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Happy Family Having Breakfast

What’s something you don’t make enough time for, but is really important for your mental and physical health and your family’s well being?

If you said “sleep,” you should go take a nap. If you said “family time,” you’re in luck, because it’s what we’re talking about today.

When family members have different time constraints (or even different time zones), it can be difficult to get in the family time you need. I spoke with wellness specialist Kim Lotzoff to explore some family bonding activities. Kim maintains the Quicken Loans Wellness Program to provide team members and their families with customized plans and resources to help them live healthier lives, and she knows that family time is a key part of a successful and happy life. Read on for her fun recommendations that will keep your family close, whether you’re an area code over or a spin of the globe away.

Food Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

You’ve heard the saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but nothing pulls people together like food! “Sharing a meal is a great way to catch up with your loved ones,” Lotzoff explains. “It’s important to keep that a tradition, and it doesn’t have to just be formal dinners.”

If your family is close to home:

Mealtime can be extra special if you set time aside to cook with your family. Look through your collection and pick a favorite to share, or check out new recipes to inspire new favorites!

Now’s also the time to show off in the kitchen – plan a day or a weekend to get together with your family and show them your tricks. For example, are you a great baker? Teach others in your family how to make a loaf of bread or a batch of family-favorite holiday cookies. Holiday treats are even more fun to share off-season! Have little ones scoop or sift flour and help with measuring cups. Older kids can help with mixing and kneading. At the end of the day, be sure to kick back and relax with your delicious snack and talk about the experience.

If your family is older, and cooking in a close space would mean too many cooks in the kitchen, make it a potluck! “Get everyone involved and have them bring their favorite dish,” Lotzoff suggests. Be sure to enjoy the sun and your dishes outside, if the weather permits.

If you have a long-distance family:

Don’t let Great-aunt Barb’s stroganoff recipe get lost in a drawer or in a pile of handwritten lists. Lotzoff recommends compiling a family cookbook to stay organized. “It’s important to keep recipes and pass them down,” she says. “Having those recipes is a great way to keep memories about family close.” If you’re feeling crafty, you can simply paste handwritten recipes in a notebook or binder on scrapbook paper. Gather family stories about the recipe to include in your collection, like where the recipe came from and when it was first made. You’re sure to dig up some memorable stories! Laminate the pages or slide them in plastic paper covers to keep them safe from ingredients and flour-covered fingers.

Not the arts-and-crafts type? To the Internet! “There are tons of online cookbook templates that are really easy to put together, and even let you insert pictures,” Lotzoff says. Both CreateMyCookbook and Heritage Cookbook have several binding options and let you make custom designs around your recipes, stories and pictures.

Keep track of new recipes using a shared cloud drive. Once your family member has cooked something amazing, have them upload pictures to the drive that you can use for your cookbook. But don’t let the adults have all the fun – make sure the grandkids and other young family members submit their favorite recipes and pictures of their creations, too.

Play Together, Stay Together

Food is important to family bonding, but a little exercise to work off that home-cooked comfort food isn’t just fun – it’s a great way to start some healthy competition!

If your family is close to home:

Get everyone up and at ‘em with a family field day full of quirky games, like an egg-and-spoon race and cornhole toss. Kickball or badminton games are easy to set up in a backyard, and can be a light alternative compared to football or soccer. “You don’t have to play high-intensity sports to enjoy the outdoors,” Lotzoff states. “There are plenty of games that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy. What really matters is that you’re all together.”

Field Day not your jam, or have adult children? Meet up for a weekend walk or ride bikes in a local park. You can organize routes ahead of time or choose courses from local trails and nature walks. If you work together to set distance goals, you’ll cover quite a bit of distance as a team in no time. As you all build endurance, you could even register for a 5k or 10k walk to help sponsor a charity. What a great finish line to cross together!

If you have a long-distance family:

Guess what? You can enjoy technology and be active outdoors with the Pokemon Go app. While it may be tempting to stay away from a new fad, it’s a great way to get out and explore. “It seems to be the new way to get kids outside,” Lotzoff laughs. But it’s more than just fun competition over who can catch more Jigglypuffs. The app uses a real-world map that identifies landmarks like monuments, sculptures or other points of interest. Who knew that the latest craze could be a super fun exploration tool? Just make sure that everyone looks up from their screens to enjoy the sights while they catch ‘em all.

If Pikachu isn’t for you, try creating a family Facebook page to share how you’re staying active and to cheer each other on. This is the place to show proof of your 10,000 steps-per-day or to post pictures of that gorgeous sunrise (or sunset) that you caught on your bike ride. Keep everyone engaged with prizes for the most improved athlete, like framed family photos or a copy of the family cookbook.

Tour Your Own Town

Rather than passing by neat places in our communities without a second glance, Lotzoff recommends a cheap staycation so you can head out on the town with fresh eyes and find new go-to places.

If your family is close to home:

It’s easy enough to explore your own town. Start with any new shops or restaurants you have yet to try. Check online for reviews, or ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. You can dedicate a day or a whole weekend to be a tourist in your town, or make a point to try one new place each week. Feel free to organize a fun theme, too! Plan to check out a different pizza joint once every Friday until you’ve tried them all, then move on to ice cream shops or bakeries.

If your family is hungrier for knowledge than food, head to a nearby museum for a tour of the exhibits. Many museums also hold classes, lectures and activities. If you’re feeling extra artsy, check to see if local coffee shops host poetry readings. For more creative inspiration, visit an art gallery, or get hands-on and sign up for group pottery classes.

If you have a long-distance family:

If your family can’t be there in-person to tour your town with you, make sure they’re still in on the fun! Send them postcards from your tried-and-true favorite places, and let them know when you’ve tried something new. “If you and your family love snail mail, you have to try Postino,” Lotzoff assures. Postino uses photos from your phone’s gallery or your Facebook profile and lets you draw a personalized message, picture or signature right on your screen. The app sends the postcard for you, and keeps you up-to-date on the delivery status.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you have a few ideas, schedule time to develop a family-bonding plan with your family. Whether you live near each other or continents away, making family time a habit and a top priority will help keep everyone close in heart, if not in proximity.

Feel free to share your favorite family bonding activities in the comments below!

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