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How Your Family Can Celebrate Black History Month All Year Round

Get ready to learn from and interact with people of many different cultures.

February 28th will come and go. Another Black History month completed. Your kids did a neat Black History project at school. You learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, slavery, and Frederick Douglass. Now it’s back to normal. But you don’t want it to be. You want Black History month to positively impact how you see your country and see people of different races and ethnicities. You want to figure out how February can be a starting point for celebrating the unique contributions of diverse Americans and not just a time that’s limited to February.

As families, we have less control over what schools teach, society markets, or our government regulates. However, as a family, you can use the month of February to start conversations, enrich your experiences, and learn about different cultures. Hopefully, you’ll ignite a curiosity that can only be filled by continuing to engage in practices that celebrate African Americans’ contributions and the many rich heritages that make up America.

Here are some ways your family can celebrate Black History month all year round. None of this takes much work. It merely takes being intentional. Pretty soon, your kids will look forward to learning from and interacting with people of many different cultures.

Experiences

Often, the best way to learn about a culture and history is to immerse yourself in that culture. 

Each month, visit a black-owned or uniquely black-operated establishment: restaurants, clothing stores, entertainment spots, places of worship, barbershop, boutique, etc. 

You may get a few looks. 

It’s ok. They are only trying to understand why you’re there. 

Choose a day of the month to listen to music from predominantly black artists: jazz, blues, black gospel, hip hop, R&B, etc. (Think Motown Monday or Friday night Jazz.)

Experience the difference. Discuss what’s different from what you’re used to. What made you comfortable or uncomfortable? What’s good about it? What’s similar to what you’re used to?

Education

Visit museums, watch documentaries and movies, and read books.

As a family, choose a few months out of the year (for instance, once a quarter) to learn something new. You may watch a documentary or visit a museum. Read or listen to audiobooks. Libraries are full of children’s books that highlight various achievements and contributions of African Americans. 

You may follow a theme throughout the year—for instance, music. You might visit the National Museum of African American Music, watch documentaries on the Harlem Renaissance, or play jazz throughout your home on Pandora or Spotify. 

Another example—sports. You might learn about the Negro Baseball League, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, etc. 

*Terms to Google: Harlem Renaissance, The Great Migration, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Miles Davis, Tuskegee Airmen* 

Discuss how what you’ve learned has influenced this country. How have the contributions made America a stronger or better nation? What have you learned that was not so positive?

Relationships

Develop authentic relationships with African Americans where you learn about their experiences. Of course, no one person or family represents the entire African American population. You’re learning about the individual and how their experience as an African American has impacted their life. Their experience as an African American will be different than another African American. Eat with them. Spend time together. Go to places of entertainment with them. Initiate conversations to better understand their story. Be willing to be uncomfortable to better understand.

Check your motives in the process. Do it for the right reasons, not just to check off the box to say you’ve done it, but out of a genuine desire to better understand differences. Diversity brings richness to a community that can’t be gained any other way. We have diverse relationships because we all benefit from them.

Curiosity often begets more curiosity. It’s easy to turn the calendar and return to being with those we’ve always been with. Talking to the ones we’ve always talked to. And listening to what we’ve always listened to. 

But we can all be better. We become better through continual exposure, knowledge, and understanding. Let February launch us all to be better.

It’s been a different kind of year, to say the least. You’ve changed, adapted, adjusted, and dealt with disappointments, uncertainties and the unexpected. But you made it. And as a family, you made it together. Here are 20 fun ways to end 2020 on a high note with your family.

These ways will help you connect with your family and remember what’s most important.

