5 easy ways to have more family time over the holidays

“In family relationships, love is really spelled T.I.M.E.”– Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It’s that time of year again, when the spirit of the season is in the air and the focus is on giving to others. But with to-do lists extending a mile long—including goodies to bake, presents to buy, parties to attend—it can be stressful, and family time is often pushed to the back burner. As a parent, it can be tough to find the balance between getting things done and actually taking the time to connect with family.

But, ‘tis the season of giving; how about putting your loved ones at the top of the list by giving them the gift of time? Carving out family time may seem like a tall order, but prioritizing yourself and your family will enable you to manage the chaos that accompanies the holiday season with more calm and joy. In turn, you’ll spread that happiness to everyone around you.

Here are five fun ideas to help you spend more time together.

1. Turn off the phone

I know this is easier said than done. However, keep in mind that children pick up their technology habits from their parents. Unless it’s an emergency call, there is nothing that can’t wait. It may be unrealistic to set a totally tech-free expectation for your family time, but low-tech is doable. Maybe you can set a certain day or time of the week for unplugging, when you put your phone on silent or airplane mode for an hour and give your undivided attention to each other. You could use this time to read together, have a family game night, and lots of good, old-fashioned family fun.

2. Create a family tradition

If you didn’t have a family tradition growing up or didn’t care for the ones you had, this is your chance to build those heartwarming rituals in your own household. Growing up, I always wished we were one of those families who went to pumpkin patches in autumn, but I never had the chance. When my daughter was born in 2013, I started an annual trip to a pumpkin patch—and we’ve looked forward to this tradition every October since.

Traditions don’t have to be grand or like everyone else’s. Just pick something you and your kids love to do together and add a holiday twist to it. If your kids are into technology, how about making a holiday greeting video together to send to relatives and friends? Or even creating greeting cards. The exact tradition doesn’t matter; the point is to have something fun and creative to look forward to as a family.

3. Cook and eat together

This doesn’t have to be every night, or even an elaborate meal. Aim for one night a week. Maybe each member of the family can take turns picking the menu, setting the table, and washing the dishes after dinner. If your family isn’t into cooking, maybe everyone can go over to a relative’s house or do a weekly potluck dinner with friends. The important thing is to keep it simple and spend time together regularly. Added bonus? Eating at home is healthier and much cheaper.

4. Do good together

Children love to feel like they’re helping, and it’s important to instill compassion in our kids at an early age. Find a cause you identify with and volunteer as a family. You and your kids can make a list of random acts of kindness, like leaving the mailman a nice note in the mailbox or baking treats and dropping them off at the senior center. Whatever it is, they’ll learn the value of serving others—and doing it together makes a huge difference.

5. Get active together

A family who exercises together, stays healthy together. If you’ve already made time to have dinner with your kids, why not spend another 30-45 minutes going on a walk with them after dinner? If your family likes bike riding, why not ride around the neighborhood checking out Christmas lights, then grab hot chocolate at your favorite cafe? Children love being outside, and it might be a refreshing change of pace for you. Even if the weather is chilly, don’t let it deter you. Kids love jumping in puddles, and there is so much you can do in the snow, like building a snow woman, sledding, or ice skating.

Happy Holidays from my family to yours!