Small-big family rituals

Every Friday, no matter how hectic or stressful the week has been, my husband and I have a ritual to celebrate the weekend’s start. We crack open a bottle of wine, play music, and roll up our sleeves in the kitchen. I make dough for the pizza crust, and my husband chops, sautees, and grates the toppings.

In the spring and summer, we open the kitchen door that leads to our balcony, where we have a view of the bay, the kids playing in the courtyard, and the evening breeze. The sauce I made in bulk has thawed, and because we work together, dinner takes 30 minutes max to prepare.

Our four-year-old daughter enjoys topping the rolled out dough with sauce, cheese, and veggies, and the baby plays with the Leap Frog fridge phonics. While the pizza bakes, we whip up a simple salad. Our background symphony is anything from Jack Johnson, to Sufjan Stevens, to Coldplay, to Mozart, to Ella Fitzgerald, to The Shins.

We then sit down to eat, either at the dining table, or on the balcony. We often end with a simple dessert and coffee, and when the kids go down, my husband and I break out a board game.

It’s a great start to the weekend.

The importance of family rituals

This little tradition of ours isn’t complex or costly, and it takes no advanced planning (except for the pizza sauce, which I’d make anyway, for dinner). But it’s something we all look forward to, and it’s become a little something that says “home” to us.

Kids love traditions and family rituals, because it fosters a sense of belonging and security. They also thrive on routine, so rituals only add to that need.

Adults who work outside the home benefit from a simple family ritual to look forward to on the ride home. And adults who work inside the home can anticipate that ritual as something to mark the end of a work day. I know I do.

Don’t wait for a holiday

Sure, those Labor Day barbecues or Thanksgiving backyard football games are great. But don’t wait for those holidays on the calendar to create a family ritual. Make traditions part of your family culture, and celebrate them often.

Photo by Rosana Prada

A few tips for creating that tradition of yours:

• Keep it simple. That way you’ll do it regularly.

• Keep it inexpensive. That way, you’ll look forward to it, instead of letting financial anxiety build up.

• Include the whole family. If your husband doesn’t enjoy cooking, make it a popcorn-and-movie tradition. Or if your kids are too young to enjoy Trivial Pursuit, make it a weekly walk to the park.

• Do it regularly. Monthly is great; weekly is even better. By definition, a ritual is done often.

• Make it fun. I say either make it relaxing, or make it active. Veg with Netflix, or hike the nearby trails. You do you.

• Make it true down time. Turn off phones and laptops, and don’t talk business.

Chances are, you might have some sort of family tradition accidentally. And if not, there’s a bourgeoning one within your troops—you only need to make a concrete plan. Do something fun as a family over the next few days, and who knows… maybe you’ll start doing it each weekend.

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  1. Sandy

    Hi Tsh. Since we have 3 teens, I’d say our 2 getaways a year have become a family ritual. The one we’re on right now has clearly been the best. It’s sad that our son is heading off to college … the years go by too quickly.
    Thanks for the reminder how important family is!

    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Live with Gusto: Goodbye Auntie Ellen! =-.

  2. Traciatim

    We’ve been doing Pancake/Waffle breakfast on Sunday morning for quite some time now. The kids really look forward to it every week.

  3. PS~Erin

    Love your ritual (and your playlist to accompany it). I think kids thrive on rituals, something to make them feel all wrapped up. In the beginning of our marriage and being parents, I tried to create rituals and it felt sort of forced. The ones that just happened naturally were the ones that stuck with us.
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..To Do’s =-.

  4. Rose

    We have homemade pizza and movie night every friday night. My kids love it. The only frustration is they ask me all week long, “how long until movie night?” ;D
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Monday mournings =-.

  5. Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    We have family movie night every Friday, and the kids love it! It’s a night to eat an early dinner (usually pizza), get the kids bathed and head downstairs to watch a movie on the “big TV.” The kids get to pick out the movie, and they sometimes settle on one early in the week, which really builds anticipation.

