Every prepper who had not stockpiled morale boosters surely sees the value in them now.
Walk into the center of any populated area, such as a mall or restaurant, and have a quick look around. Almost guaranteed there are more than a few people looking down at a mobile screen or up at a digital ad.
Imagine that scene multiplied over a day, and then weeks, finally over years. The attention-sapping qualities of these technologies have diminished our love for traditional old-fashioned family activities.
Letting the mind grow and expand through physical, and community experiences reduce stress factors that lead to disorders such as depression or social anxiety.
Family bonding is important in the development of future generations, I mean, everyone. Everyone has their family traditions that are celebrated long after the title has been passed to the next generation.
Now, these activities go beyond your typical tin cans and string, or even drawing a hopscotch board on the pavement. You can enjoy a variety of activities outside or in your living room with items around the house. Don’t have a big budget? The dollar store is a great place to stock up on imaginative items.
The old-fashioned library is massive and with so much variety, seeing kids and parents glued to electronics is disheartening. This article aims to bring you the best family activities that need to make it back into family traditions.
Table of Contents
Indoor Family Activities
Use the time spent inside with your family to not only bond, but to teach, cross-train, and hone survival skills and, as a bonus, have some old-fashioned family fun.
Include the children into adult self-reliance training as is maturity appropriate, and allow the little ones to watch from a point of safety to introduce new skills and concepts to them on a basic level.
1. Play a Board Game
Anyone who grew up with a family game night as a child or had a favorite always played with siblings, likely still cherishes those memories and the conversation they had while snacking and playing.
Part of the mental health boost of introducing your favorite board games to your own children or significant other is sharing the memories you made playing these classic games – and making new ones.
Your children will surely get a kick out of hearing how their mommy and Uncle Tim would fight over their favorite Monopoly game piece.
The board games in this section that are not classic games from our childhood may be destined to become favorites with your own children or teach you and the other adults in the family survival skills that will help prepare for getting through any type of disaster.
- Aggravation – This was my absolute favorite board game growing up. My brother and I fought over who got to be the blue marbles each and every Wednesday night. Children as young as five can play this game with a little bit of assistance. Aggravation is a game with simple rules, but offers hours of fun as players use strategy to get their marbles to home base before another player knocks them out of play.
- Yahtzee – A dice rolling game for the entire family to enjoy.
- Sorry – A classic tabletop board game involving pawns and easy to understand cards for ages 6 and up.
- Doom And Bloom – A survival board game written by prepping expects Dr. Bones (Joe Alton) and his wife Nurse Amy.
- Conflicted – Players must maneuver through a SHTF scenario making critical decisions based on the cards they draw in the Conflicted board game.
- Connect Four – This is an oldie but a goodie. Even preschool children can play against siblings or parents to get four discs in a row and win this fast-paced game.
- Monopoly – No board game list would be complete without including Monopoly. This competitive game can also serve as an educational learning experience about money particularly if you are homeschooling.
- Battleship – Either the classic version or the new version that includes airplanes is a fast paced game of skill for children 7 and up.
- Candyland – If you have little ones in the family, dig out or buy this colorful and fun interactive board game designed for independent play by little ones in mind.
- Twister – The kiddos and adults alike can have a blast while giggling as they work up a sweat playing the basic classic version of Twister or by garnering the version with a modern take on the game that includes musical aspects.
- Scrabble – Both the classic adult game and junior versions for kids can be used as a fun game night or rainy afternoon activity or as part of a language arts homeschooling lesson.
- LIFE – Both the original version and the junior version are fun to play by adults and children of nearly any age. Honing decision making ability is a great self-reliance life skill – and one that will keep the mind engaged during the long hours spent with your kids.
- Ticket to Ride – This board game is a top award winner and parent favorite. Both adults and children at least age 8, can compete against each other in Ticket to Ride to help build the best rail routes across North America – while learning more about the history of this great country.
- Clue – Both the adult and junior version of this game will thrill loved ones who enjoy a good “who done it” mystery. The critical thinking skills required to win a round of Clue also make it a good option for an afternoon of “gameschooling”.
- Simon – This is the only “batteries required” game on this board games list. Loved ones from preschool age to 105 can enjoy playing this fast-paced pattern game either alone or with a small group.
- It’s In The Bag – This is one of the newest board games on the list, and one of the most popular sellers on Amazon. It’s In The Bag is a fast-paced charades type game designed for small to large groups to enjoy in team play.
- Spontuneous – The Song Game – Both older children and adults can sing or shout out lyrics crafted on the spot when playing this no singing talent required hilarious and fast-paced game.
If you would like to spend some of the time learning more survival skills and mastering those you already know, check out this link to some stellar survival board games that are geared not only to adults and teens, but some help younger children learn to be more self-reliant, as well.
