouncier throughout the jumping surface. That is nice when multiple kids are jumping at once.
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