    This is simple, easy and super fun tradition that our entire family can embrace.
    .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage´s last blog ..Our Debt-Free Marriage: How We Paid Off $54,500 in the Name of Freedom =-.

  6. Kara

    We have a “friday night nest” – which is where we take all of the pillows and blankets and build a big nest in the middle of the living room and watch movies or play games (a new discovery for our two oldest is playing Uno)

    Love the idea of keeping it inexpensive so you really look forward to it instead of dreading the financial aspect – great tip!

    Inspiring post! I hope moving is going well – we’re thinking of you all 🙂
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Small Steps, Big Changes: Developing a New Routine 15 Minutes at a Time =-.

  7. Amanda @ Mommy's Idea Book

    We also started homemade pizza night after getting the idea right here on Simple Mom a while back. Although we don’t get to every Friday night, we do most weeks. It is great to have something we can do together that is both fun and functional (you have to cook something right?)
    .-= Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog ..I’m Finally Giving In…. =-.

  8. The Pursuit of Mommyness

    I love family rituals…yes, they are VERY important! My hubby and I have already started them though we don’t have the kiddos yet…Friday night is ALWAYS pizza and movie night! Just the two of us snuggled on the couch with a great flick and Papa Murphy’s take and bake!
    .-= The Pursuit of Mommyness´s last blog ..Coupon Clipping Equals to $100 per Hour, Tax Free =-.

  9. Astyn

    Great post. I have been thinking about this idea a lot. I have 3 children under the age of 3 and I know that they look forward to the simple things we do together regularly. I want them to grow up feeling safe and secure as well as having fun and building relationships with one another. Family rituals are a great way to do that. Thanks.

  10. Missy P

    I love rituals! One of the simplests that my children enjoy is fresh popped popcorn and hot chocolate in front of the fireplace. We do this on Sunday nights in the winter and it’s a great way to wrap up the weekend.

  11. Wendy

    I am terrible with the daily or weekly rituals (yearly rituals I’m all over). Good reminder.
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..Kenzie and Kam =-.

  12. Jennifer Jo

    Reading aloud at night—that’s our big one.

    Also, we watch a movie together on Sunday evenings—the kids LOVE that. Buttery-salted p-corn for the kids and spicy-sweet-buttery-salty p-corn for the adults.

  13. Laura

    I like the pizza idea. I’m still trying to get on a routine since we’ve had so many life changes lately. Right now I’m focussing on spending time with the kids outside so we can make sure our dog gets the exercise she needs.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Planting Blueberries =-.

  14. Keilah

    We do pancakes/waffles on Sunday nights. I usually find the day is so lazy after church and it is nice to have an easy dinner. The kids look forward to this too. We also have our neighbors over for dinner every Tuesday night. The kids love playing with the neighbors. The kids go to bed, then the adults do a devotional and have prayer time. I love both nights and I always feel refreshed after Tuesday nights too.
    .-= Keilah´s last blog ..Picnic Blanket =-.

  15. briana

    We do this same thing. I call it “pizza/family night” (original, I know) 🙂
    I can get whole wheat pizza dough balls at my Shop Rite for $1, so I buy a bunch and throw them in the freezer. IT’s easier and probably even cheaper than making it from scratch.
    We usually do a movie and popcorn, but when the weather is nicer we’ll often go for a hike or a walk around our block. Now that our kids are getting a little older, we’re trying to throw in a few board/card games with them, too.

  16. Julie

    How funny! I just blogged about this yesterday. Looks like Easter has us all thinking about our family traditions. Thanks for the post.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Easter traditions – Resurrection Eggs =-.

  17. Joan

    I wish I could say we have or even had a weekly ritual, but with kids off to college, the most we can do is every holiday we work jigsaw puzzles. It’s fun, we can do it while watching a movie and all generations can join in!

