With summer around the corner (okay, maybe that’s a little wishful thinking), I decided this was a great time to flash back to a family reunion post. If you haven’t started planing yet, now’s the time! So grab a notebook and get ready to brainstorm an awesome family-building event!
Tips and Tricks for a Great Reunion
- Set the dates well in advance so family members can plan, scheduling off work and saving funds as needed. Sites large enough to accommodate a reunion must often be scheduled 6-12 months ahead of time.
- Choose the location wisely. Consider the needs of your family. Are you active and outdoorsy? If so, camping is an excellent option. But be aware of any special needs that some family members may have due to age or other limitations. You may need to reserve a few cabins along with tent sites.
- Split up important tasks such as food preparation, camp cleaning duties and responsibility for activities. A central kitchen area, while not essential, makes cooking for a crowd much easier.
- Include activities that will keep thekiddos occupied and wear them out so that everyone else can sleep at night. Some of our favorites are tie-dye, watermelon football (in a lake, not advisable on land…might be entertaining to watch, though), hiking, canoeing, water balloon wars, physical games such as kick the can or mission, and rock climbing.
- Consider limiting use of electronic devices so the family actually interacts instead of just staring at their phones, ipads, etc. We don’t have an official rule about this, but our last campsite had no internet or phone access. There’s no doubt that the kids (and even adults!) spent more time enjoying each other and building memories together.
- Bring along quiet activities such as cards or board games for the evening so the teens can still have fun while the toddlers are being put to bed.
- Popsicles. Lots of popsicles. Our group of 40 went through several hundred in a few days time. Yummy and hydrating, too! Bring lots to drink and plenty of snacks.
- Pack the gear you’ll need to be safe. Sturdy tennis shoes, life vests, sunscreen, and bug spray are a must. If you plan to hike into a camp site, bring adequate water and backpacks. We managed such a hike this year with children as young as two years old, although they didn’t carry their own packs. Tough, but fun, activities build character. More on that in a future post.
Traditions We Love
- Work projects to benefit the camp where we stay.
- Firesides each night. Each family is responsible for hosting a fireside. Usually there’s a lesson, some singing, a fun activity and s’mores. This is also a great time to address any issues that have come up during camp and to do some quick planning for the next day. We also allow for time for sharing talents—singing, joke telling, reciting Shakespeare. Whatever. The fireside time draws our family together as we tell family stories and share our personal thoughts. This is a vital part of developing a strong family culture.
- Morning runs or hikes. Many of the adults rise early for a little extra exercise and visiting time. We also have a tradition of swimming across the lake each day (accompanied by canoes—also known as sag wagons—for those who grow tired). There’s a great sense of accomplishment for all who participate in these activities and it’s fun seeing the older cousins joining in as well.
- Jumping off the bridge. My brother-in-law joked that someone told him to take a hike, jump in a lake, jump off a bridge…so he did! Ironic that these great activities can be insults. The bridge is the biggie. My kids start talking about it months before we go to the reunion then brag about it for months after. I admit, it’s scary. But there’s nothing like beating out your own fears. Our seven-year-old son made his first jump this year with his dad. If you try cliff-jumping or bridge-jumping, check to see that the water is deep enough and there are not obstacles such as submerged boulders or tree stumps. We always keep a few people down below in case anyone needs help (no one ever has, thank goodness) and require life vests for young children.
What are some of your favorite family reunion memories? We’d love to hear your tips, too!