  1. Give to essential workers—thank you notes, gift cards, prepackaged treats, coffee, etc.
  2. Build and play a music playlist with songs each family member has listened to most in 2020.
  3. Family Karaoke with songs from 2020.
  4. Practice your 20-20 vision by naming what you’re most thankful for in 2020.
  5. Learn a new game the family can play together in 2021. Teach it to others and create a new tradition. 
  6. See how many family and friends you can get on to one video call. Have a simple encouraging message that your family can share with everyone who gets on the video.
  7. Get hot cocoa and go on a holiday lights tour in your car.
  8. Write letters to family members. Include family updates, pictures, highlights of the year.
  9. Read a book together as a family.
  10. Create and write a family story together.
  11. Build a fort and camp out in the living room. Each family member chooses a TV show or movie, and the family watches it together.
  12. Make s’mores in the kitchen using a microwave, stove, or oven and share funny memories from 2020. (No burns! Be careful!)
  13. Cook a favorite family meal. All hands on deck to prepare the meal.
  14. Look online and create a special family meal together: buy the ingredients, make plans, cook it together and of course, eat together.
  15. List what you’ve learned about yourself or your family from A-Z. A: We’re Appreciative of each other. B: We’re Bad at Board Games. C: Cook good meals, etc.
  16. Have a family awards ceremony. For example: Best Attitude, Loudest Snorer, Longest Shower, Most Adaptable, Best Hand-Washer, Best Sharer, Most Improved Attitude, Most Improved Cook, Best Helper, and come up with your own categories!
  17. Cardboard Race Cars—build a race car out of cardboard and race around your home.
  18. Build a maze or tunnels through your home out of cardboard. 
  19. Use cardboard to build forts and have a family fun time: paper battles, Nerf gun battles, pillow battles, blow-dart battles using straws and Q-tips, etc.
  20. Create your own New Year’s Eve Party. Make your own ball drop, streamers, and countdown clock. With younger children, you don’t have to wait until midnight to watch the ball drop.

Bonus:

Make a large sign wishing neighbors a Happy New Year. You can drive through your neighborhood honking your horn so neighbors will look out and see the sign. Post on family social media accounts. Include an encouraging message to lift their spirits.

The circumstances aren’t what we remember most as a family most. It’s how we deal with the circumstances that color how we remember events. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t have or get to do during this challenging year, help your family recognize how you grew and are better for it.

Nothing like the hint of fall in the air to lift your spirits. I mean what could be better for your soul than sipping a pumpkin spice latte in front of a fire pit on a crisp evening? 

What? You don’t like pumpkin spice anything? No problem. There are plenty of other activities you can do with your family to create fun during this fall season. 

Here are 25 suggestions to get the pumpkin (I mean ball) rolling on your fall activities:

  1. Gather pine cones, slather creamy peanut butter on them, roll them in birdseed and hang them outside your window so you can watch the birds. OR give them to older folks in your neighborhood who can’t get out, but would enjoy seeing the birds.
  2. Once the leaves have fallen off the trees, gather the entire family to rake leaves into a huge pile. See how high and wide you can make the pile and then jump in it. An alternative could be that a couple of you make the pile and then hide in it until other family members walk past it. Then you jump out of it. That should make for a great game of chase. 😁
  3. If you’ve got littles, take them outside to gather different color leaves and then press them between two sheets of wax paper or put them underneath paper and let them rub crayon over the leaf to make an etching.
  4. Learn about vegetables that grow well in the fall and plant a fall garden. Let your kids educate you about how to do the planting, how many plants you need, how to care for the garden, and when things are ready to be picked.
  5. Take advantage of the clear nights to throw a blanket on the ground and do some stargazing. You can go old school and use a book or high-tech and use an app to find all the constellations. If you prefer to do something during the day, look at the cloud formations and play I Spy for formations that look like a horse, Barney, a tree, or leaves… you get the picture.
  6. Pack a picnic and head out for a hike to look at the fall colors and picnic at an overlook.
  7. Make a list of all your family’s favorite fall foods like pumpkin spice cookies, caramel apples, popcorn balls, pumpkin bread, apple pie, and apple spice cake. Let the baking be a family affair. Keep some and give some away.
  8. Find an older person who needs help with their yard. Take a day and work together as a family to spruce things up.
  9. Make leaf shapes from paper and have everybody write down things they are thankful for. Put them in a bowl, then open them up and read them at Thanksgiving dinner.
  10. Go old school and teach your kids games you used to play when you were their age—Kick the Can, Freeze Tag, Four Square, Jax, Marbles, Hop Scotch, Duck Duck Goose, Monkey in the Middle, Jump Rope or Double Dutch, Spud, Horse, Red Light Green Light, Freeze Dance, and Wiffle Ball ought to give you enough to keep them engaged for a while.
  11. Go for a walk and gather all kinds of things that are signs of fall like acorns, leaves, sticks, pine cones, seedpods, and nuts. Then make a fall wreath out of what you found.
  12. Create a fall yard display complete with a scarecrow.
  13. Have a contest to see who can come the closest to replicating their favorite fall drink.
  14. Build a fire in the fire pit and roast marshmallows and/or make S’mores.
  15. Since it gets dark earlier, go on a flashlight hike and see what kinds of things you can spot. You never know when you might encounter a raccoon, opossum, or skunk. (Pepé Le Pew!)
  16. For your little ones, trace their hand on a colorful sheet of construction paper and help them make a turkey out of their hand.
  17. Have a watercolor painting night for the family with a fall theme.
  18. Learn how to make bread. There is something about the smell of bread baking when you walk through the door that wakes up those taste buds. The best part though is eating it warm out of the oven. Pure happiness.  
  19. Have an ongoing board game competition with your family during the fall months. Maybe the overall winner gets their favorite meal made and served by everybody else.
  20. Decorate your bikes and go for a bike ride through the neighborhood.
  21. Choose some of the old-fashioned relays like the wheelbarrow race, three-legged race, egg/water balloon toss, egg and spoon relay, and crab race. Gather some of your extended family or framily (friends who are like family) and head to a large field where you have room to spread out and let the games begin.
  22. Visit an apple orchard and sample all the goodies. Take the apples you purchased and bob for apples with your feet.
  23. Create an outdoor obstacle course for the entire family to complete. Think Slip ‘n Slide meets mudder run and you’ve got some serious fun in the making.
  24. Make homemade hot chocolate complete with marshmallows and whipped cream and see who can make the best mustache while drinking it.
  25. Pitch a tent in the backyard. Hang a sheet from a tree and watch a movie OR learn how to make shadow figures.

