The Power of a Family Project: 6 Ideas for Togetherness


family walking in field holding hands. Des Moines MomMemorial Day weekend hit and my husband was in major organization mode.


“Let’s organize all the Legos!” he said. “It’ll be so much fun!” he said.

I sighed, rolled my eyes, and made a desperate plea to do something else. Anything else.

Once he got his mini-me 9-year-old to buy in, I knew I was outnumbered. We broke out the massive tubs of mixed-set Legos from storage and launched what I was sure would be an endless waste of time.

I was wrong. Again.

Suddenly, all three kids were interested. The 3-year-old joined in when he realized we had an old Lightning McQueen set he hadn’t yet seen. The 6-year-old’s eyes twinkled when we found the Frozen Lego set we’d prematurely given her at age 4. 

Even the cat plopped herself down contentedly in the middle of the color-coded piles of bricks and purred happily.

I looked up two hours later and realized all of my family members were intently focused on an individual project and there was not a screen in sight.

And we were in the same room.

And it was quiet.

We made it three days before the project collapsed but huge progress was made. Many sets were completed. We had quality family time that crescendoed when we all reached that loopy, we’ve-been-at-this-for-five-hours-and-everything-is-hilarious phase.

It was memorable and it surprised me. I was reminded of the power of a shared purpose in any group, even one with kids. 

Family Project Ideas

If you’ve hit that point in summer where the freedom from school feels stale, the weather isn’t cooperating, and all the summer go-tos are has-beens, consider starting your own family project. Here are some (mostly) free ideas to get you started.

  1. Organizing. Maybe you’re not into Legos, but surely there’s some collectible toy that has invaded every inch of your living space. Maybe it’s time to switch up the kids’ rooms. If they already have their own spaces, maybe they want to move in together and create a new space. If they’re rooming together, and you have the space, maybe it’s time to create new rooms. Consider a reorganization. What corner of your living situation drives you nuts? How can it be improved?
  2. Experiential. If you need to get out of the house, consider investing in volunteer opportunities as a family. Check out some local ideas here. How about completing a Des Moines bucket list or visiting as many local festivals as you can? Maybe your family is really good at taste-testing and should compare and rank every available donut option in town. No endeavor is too big or too small when you tackle it together.
  3. Viewing. If a family activity seems too exhausting at the end of a busy week of work and camps, and you just need a way to sit in the room together, consider wading through a film library. Our daughter is currently working her way through the Disney princess film vault and it’s offered some fascinating conversations, especially with the older films. You could also try to hit up as many movies in the park as you can. If you can’t agree on a movie, jigsaw puzzles can also be surprisingly effective at accomplishing the same goal.
  4. Cooking. If you’ve got chefs (aspiring or otherwise) in the family, maybe a culinary project is the way to go. I’ve always wanted to work my way through a specific cookbook (I’ve watched way too much Julia Childs-inspired television lately) and we definitely have at least one child who would join me in this. For about 10 minutes. Maybe next year.
  5. Books. Reading has always been my first love and libraries my second home. Each of the area libraries offers its own reading program and not just for kids. OK, most of them are for kids but some libraries have year-long reading challenges for adults. There’s something satisfying about checklists, no matter how old you are. If you want your kids to read, show them the way. Create a reading nook, throw in some snacks and cozy lighting, and you’ve got a great space to be quiet together. 
  6. Training. Consider how your family could improve your mental or physical well-being. This could be as simple as taking a daily walk together or training for a road race. If you’re already physically active, think about working on your mindfulness. Study after study continues to prove a long list of health benefits from meditating regularly. Maybe now is the time to work on being quiet for 10 minutes a day. Or five. Or 30 seconds.  Kids are amazingly good at keeping you honest. Make it a challenge and they might become better at it than you. Here are some tips to get you started.

This is not an exhaustive list, and you’ve no doubt got a few ideas of your own in the back of your mind. Even if you don’t reach your ultimate goal, there’s something to be said for the journey of your family working together to answer a challenge. 

What’s your favorite family project?


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