2. Cook as a Family
There is no better way to teach the children about food security, how to stretch what you have, and not to waste food than to prepare meals together during a disaster situation.
You can discuss the value of nutrients each food has, how it is grown, how it is preserved, etc. while working together to prepare the meal – and talk about how the food would be made in an off grid manner if necessary.
Check out our archive of delicious survival foods you can try using basic ingredients from your stockpile.
3. Container Garden
Starting or maintaining an indoor garden will increase your food security, save money, and teach the whole family the importance of not relying on a grocery store.
Even if you only have room for a few plants and windowsill plants like onions, carrots, lettuce, and herbs, you can all get your hands dirty together helping to put food on the table while interacting away from a television set or smartphone screen.
Start learning how to sew or teach the children to sew by mending clothes, making doll dresses, throw pillows and other simple projects from scrap fabric or old clothing – or materials ordered online and shipped to your home.
5. Food Preservation
Gather the family around the dehydrator and make some tasty snacks together like fruit leather and beef jerky – perfect to munch on during game night.
Depending upon the time of the year, working on canning or fermenting the garden yield as a family indoors or out is another great skill building option that completes a needed task while garnering quality time face-to-face instead of everyone isolating themselves behind a screen in separate rooms.
6. Make Ice Cream
Even if you do not own an ice cream maker, the children can help make dessert using just a plastic Ziploc bag, and a plastic storage container.
Ice cream in a bag recipes are simple, require only a few ingredients, and do not take longer than 20 minutes from start to yummy finish.
7. Create Music
Long before television and the internet dominated the evenings of American families, folks would gather around to play music and have a sing-along.
If you do not have an amateur musician in the family, makeshift some musical instruments using coffee cans, pots and pants, wooden spoons, etc. and make your own beat to sing favorite songs to as a family – or simulated date night activity.
Dig out some marbles or buy an inexpensive bag, and teach the children how to play marbles or make a simple marble run out of common household objects, Lego building blocks, or even fancier ones:
9. Read Aloud
Read not just storybooks to the children, but start a chapter book the whole family can enjoy. The children can make artwork, dioramas, or even create costumes out of scrap materials to act out their favorite scenes after the story time is over.
The whole family can go on a grand adventure without even leaving the house by delving into the food and music that were a part of the story, time frame, or culture that it represented.
10. Balloon Fun
A rousing game of keep away, paddle ball using balloons and paddles made out of paper plates, balloon rockets made using straws, tape, and string, or the making of balloon animals can help joyously fill the many hours spent with the family.
11. No Board Needed Games
Play truth or dare, characades, or similar games that do not require any board, batteries, or set up but encourage moving about and engaging with one another.
Place a large puzzle on a table that the family can work on together over a series of days. Even young children can help sort pieces by color or size, or work independently at the same table on an easier puzzle.
A 3D puzzle is incredibly challenging, but the end result is usually worth all the effort the family put in getting it together.
13. Craft Time
Even if you don’t have a big craft material stash, there are many fun things you and the children can make out of seemingly trash objects:
- soup cans can be painted and adorned to become seed container or crayon holders,
- rubber bands can be turned into a mega bouncing ball,
- rocks can be painted to make a fairy garden wall,
- plastic cups can be turned into small ball catchers for an indoor game of catch,
- string can be wrapped around nails pounded into a scrap piece of board to make 3D art.
All of these upcycling activities help teach children – or creative adults, who make use of seemingly worthless material which is a vital part of survival homesteading.
Play darts or attach Velcro to ping pong balls and toss them at a board covered in felt or an old flannel shirt to create your own safe indoor dart game.
15. Nerf Battle
Make some Nerf gun targets out of pillows, paper plates, etc., and launch a whole family indoor battle.
Use couches as bunkers, make the bathtub base, just get everyone up and moving and laughing to help ward off the doldrums.
16. Make Jewelry
Make some beads out of clay, rolled paper, scrap wire, or other readily accessible materials and string them onto jewelry wire, fishing line, or string to create jewelry or decorations for the house.
17. Cardboard Box Creations
Turn cardboard boxes into something outstanding.
Make them into a jungle cave, a dollhouse, superhero house, boat, etc. for the children to use and the adults to help create or simply watch them play as they create their own imaginative fantasies.
18. Play Cards
There are hundreds of card games you can play with either a regular deck of cards or by purchasing a specialized deck like Uno, Skip Bo, or for adults only, Cards Against Humanity.
Outdoor Family Activities
But, as long as you do have some outdoor freedom of movement and it is safe to do so, take advantage of it every chance you get.
Breathing the fresh air and feeling the sunshine on your face can help improve the emotional and mental state of the family after spending a lot of time cooped up indoors together.
19. Rooftop Visit
If you have no other outdoor space available to you, work around the rooftop, do some jumping jacks, or just take a blanket and read a book and chill out for a half an hour or so to help rejuvenate your body and mind.