All of these are pretty simple and fun things you can do with your family.

The best part though is that in the midst of creating all of this fun you are also teaching your children, listening to them, letting them lead, laughing together, modeling how to be a good loser and a humble winner, how to share, what to do when you disagree and how to be a good team player—just to name a few.

It’s been a year, to say the least. We all could use some fun right about now. So, work can wait. Put your phone down—except to take pictures of course and go all-in for some fall family fun and activities. You won’t regret it.

Ready or not—here comes the 4th of July! But what if this year you really connected with your family, not just got the grill out and some sparklers? Holidays are a great opportunity to connect, strengthen family bonds, build your family identity, maintain or start new traditions, and even learn some history in a fun way! Oh, and eat good food!

1. Eat Together. (And Let The Kids Plan And Cook The Meal!)

If you are anything like the average American family, it is getting rarer and rarer to eat together as a family. This a great opportunity! Whether you go the traditional burgers and hot dogs route or the kids pick some crazy stuff—make sure everyone eats together. (And that they put their phones away after they snap a couple of pics of the family and yummy food.) There is just something special about sharing a meal together that strengthens family bonds. Don’t let your teenager make a plate and disappear to watch television or play video games. This is family time!

2. Cultivate Conversations!

Just like the charcoal grill needs some time to warm up, conversations often need a little time to get cooking. While you are eating, have some conversation starters ready—What are you looking forward to this summer? Whats your favorite family memory & why? What 4th of July stands out in your memory? Is there anything that we (parents) DON’T let you (kids) do that you wish you had the FREEDOM to do? ★ Retell “those” stories that tend to come up when everyone is together and laugh at them. If you have multiple generations of your family represented or extended family, encourage them to tell stories from “back in their day” or how their families celebrated holidays. Don’t rush off—let the conversations ebb and flow.

3. Have Fun!

Card games, board games, get the Heads Up app on someone’s phone. (It’s a blast for the whole family!) Depending on how old the kids are and the weather, don’t be afraid to get wet. Get that sprinkler out, the kiddie pool, water balloons, squirt guns, or just start spraying kids with the hose! (They’ll scream and run away—and then run back for more.) The internet is full of Fourth of July craft ideas. For a twist, let the kids pick the crafts and games or even let them make up a game that everyone plays. Go for a walk after dinner around the neighborhood or ride some bikes. Stop and say “Hi” to your neighbors.

4. Learn A Little History Together!

Reenactments, movies, and virtual tours are great fun ways to learn a little about what Independence Day actually means (or just some American history in general). These can be fun for everyone, plus they can add a little depth to your Fourth of July. (Don’t make it like school—school’s out!) For reenactments, you don’t need elaborate costumes or props. They’ll be more fun (and funny) with what’s laying around the house. The midnight ride of Paul Revere, Washington crossing the Delaware, battling the British, cracking the Liberty Bell, the family forming the Statue of Liberty. Whatever!

