What Are Family Rituals?
Family rituals can be anything you do regularly as a family. Rituals can help start or end the day, transition from one activity to the next, or provide a moment to reflect.
What’s the difference between a ritual and a routine? A routine is what you do, and a ritual is how you do it! Your daily routine might include waking up at 7 am, but your ritual is a morning stretch or a silly saying. Whether it’s funny, sweet, or serious – the key is to make it consistent; repetition makes your child’s connection to family rituals stronger.
Why Are Family Rituals Important?
Shared family rituals help give kids a sense of identity, security, and belonging. When things feel uncertain, they offer a sense of safety, something to look forward to, and a way to mark time. They offer time to slow down and create a sense of family. Whether it’s a love of music, a sense of calm, showing gratitude, or moving together, what you choose for your ritual can bring your family values to life.
How are Family Rituals Different From Family Traditions?
Family traditions are often tied to a specific season or holiday: going apple picking every fall, making your go-to mishti for Diwali, or decorating Easter eggs with Grandma. On the other hand, a ritual is a regular part of life that evolves with your family as you grow and your needs change.
Weekly Family Rituals
Sundays are a popular day for weekly family rituals, especially anything that might take a little extra energy. You can use it as a day to reflect on the week or look toward the next one. You could also opt for Friday, using the afternoon or evening to celebrate the transition from workweek to weekend with a weekly ritual like a movie night or a special dinner.
Weekly Ritual Ideas
- Start a family journal. Find or make a simple book with blank pages and ask each family member (parents too!) to share a highlight of the week. You can add photos, drawings, a ticket stub, a found leaf, or any other mementos. Kids get an opportunity to practice storytelling skills, and it’s a collaborative, simple way to keep a scrapbook of your adventures.
- Watch magic movies. Using a photo app, look back at photos you took that week as a way to reflect. What were you doing this time last year? Let any budding photographers capture what catches their eye, too, and tell you about it.
- Take a hike, or bike, or stroll. Take note of anything in season. Are the tulips blooming this week or pumpkins on front porches? Try to observe something new or exciting each week.
- Share a meal. Create a ritual around something as simple as your weekly delivery night by taking turns choosing what to eat together or try a new type of food. Or make a meal together. Try an enchilada night to shake things up mid-week, a delightful congee breakfast, or a baked potato brunch on the weekend. Helping in the kitchen allows kids to practice fine motor and math skills.
Daily Family Rituals
For daily rituals, think about times that could use a shift in energy or a bit of structure. Incorporating a ritual into your daily routine can help transition from one activity to the next and give the day a rhythm. Activities like waking up, lunchtime, naptime, or coming home from school can have difficult transitions, but adding a quick calming or energizing ritual can help set the tone.
Though dinner and bedtime offer opportunities to check in, wind down, and process the day’s happenings together, a daily ritual can happen any time that works for you (just keep it consistent!)
Daily Ritual Ideas
- Start with stretches. A shared exercise is a way to jumpstart the day. Encourage a sleepy child with an energetic movement like ten jumping jacks or three wiggles. For a child that wakes up raring to go, do a few mindful stretches together. Stand as high as you can and reach your arms out to the sides and lift them to the sky, twist your torso and swing your arms back and forth, bend forward and let your arms hang to the floor.
- Pick a poem. Starting the day with a nursery rhyme with simple words and hand motions like Hey Diddle Diddle, One Two, Buckle My Shoe, or the Itsy Bitsy Spider can help develop language skills and concentration.
- Say something silly for a send-off. Make daily goodbyes like school drop-offs or leaving for work fun with a silly saying. Besides “See you later, alligator.” you can say, “Out the door, dinosaur,” “Take care, polar bear,” Bye-bye, butterfly,” “Gotta go, buffalo,” or “Blow a kiss, goldfish.”
- Go to a calm corner. Create a daily retreat for your child to practice calming themselves when they feel overwhelmed or need quiet time. Give the space a name (like Feelings Forest!) and stock it with a comfy place to sit like a bean bag chair, soft rug, or play tent. Provide sensory items that your child responds to like a stress ball or stuffed animal to squish, a kaleidoscope, books, coloring pages, or blocks.
Dinnertime Family Ritual Ideas
- Share everyone’s sunshine and cloud of the day. Your “sunshine of the day” is a highlight, small win, or something positive that happened. Your “cloud” is a challenge or something you need a little help with. Encouraging everyone to share their sunshine and cloud creates an opportunity for your child to describe something they’re excited about, brainstorm creative solutions, or learn more about anything confusing. When you (the grownups) share, too, you’re modeling how to build on successes and manage challenges.
- Play thumbs up. Ask everyone to share a statement and then go around in a circle, and each family member decides if they give the idea a thumbs up (into it) or down (not into it). They can be serious or silly things like jumping in puddles, eating worms, making popcorn, or snowstorms.
Bedtime Ritual Ideas
Bedtime can often be a battle. A soothing and predictable ritual can make your child feel secure because they know what comes next.
- Sing a sleepy song. Repetition is key here, so make your tune is something you know by heart like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Star Light, Star Bright,” or “I See the Moon.”
- Say “Goodnight…” to people outside, to the family pet, the tree out the window, to the reading chair. Or turn your goodnight into a rhyme like “goodnight nose, goodnight toes, goodnight head, goodnight shoulders.”
- Greet the moon. End the day with a stretch to release pent up energy. Standing tall, reach up to the ceiling and breathe in deeply. Exhale and swing your arms down to touch the floor.
You’re ready to incorporate simple family rituals into your routine! If you’re looking for more fun ideas, check out some helpful ways to practice math in the kitchen, storytelling skills, and how to build your flexible learning routine.
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