Creating Cozy Family Traditions with Young Children
When we started our family, we thought often about how we would create our own unique family culture and traditions. We don’t have deep roots into religious traditions, so sometimes celebrating certain holidays feels surface level, and it is. I want our family traditions to be comforting, meaningful, and intentional! I don’t want to just do things because others do them, or because society does it, or because… consumerism.
We wanted traditions that would bring us together as a family - things that are the opposite of busy, stressful, or feel like obligations. I think you might know what I mean when I say those words. We have all been there with certain traditions that feel like an expensive, chaotic whirlwind! We want to do it differently around here, but traditions can’t just be forced out of thin air.
What are the elements of a meaningful tradition?
When I discovered and started implementing bits and pieces of Rooted Childhood into our life last fall, I realized that this was exactly the source I wanted to draw from to create our own family traditions! It has every element we need to germinate the seeds of strong family traditions that will grow with us over the seasons and years.
Disclaimer: I was provided with Rooted Childhood collections and was compensated for my time. As always, all my opinions are authentically my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy.
Elements of Meaningful Family Traditions
Spoken Word Traditions
There was a little cassette tape recording I remember listening to when I was a child. It was a few minutes of me, at 18 months old, reciting The Puffin to send to my Grandma. I still know this poem by heart and say it to my girls all the time before they fall asleep! I also have fond memories of sitting in the backseat of my grandma’s car on a long trip as she spun her own version of Hansel and Gretel, handing candy into the backseat with a faux wicked cackle. Poetry, rhyming songs, finger plays, and fairy tales are traditions as old as human life. They connect us and invigorate childhood with magic and wonder!
Attaching the habit of reading aloud onto other parts of our daily routine helps me be consistent with this tradition. When we decide to “always” read after breakfast, or before we brush our teeth at night, it becomes an expected comfort. They sure do let me know if I forget!
We implement this tradition by turning lunch into “Poetry Teatime” around once a month, especially in the winter months when we really need something special and cozy to perk us up. In the summer that “teatime” is more like a picnic lunch on a blanket in the grass! The simple act of adding poetry and stories to our meal gives us all a nice focus and encourages us to linger a little longer rather than eat and rush off again.
At the beginning of each month, I have been reading through the poetry and story selections from Rooted Childhood and placing a sticky bookmark on my favorites. I do the same with some other children’s poetry books we have, and then I pick a fairy-tale book for us to slowly work our way through.
Before becoming a mother, I was a very “make by hand” person! I was always creating handmade gifts for the holidays, making things out of felt, hand embroidery, fabric, you name it. Now that I have children, it is all mostly tucked away. I found it challenging to scale the projects down to their level, and had a hard time letting go of the vision of what the projects are supposed to be in the end, versus what they sometimes become when the kids take the lead! So, I let handcrafts take a back burner… despite my basement full of gorgeous wool felt, yarn, patterned paper, every color of embroidery floss, and a longing to create again.
Do you know how grateful I was to see that Rooted Childhood has made handcrafts more approachable for children, and how happy I am to be encouraged to give it a try at their level - even if it doesn’t turn out as planned?! Creation is a process and an experience. It isn’t just about the thing you’re making. I decided to start slow and small, and pick one favorite handcraft to do each month. I also promised myself to set it up and model what we will be doing, but then totally release expectations and just focus on playing with the materials at their level, in their way. Connecting as we create is so much more important than Creating A Thing.
It’s also valuable for children to observe us creating. If my kids don’t seem to have the patience or interest for a project I’d love to try - I can sit down and create for myself, and they draw toward me like magnets. Eventually they’re begging to try and sometimes even take over. So my husband and I both make an effort to keep creating things, and spending a whole day deep into creating is becoming a tradition for us. They see my husband and I working out a paper pattern for a leather motorcycle bag - and soon enough our six year old is making herself paper bunny ears and a tail, plus a set for her sister.
Gathering Around the Table
There probably is not a tradition on Earth that isn’t attached to food in some way! I kid. But really… that might be true. Our quest for creating traditions in our family would never be complete without gathering in the kitchen. Although we almost exclusively cook and eat at home, planning and creating traditional family meals is a lot of work for me - it doesn’t come naturally. I am always trying to reinvent the wheel, and long for a guide. I love that food is included as a part of Rooted Childhood’s monthly collection, because it takes a more holistic approach to handcrafts in our lives. Cooking together and working in the kitchen is as handcrafted as it gets, and children love to eat food that they’ve helped prepare!
We follow the seasons with our food, and tradition is borne from that intuitive change. We spend our Saturday mornings from late spring through early fall going to the farmer’s market and we make a big deal out of empowering the kids to make choices at the market and pay for the produce themselves with money we give them. In the fall, they regularly check our garden and harvest what looks ripe to them, learning by trial and error. In the winter we bake muffins and simmer homemade bone broth.
I also love to include food in our reading time, which adds to the cozy gathering feeling and keeps the kids much more engaged for a longer period of time!
Follow the Seasons
Embracing the spirit of the seasons in your area is such a natural way to help guide your new traditions. As soon as the forest turns green again, we head into the woods and take portraits for the kids birthdays. In the fall as the leaves are dropping like rain, we take a bag into the woods to collect interesting nature finds and explore them more closely when we get home. We spend New Year’s Day planning and dreaming up fun things to do each month throughout the new year.
I love getting a pile of season specific picture books and poetry from the library at the beginning of a new season because it really sets the tone for the changes to come, and gets us thinking about nature, weather, holidays, and the circle of life.
Rooted Childhood gives wonderful book suggestions for each month that fit perfectly with this idea. When I flag my favorite poems to read, I also add any books that look nice into my library list for my beginning of the month haul. Getting a variety means we find a new favorite every time.
When trying a new tradition on for size, I try to connect it to a season or an already established holiday or experience so that if we love it, we can keep doing it and it’ll become a special thing we “always do”.
I think that’s really the key to traditions after all. Try some things that you think will bring you joy, and if you all enjoy it - repeat!!
Learn more about creating memorable experiences with your kids at Rooted Childhood by Meghann Dibrell.