Check your television or streaming service for specials, documentaries, biopics, or age-appropriate war movies to learn about the lives and sacrifices that built America. Gather the family around for some edutainment!

Virtual Tours are awesome! Maybe try the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Museum of Flight, National Women’s History Museum, NASA, The American Battlefield Trust Virtual Battlefield Tours, or any number of others. What better time to learn about the country than on the Fourth! Can’t decide? Try one of these 15 virtual tours of American landmarks. (If possible, connect it to your television!) Lots of virtual tours have games built into them like scavenger hunts.

Be intentional about this (and all holidays).

Sometimes we get so busy with food, crafts, and decorations that we forget about family. (Your kids won’t remember the perfectly matched plates, napkins, and cups. They will remember the family fun and conversation!) ★ If you are one of the many people who feel conflicted celebrating this Fourth of July given our current events, remember, this country affords us the freedom to talk with our families about the ideals upon which this country was founded—”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”—and what we have seen happening across our country. It’s a great conversation with our children to learn the responsibility that all of us carry to live out those ideals. Seize this moment with your family! This is the perfect day to examine our country and ourselves. 

This Fourth of July doesn’t have to just be an excuse to get the grill out—it can be a meaningful and profound way to connect as a family!

Image from Pexels.com

Despite our lives feeling like they’re at a standstill in quarantine, the hand on the clock is steadfast with its ticking! So, I continued my tradition of decorating for the new season. (Plus a change in scenery, even if it’s just on our walls, lifted my morale.) I stuck in the last thumbtack and stood a few feet from the wall to see my spring banner is almost centered if you squint your eyes just enough. Each season has its own set of decorations and its list of family traditions to complement them in my family. 

It’s not that I didn’t want to be creative or find new ways to do weekly rituals or enjoy special occasions, it’s just that I was getting comfortable in quarantine and didn’t feel the need to. The sentimental value of doing traditions the same way before COVID-19 has outweighed the notion of getting creative and starting new ones since this quarantine happened. So, it can be easy to default to a place where there are NO traditions anymore.

While waiting and hoping for the dust to settle, we have gone out of our way to keep the peace in a constantly full house. We stir up laughter to distract from the stress. We try to be intentional about keeping in touch with friends and family we’ve been separated from.

Things that initially felt like coping mechanisms transitioned into traditions. 

Maybe without even meaning to, you’ve started new traditions with your family during the quarantine. 

Without warning, and surprisingly with a natural stride, we have stepped into a season of firsts and starting new traditions. We have all adapted out of necessity and some good is coming from it.

Traditions aren’t limited to the holidays. They can be a continuation of the intentional time you’ve spent with your family. There are daily, weekly and monthly activities you can continue (or start) after you answer the questions below. 

The questions are meant to help you reflect on your time in quarantine and make purposeful decisions on what you want your time to look like after.

  • What have you learned about your family during this time? 
  • What has inspired them to change out of pajamas into dressier clothes?
  • Have you noticed times where your kids have held on to you a little longer? 
  • Has your spouse passionately kissed you? Was it after a long-overdue conversation you finally had time to have? 
  • When have you felt loved? 
  • What have you and your family enjoyed filling your time with? Game night, pizza on Wednesdays, stories before bed, or movie marathons?
  • When have you seen your kids’ faces light up? Did they try something new or did you teach them a new skill? Did they help make dinner one night of the week?
  • When have you and your family wanted to do something again? 

If you want a few more ideas for some family traditions, here you go! 

  • Have a designated day each week for game night.
  • Make a secret handshake with each of your kids.
  • If you don’t eat together as a family every night, choose a night to do this. If you already do, choose a night where someone else helps cook.
  • Start a thankfulness journal and each week share with each other what you are grateful for and read it at the end of the year.
  • Have a family dance party on the weekends.
  • Start a monthly talent show or show and tell. If you have older kids, have them present something they’re interested in or a place they want to travel to and why.
  • Evening walks.
  • Movie night.
  • Special breakfast on Saturdays.
  • Full moon adventure! Every 29 days there’s a full moon. Going to a spot where you can see it well makes for a fun mini-adventure.

This has been a difficult time. Maybe you’ve found new ways to do old things, caught up on some lost time, or learned something new about your family. Despite the uncertainty and challenges COVID-19 brought into your lives, you made the most of it. (It’s never too late to start, either!) 

I hope the new traditions that have come from quarantine continue on for much longer.

Image from Unsplash.com