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Prescription for family fun: 20 minutes of daily playtime
December 23, 2016

Just 15-20 minutes of quality time together can build a child’s self-esteem, enhance family bonding and provide fun, stress-free time for everyone. There are many ways you can give the gift of “time together” to your child during the holiday season and throughout the new year.

Below is a list of “family fun” ideas from our child life team. These ideas focus on family bonding, healthy fun and active play. You can use these activity ideas a starting point for daily playtime for your family or as a special way to give your child the “gift” of time together. A jar filled with family fun ideas to look forward to in the coming months, or a daily “fun calendar” (select one activity for each day of the month), can be a wonderful and special gift for a child – and for parents too. We hope these ideas inspire fun and special memories for your family and the children in your lives!

Easy active fun


  • Start a family band using household items like pots, containers and spoons.
  • Make a ring-toss game using cut paper plates and plastic bottles filled with colored water.
  • Plan an after-dinner walk with a family in your neighborhood.
  • Declare one day to be Family Bike Day, Swim Day or Explore-A-Park Day and plan accordingly.
  • Organize a family dance party. Let everyone share their favorite songs and dance moves.
  • Play tennis or volleyball using a balloon instead of a ball for active indoor (or outdoor) fun.
  • Throw beach balls into laundry baskets set up at different heights.
  • Organize an obstacle course where players carry ping pong balls in plastic spoons.
  • Try “Chore Olympics” with team dish washing, sock matching, stuffed toy “toss” into bins, etc.
  • Play an active board game. Have players hop, spin, jump, etc., before turns or when certain cards are played.
  • Have each family member plan a day, activity or outing where everyone joins in.
  • Have a hula hoop contest. Try a fast or slow musical beat and count laps out loud.
  • Try out a new family hobby. Visit your local library or click here for ideas.
  • Play indoor “foot volleyball.” Tie a string ribbon across a hallway or room and have family members sit on the ground and try to keep an inflated balloon off the floor using only their feet! Pass the balloon over the ribbon or string, and when it hits the floor the opposite team gets a point. Creativity counts!

Get creative


  • Decorate a tree with homemade paper plate birds – we’ve got supplies and directions for you on the blog.
  • Make new crayons by melting old ones and cooling in fun-shaped molds like mini-muffin pans. Collect and paint leaves or cut out shapes to create a family tree. Have each family member make a leaf.
  • Glue yarn or ribbon around empty bottles to make colorful vases. Spread glue on and wrap as you go.
  • Fill water balloons with water and washable paint, then drop/smash/pop onto big pieces of paper.
  • Mix shaving cream, school glue and food coloring to make puffy paint. Using hands is encouraged!
  • Mix equal amounts of school glue and paint and drizzle onto paper. Once it dries, color in spaces with markers.
  • Add yarn, fabric, stickers, googly eyes, etc., to family photos and use these to create characters for stories or comics.
  • Paint clean Chinese take-out containers. Try making different scenes or animals.
  • Make a robot or fairy house out of recycled materials.
  • Glue buttons onto an outline of a flower to make a mosaic.
  • Color coffee filters with markers and sprinkle with water for a special design or to make flowers.
  • Make holiday decorations together for an upcoming holiday.
  • Work together to make a family flag.
  • Create “me” collages from old magazines, photos, etc. Use words and pictures that represent the child/family.

Quick games and activities


  • Make homemade bubbles with 1/2 cup of dishwashing liquid, 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Cut pool noodles in half to make a toy race car track.
  • Make a family BINGO game.
  • Make cloud dough with ½ cup of baby oil and 4 cups of flour. Stir and store in airtight container.
  • Take funny photos of family members, print out and use as starting points for fun stories.
  • Microwave a bar of Ivory soap for a few minutes to make a giant soap cloud, then smash into soap snow!
  • Look at family photos and share stories about what’s happening in the photos.
  • Hide an object and draw a treasure map for child to follow.
  • Have a reading picnic – indoors or out!
  • Write a story as a family. Draw pictures to illustrate each other’s sentences.
  • Make shopping fun with a scavenger hunt. Have your child find items on your list.
  • Pick fun questions for family members to answer during dinner.
  • Have a family Karaoke Night.
  • Organize a Mini-Night. Serve miniature foods, set up mini bowling, play mini golf, etc.
  • Check-out a science experiment book from the library or check out a science website and try some (safe!) experiments.
  • Watch a sunrise or sunset as a family.
  • Act out TV shows such as American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance?, Iron Chef, etc. (Positive feedback only!)
  • Read a book then encourage children to “play pretend” and act out the story.
  • Have all family members contribute to a story. First person starts, next person adds to it, etc.
  • Check out a children’s book from the library, read it together and re-imagine the ending.
  • Take photos of items around the house (like the arm of a chair or a lamp from an odd angle) and have children guess what they are.
  • Have a treasure hunt with written clues. Team up family members to read and find clues.
  • Fill an empty clear plastic bottle with small dice, sequins, beads, small plastic animals, yarn, ribbon, buttons, etc., then fill the bottle with water, leaving about an inch of space. Screw the lid on and glue the lid shut using hot glue (adults only for this step). Once it cools, see how many different objects your child can discover!
  • Write chores children can help with on one end of a popsicle stick and write a fun treat on the other end, then place treat-side-down in a cup. Have everyone choose a stick and once the chore on the stick is completed, they can receive the treat! Treats can include a trip to the park, choosing a board game to play, etc.