  18. Chris

    I too have been horrible about having regular rituals. I’m trying to let them come naturally, and so the same activities are done often in our house, but they aren’t currently on any sort of anticipated schedule. I definately want my husband included, but his schedule is quite irregular, and our daughter is young enough not to know how to follow a calendar yet, so we just let these things happen when they happen (Usually walking around the house together. Everyone has a toy to push or pull and we all follow each other around… if only I could understand a toddler’s mind, but it’s her choice and she loves it!) My mommy / daughter ritual seems mostly to be that we make muffins or pancakes at least once a week together for breakfast. Both of us love this time together and being the same two recipe bases means we both know what to expect in the process.

  19. Hillary

    I love this post. Such a lovely reminder and I really enjoyed being whisked into your Friday setting. Wonderful 🙂

  20. suse

    Thank you for this reminder. I’ve been thinking how much of our lives are on auto-pilot, responding to the latest thing every night. I like predictability and I know my kids do, how much of our loudness and frustration is the result of chaos? I have only thought of rituals to occur on holidays, but this reminds me we can have rituals of our own. Good time to start!

  21. Michelle

    We usually have pancakes on Sunday mornings, followed by a hike or forest walk. I hadn’t thought about that as a family ritual, but now I realize that it is! I agree with PS~ Erin that trying to create rituals artificially might feel forced, but recognizing the things you enjoy doing weekly and honoring those rituals is an important part of valuing your family life together.

  22. Annie

    GREAT post! I love traditions and rituals! My kids are starting to get interested in movies and I can’t wait to start a regular movie night and game night…we’ll probably alternate them. Currently our most basic routines involve cooking and books. Wednesday is library day, which everyone loves. Tuesdays my 4 year old and I cook together and Fridays my 6 year old and I cook together. We usually bake something all together on the weekends.

    We’re also working on getting into some more physical endeavors as a family, biking, hiking and such. We haven’t made it regular yet, just now and then…but we’re working on it!
    .-= Annie´s last blog ..Should I Jump In? =-.

  23. Maya

    We love our rituals – they really help maintain my sanity.

    And rituals are a great way to get my kids in touch with my Indian culture/stories/heritage. Rituals were such a strong part of my life growing up – really helped me feel grounded.

    We are trying to start family yoga time – the kids just love it.
    Carpet picnics are our favorite too – but spring means that we will be moving a lot of our rituals outdoors!

  24. Christy

    This was the first simplemom post I ever read (the first time it was posted). It resonated with me and now I’m hooked!

  25. Christine

    Such a great post and a wonderful reminder. Our kids are grown now but we still try to have a family ritual of getting together at least once a month with them and the grandkids to gather and play and of course eat! I love my role as “Grammie” and the little ones always wind up helping me in the kitchen which I love. They are learning and growing so fast and we don’t want to miss a moment of it! The Moms of these little cuties and I sit and swap recipes, laugh and share stories of the week just have a great time of family bonding. My husband (Poppy) and son usually are off in his shop thinking up a new project to try together. We all come back together to share the meal and create wonderful memories. I am glad to see so many others doing the same. It is heartwarming read these comments. Family bonding time is so important. Thanks for sharing this and your other wonderful insights. I just love this site!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Discover Intensive Phonics Program Will Help Your Child Learn to Read =-.

  26. Andi

    We actually just started a tradition with our family, “Sunday Morning Cuddle Times.” We get our 4 month old daughter from her crib and all cuddle up as a family in our bed together. We usually walk to our neighborhood coffee shop after this before returning home for nap time. We have also been trying to get in some quality family time Sunday afternoons after the little one wakes from her nap. It really gives me something to look forward to all week – thinking and planning how we are going to spend our Sunday afternoons as a family.

  27. Rachel Wolf

    Yes! Every Sunday morning we have “Pancake brunch”. And if I forget? The kids are sure to remind me. It anchors our weekend – and our life together – and it’s something we all appreciate.

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