I grew up on an acreage in rural Alberta, where my parents ran a small farm. We raised chickens, turkeys, sheep, a few calves, one Canada goose, and some ducks. We also had fruit trees and grew a huge garden each year.
It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. Some of my best memories are eating fresh carrots from the garden with my brothers, or canning pears with my mom, or even joking around together while digging post holes to fence our “back forty” for the sheep.
Working together is a good way to build connections within our family. It helps our children appreciate each other and the work that goes into their world. And while some work may cause grumbling now, it also creates great memories later (when they’ve forgotten the blisters and sweat!).
Here are a few ways you can build connections in your family by working together.
1. Grow a Garden Together
We live in a small condo in the city, so growing a garden together has been hard. I’ve made various attempts at container gardening over the years, with little success. Despite this, the girls love growing plants together and gardening is still a learning opportunity.
If you don’t have your own garden, check out community gardens or volunteer to help in the church garden. You can also see if a friend would like help with her garden. My girls love weeding Grandma’s garden for her when we go visit.
Gardening teaches kids so much, from science to faith. They also learn about healthy eating, as kids are more likely to eat something they’ve grown themselves. (Nothing like waiting for that cucumber to grow to work up an appetite for it!)
It’s more than simple work ethic that kids learn when they have their hands in the soil. They’re learning about life, God, and all that He provides. ~ “Kids in the Garden“
Growing a garden together can help kids appreciate the work that goes into their food. So often, we take our snacks and meals for granted. Al we have to do is open the cupboard or fridge when we’re hungry. Yet everything in our pantry is there because many people worked hard to get it there.
2. Fix Something Together
We live in a disposable society, where many things are tossed as soon as they are broken. Fixing things together can help teach our kids to waste less, appreciate what they have, and value working together. They may even be more careful not to break things once they see the work involved in fixing it! Kids also learn valuable life skills.
Our kids have helped Daddy glue their shoes back together, change a kitchen faucet, and build new furniture. The older girls have helped me mend their clothes or transform old clothes into something new. They’ve helped us repaint rooms and repaint furniture.
Fixing things can also turn into opportunities for one-on-one dates. Often, my husband has had to run to the hardware store for the right part or tool. One of the girls goes along for the ride.
3. Cook or Bake Together
When I was growing up, certain meals were always family affairs. Now, the girls love helping me make tacos and sushi. These are easy meals to make as a family that help everyone feel important (even toddlers!) because they did something to get supper on the table.
Often when I’m starting supper, Jade or Pearl will come ask what they can help with. Jade loves grating cheese or prepping veggies for supper. Pearl can set the table or stir things for me. They feel a sense of accomplishment in being involved with preparing their food.
Last week, Pearl happily told Daddy she’d made peanut butter cookies—because she turned on the mixer for me and squished the cookies with a fork before I put them in the oven!
4. Help Each Other
We’ve always had family chores. The girls have started with easy chores like setting the table. Now Sunshine helps wash their ensuite bathroom and they all put their own laundry away. With their chores, I try to cultivate an attitude of helping each other and contributing to the family.
Occasionally, we’ve used chores as discipline. For example, one of the girls may have to do a sister’s chore if she wasn’t treating her sister very well. Helping each other makes up for being unhelpful or mean.
Sometimes, I offer to pay for the girls for certain chores. For example, if I have a deadline on the blog, then I might ask one of the girls to “babysit” Joey for a few quarters. Often, I’m working on a post about something they’ve appreciated, so this helps them understand we’re working for that product or outing, not getting it for “free.”
When the younger girls ask me to make them a sandwich for lunch, I’ll often ask them to help me. For example, “While I’m making your sandwich for you, can you please pick up some toys for Joey?” They’re waiting for me to make the sandwich anyway, and in those three or four minutes, they can pick up a lot of toys.
5. Make Money Together
These days, family businesses are much less common than they were a few generations ago. Most parents work out of the home, so kids don’t see what happens to make the money come. Doing some family activities that make money can help kids learn that money doesn’t grow on trees!
Starting a small family business can be a fun summer activity. It can also let kids contribute to saving for something special, like a family vacation.
How does your family work together?