“One day I asked my son to bring his toys inside the house. I was astonished when he said he was ‘too tired.’ … Then a scene flashed into mind of the previous day, when my son had asked me to wrestle with him. What was my answer? I was ‘too tired.’ Or the time he wanted me to play catch [ball]—again I was ‘too tired.’
“… Days later, I asked my son to pick up his clothes and put them away. This time he was ‘too busy.’ I remembered the time he wanted a bedtime story. … I had been ‘too busy.’
“… I vowed to spend more time with my sons. Only hugging them, kissing them, and telling them I loved them didn’t fool them. They needed to jump, wrestle, and play with me too.
“Now I participate in more of their activities. …
“I’ve built tunnels and castles in sand piles and played with trucks. Praying and playing with them have helped me develop a wonderful relationship with them.
“With anything that takes effort, a reward comes. My reward came after an especially good half hour with my son. He wrapped his arms around my neck, gave me an affectionate kiss on the cheek, and said, ‘I love you, Dad’ ” (Dan L. Johnston, “Daddy, I’m Talking to You,” Ensign, Sept. 1978, 71).
Family Fun Brings Love and Unity
Some of us can recall from our childhood the great joy we experienced with our families when we did things together. One mother made this observation:
“When I think back on my childhood and my teenage years I recall with an almost reverent attitude those pleasant memories of the things we children and mother and father did as a family. … I wouldn’t trade the memories of our family parties and other family recreation for all of today’s theatres, bowling alleys, and restaurants. …
“I am determined to do all I can to plan activities for my family that will bring the Lord’s Spirit into our home the way the Spirit filled the home of my parents. I want my children to have the great blessing of having the memories that are so dear to me” (Family Home Evening Manual 1968, 184–85).
Like this mother, we should try to provide positive experiences for our families. Sometimes activities available to us outside the home are not acceptable, because they do not help us build love and unity in our home and a closeness to our Heavenly Father. Our Church leaders recognize a growing need for family members to have fun doing things with one another, and we should follow their counsel to plan activities to keep our families together.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson said: “Thank God for the joys of family life. I have often said there can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from a good home. The sweetest influences and associations of life are there” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties , 178).
We can have fun in our homes by participating in a variety of activities and games. These activities can be simple and need not be expensive.
Family activities can become family traditions. Over the years, families establish traditions as they do special things together, many of which take place regularly. These activities might include family reunions, birthday celebrations, holiday get-togethers, vacations, visits to special places, family musical bands, and hobbies.
Families can also enjoy each other when they formally gather together for the naming of newborn babies, baptisms, ordinations to the priesthood, missionary departures and homecomings, graduations, weddings, and other occasions that are special in the lives of family members.
We should record our successful family activities in our family histories and personal journals, including appropriate photographs and special souvenirs. As we look back and remember the fun we have had together, we grow closer to each other and our love for one another is strengthened.
If we are to have successful family activities, we usually must plan and prepare well for them.
The following suggestions can be helpful in planning family activities.
In a family home evening with all family members present, discuss and make a list of the types of activities they enjoy. As each family member’s suggestions are considered, he or she will feel important. Activities should be the type in which most, if not all, family members can participate.
After all members’ suggestions have been considered, have the family choose an activity from the list. Then select a specific date for it. Write this date on the family calendar to make sure there will be no conflicts. Give everyone an opportunity to help plan the activity and to be responsible for an assignment.
One family, in following these suggestions in their family home evening, decided that each family member should suggest one idea for family service to others, one idea for improving the home and surroundings, and one idea for recreation. After each family member had made suggestions, the ideas were voted on and the following activities were selected:
Service. The family cleaned the yard of a widower. Then they baked a “welcome home” cake and took it to him on the day his son arrived home from fulfilling a mission.
Improving the home. The family improved one specified room of their home with paint, wallpaper, and other items. All family members worked together to accomplish this.
Recreation. Each family member was honored on one assigned day during the year. The days were assigned during the family home evening planning meeting. On his or her day, each member had the privilege of selecting a favorite food for the meals and choosing a recreational activity for all family members to do together. Some family members chose swimming, some a ball game, some picnicking; whatever activity was chosen, all family members were to participate together.
Another family planned their activities by writing “Family Fun Sack” on a large paper bag. Each family member wrote on a piece of paper one activity he or she wanted the family to do together. At each family home evening one piece of paper was drawn from the sack. The activity named on that piece of paper was then enjoyed by the entire family during the next week.
Our families should be the most important part of our lives. One way we can strengthen our family relationships is to plan and have fun together. Life has many serious sides, and in order to keep proper balance, we must take time to play together, doing those things appropriate for individual family members. As we have fun together, we learn to live more meaningfully with each other and are able to more effectively teach each other the principles of the gospel through our personal example as well as in words.
The scriptures tell us that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” which includes “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). Our homes should be places where laughter is heard often and smiles exchanged daily. No matter how varied our ages and abilities within the family, we should find ways to relax and have fun together.
Many necessary duties performed by families with small children could be viewed as games: for example, planting a garden, cleaning the house, or washing the dishes. Turning work into a game keeps enthusiasm and interest high.
When we suit activities to our family members’ needs, interests, abilities, and circumstances, we can all enjoy a balanced life of work, rest, and play.
Our families can be together forever. If we are not currently spending enough time with family members, we should start now to share those things that will help us to become an eternal family.
Edited from Relief Society, "The Latter-Day Saint Woman" Part B.