Last summer when visiting with a best friend from college, my dear friend Becky mentioned her family’s bucket list. Now Becky’s oldest and my oldest are about a decade apart, so while hers are still in the preschool years, mine are in the teenage phase of life, and our daily activities are a world apart. But when she mentioned the bucket list, I got excited. Here is a tool that can both keep her little ones entertained and engaged, as well as keep my older crew connected to the family for just a little bit longer. It’s genius!
This bucket list is set up more like a bingo card, a 8×10 block grid, with most of the spaces filled with various events, activities, and challenges. We, like Becky’s family, have chosen to cover a season’s worth of time with each list, so thus far we have made a Fall (September-November), a Winter (December-February), and a Spring (March-May) list. At the end of one season and the beginning of the next we brainstorm ideas for the coming season’s list and the ideas follow quickly and easily.
Some of the spaces have holidays in them. There are well-known ones like Christmas and Valentines Day, and smaller, but still known ones like Ground Hog Day and MLK Day. We also like to add some practically unknown, but fun ones like National Popcorn Day and National Hot Cocoa Day. We find some way to recognize the holiday when it comes, eating a big bowl of popcorn together on National Popcorn Day or just talking about did the ground hog saw his shadow and whether or not we think he will be right this year.
In other spaces there are scheduled, but fun activities like the going to see Charley sing in the school chorus concert or supporting Riley at a soccer game. The best thing about these spaces is that they encourage us to support each other’s activities. Now that most of my kids can stay home alone, it is just as easy to leave the unenthusiastic ones behind, and mum and dad go off to watch the [insert activity here]. But with the bucket list encouraging us, sometimes we all head off to the soccer game (or swim meet or robotics competition or school play) together, and the kid in the activity feels the love and support of the whole family.
Finally we like to include general family fun in the bucket lists. These take the form of outings, like “go see show” or “ice skating”. There might be adventures, such as “family bike ride” or “family adventure race”. And then there are the challenges and projects, for example “Harry Potter movie marathon”, “chapter book by the fire”, and “prep vegetable garden”. Some items are traditions that will be added to the list year after year and others are unique, one-time experiences.
As we accomplish the various items on the list, we use a marker to high light each activity. Being a “list-maker type”, I find this alone satisfying, but the best part is actually the feeling of balance that the bucket list brings. Being a family of six, we are never lacking for things to do, be it a scheduled activity, a home improvement project, or some family fun, but the difficulty comes in when trying to prioritize and get the most out of life. Pre bucket list, a weekend would wrap and it would feel as thought we only worked and didn’t play, or we only vegged and didn’t do enough work. Now, as long as we are highlighting the items on our list, then we are content knowing that we are working and playing at what is important to us.