Set up a badminton net in the small backyard to get in some fun exercise with the family as a break from spending so much time indoors for days to weeks at a time.
Play handball against the side of your building to work out frustrations, and to get some quick exercise without leaving your apartment area.
Sitting at home offers the opportunity for ample hands-on learning with the children, such as teaching them how to drive or fix the tractor, butcher a steer, or build a shed.
23. Run Through Sprinklers
This classic activity is great for hotter days when you need to beat the heat. Having a sprinkler with different settings increases the fun factor significantly. Take it a stop further and get one of those mats that are slippery when wet and go sliding through the sprinkler.
24. Paint or Draw
If you or a loved one is artistic, take a canvas or paper outside and sketch or paint any green space you can see from your home that can adorn the walls back inside to give you a happy view when spending long hours back indoors again.
Plant something, either in buckets, containers or in the ground that can be grown to either feed the family, healing herbs, or merely something pretty to enjoy out the window of the home.
Suburban Outdoor Activities
If you live on the outskirts of a city or even in a small town, you will have more green space to enjoy than folks who live in a city.
As long as enjoying your own front or backyard is legally allowed and most importantly safe, get out there as often as you can to help boost your spirits and those of the loved ones around you.
The items on this list should be considered additions to the possible outdoor activities outlined in the urban outdoors section above.
26. Go on a Picnic
Prepare an entire meal outdoors with the family helping and enjoy eating it at the picnic table or under a tree.
Does mom or your grandparents have a family secret recipe they want to make for this occasion? It’s a great way to connect family and cement good values. If you have young children then plan the picnic around your favorite playground.
27. Play Volleyball or Kickball
Set up a volleyball net and get a game going – or start an ongoing family tournament since you have the extra space needed for this type of sporting activity.
28. Fix or Improve Something
When you have ample non-work time on your hands all of the items on your “to do” list can start getting taken care of, such as painting the dog box, cleaning out the gutters, or organizing the garage.
Fixing something introduces the idea of using the hammer and nail to build something with your own hands. You can learn to fix bikes online through YouTube but to actually do it makes sure the learning sticks.
The sense of accomplishment combined with the physical nature of doing chores can help boost mood, and also help you sleep better at night because you will be tired and hopefully, less stressed.
29. Watch a Movie Outdoors
Use a portable projector that can attach to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to make your own version of a “drive in” movie the family can enjoy under the stars from the comfort of your own backyard.
30. Pitch a Tent
Create a little escape for the children to play in while using their imagination to turn the tent into a boat, island, etc. – or use it as a little much needed privacy to get away for a few hours for mommy and daddy.
If you want to explore the outdoors then book some time at a local campground. Feeling adventurous? Make a road trip out of it. There is nothing like a campfire for some good old-fashioned summer fun.
Rural Outdoors Activities
During recent SHTF events that’ve affected urban areas our daily lives were really not disrupted. My husband and I both work from home, and we live on 56 acres.
We are blessed, like most rural folks, to not be stricken with the same cabin fever that urban and suburban preppers faced.
We could safely be outdoors and enjoy the scenery and do as we wished anytime we wanted. Depending on the weather we would come up with variations of popular activities.
In addition to all of the urban and suburban outdoor activities you can engage in, working the land and letting the kids run and play until they are absolutely exhausted is always a daily option.
But, if being at home on a few acres to 100 acres starts to make you or the children feel confined to the homestead, here are a few old-fashioned fun ideas you can do in rural areas to make being huddled on the homestead, or farm together feel like a grand adventure.
Take the family on a sunset cruise around the farm on the hay wagon – complete with treats and maybe even a little bit of music.
32. Swimming Or Ice Skating
Go swimming as a family in the pond or creek – or ice skating and ice fishing during winter months.
Have an afternoon or even breakfast picnic in a family favorite spot – take a book or musical instruments along to make the weekend even more fun.
It’s a great way to show your family some grilling skills or a fancy trick with marshmallows. The entire idea is to engage everyone with meaningful activities.
Pencil in a family ride, be it on horseback or ATVs around the land – perhaps as part of the picnic or to liven up a fence line checking chore.
35. Pass On Traditions
Share with the children how to make grandma’s homemade apple dumplings, great grandpa’s over an open flame baked beans, or sit on the porch sipping a cool or hot drink while going through old photo albums to share the history of the family and land itself.
As you can probably tell, the sky’s the limit when it comes to using old-fashioned activities to bring the family together. It can be easy to lose track of those familial connections as we constantly revolve around a world of electronics and instant gratification.
The interesting thing is that once you start one of these activities you’ll find time flying by as long-lasting memories are made with your loved ones.
For some, it returns them to a simpler time when you didn’t have meetings or online chat rooms, but instead hung out with the rest of the neighborhood families. It’s all about making those genuine connections though meaningful old-fashioned activities.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.