Cook up some healthy fun


  • Try a new seasonal veggie recipe. We’ve got tips and recipes on the blog.
  • Try out fun lunchbox recipes from our dietitians, like mock sushi.
  • Let kids choose ingredients for a healthy pasta dinner.
  • Declare a day “Dip Day” and try a new dip with seasonal fruits or veggies.
  • Cut a tortilla with cookie cutters. Top with cinnamon and sugar and bake at 3500 for 12 minutes.
  • Decorate family aprons and cook together.
  • “Taste test” some new healthy snacks. Encourage each family member to select something new for the entire family to try.
  • Have a superhero snack party. Serve a new superfood or two.
  • Have a Culture Night. Make food from another culture and learn about it together,
  • Make frozen fruit bars (popsicles) using 100 percent juice for a more nutritious snack.
  • Go berry picking and make a healthy recipe using the fruit you picked.
  • Create your own recipe or restaurant, complete with menus, table decorations, etc.
  • Make-your-own healthy sundaes with yogurt, fruit, granola and low-fat whipped cream.
  • Have a dress-up tea party or superhero snack party and serve a new healthy snack or two.

Enjoy the outdoors


  • Make a bird feeder with seeds, nut butter and a toilet paper roll. Hang where you can see from a window.
  • Create a treasure map for an outdoor scavenger hunt.
  • Go for a family walk and find items for an art project.
  • Make a list of flowers, plants, etc., in your backyard or at a local park. Have your children find and draw them.

Show love and thanks

  • Leave a note for your child telling them something you love about them.
  • Pick names out of a hat and thank the person you pick for something they did this year.
  • Start an annual family “Do Something Nice for Someone” Day.
  • Put a sweet note in a plastic bottle and hide it in your house. Draw a map to the “Message in a Bottle.”
  • Bake something and share it with a neighbor.
  • Attend a community cleanup or go for a walk in a neighborhood or park and pick up trash. (Wear gloves!)
  • Make paper chains and write “thankful things” on them or what you like best about each other.
  • Buy school supplies for a family in need.

For special seasons


  • Create a pin-the-nose-on-the-snowman game.
  • Make snow paint. Mix water and food coloring in a spray bottle.
  • Pass on store-bought Valentines and make your own.
  • Use toilet paper rolls to stamp handmade hearts. We’ve got directions and photos on the blog.
  • Make Valentine’s Day window art: Cover contact paper with small pieces of tissue paper and hang in a heart-shaped construction paper frame.
  • Have an indoor “summer day” with beach towels, summer foods, beach decorations, etc.



  • Plant a container garden. We’ve got tips and directions for you!
  • Go on a nature walk. Give kids a list of items to look out for or to photograph before you head out. Try making a “Nature Bingo” game of items you’re likely to see on your outing.
  • Make a Mother’s Day bouquet with coffee filters and pipe cleaners.
  • Measure a section of ground and decorate it with rocks, flowers, leaves, etc., to make a fairy/elf home.
  • Read a Dr. Seuss book in honor of the author’s birthday (March 2). 



  • Strawberries and peaches are in season! Make a plan to go strawberry picking at a local farm or try a new strawberry or peach recipe.
  • Write a silly song about summer.
  • Go to your local library and find books about the beach, shells, etc.
  • Take a family photo and paint a picture frame for Father’s Day.
  • Make a red, white and blue dessert with blueberries and strawberries [add link].
  • Wash the family car for some fun in the sun.
  • Make a family “play menu” of non-electronic activities to do before school starts.
  • Play “flashlight fireflies.” Have a family member (“the firefly”) hide with a flashlight. Every 30 seconds, when someone calls out “firefly,” the firefly has to shine the flashlight briefly while everyone else tries to find them. Younger fireflies may want to team up with an older family member for this activity.
  • Paint a hula hoop with glow-in-the-dark paint and use it in the dark. (Make sure others stand back!)
  • Have a backyard vacation. Camp out in the backyard or on a porch.



  • Make a healthy fall treat for someone you love.
  • Take a walk and talk about what’s exciting about the new school year. For talking tips:
  • Decorate pumpkins to look like each family member.
  • Trace a pumpkin-shaped outline, paint pumpkin seeds and glue them onto outline.
  • Make turkey place cards for Thanksgiving. We’ve got directions on the blog.
  • Make a fruit turkey. Use half a pear as the body and rows of fruit as feathers.
  • Decorate paper footballs with names or team colors and tape a paper goal post on a wall. Attach tape to the back of the footballs and have blindfolded family members try to stick their footballs between the posts. Come up with creative ways to determine winners – highest, closest to the post, etc.

Especially for adolescents

Don’t consider a teen to be “too old” for playtime fun. Play can help strengthen the bond between an adolescent and their parents. Try an activity that the adolescent chooses. Focus on observing, listening and responding. Your teen may surprise you with their playfulness and true enjoyment of your interactions! 

What does your family do together for fun?


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