Health & Science

30-day Family Self-Care Challenge

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Practicing self-care as a parent is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your brood. But doing it as a family can have even more benefits—link bringing you together in new and unique ways, solidifying your bonds and helping you build deeper, more meaningful connections with each other. 

Challenge your family to a 30-day commitment to nurturing your physical and mental health, whereby you do one family self-care activity every day for the next month. Chances are you’ll want to keep going long after the 30 days are over. These 30 family self-care activities can get you started:

1. Snuggle up for family story time. 

This can go one of two ways: You read short books or stories aloud to each other (great if you have little ones who can’t yet read on their own), or everybody chooses something to read for a set amount of time, gets cozy around the living room, and settles in for a book sesh. Is reading together at night already part of your routine? Here are some great ways to make bedtime reading extra special.

2. Go for a gratitude walk. 

Turn an everyday walk to the park or around the block into a gratitude session, where everyone takes turns saying something they’re thankful for. Bonus points if it’s connected to something they see on the walk! Creating a list together of things you’re thankful for is a great way to bask in that feeling as a unit, while also teaching children that there’s always time to be grateful.

3. Cook a meal together. 

Cooking is a great family activity because even little ones can play a part in the kitchen by measuring, scooping, and fetching items from the pantry. Try choosing a crowd-pleaser meal that allows for creativity, like pizza. If you make cooking together a regular thing, take turns choosing a menu or individual course, so every family member gets a say. The creative process, bonding, and caring for each others’ needs is a great mental health boost.

4. Create a family playlist with everyone’s favorite songs. 

Music can have a huge impact on mood and stress levels. Whether you listen to it in the car, during dinner, or while the kids are doing homework, everyone will be reminded of each other whenever their favorite song plays.

5. Declutter.

It’s easier to clear and calm our minds and bodies when our environment is free of clutter and chaos (well, as much as possible with kids in the house)! Messes contribute to tension, anxiety, lack of focus, and irritability. Improve your mood and give your family a sense of control by doing a bit of decluttering—work together in a main room of the house, or each of you can tackle a different space. Commit to recycling or donating at least 5 items each, and organizing or cleaning up 5 more items. It won’t take long, and has a surprisingly big impact.

6. Plan a family picnic. 

Get the kids involved with choosing and making the menu, gathering blankets and chairs, and deciding where to dine. You could even have them make outdoor-friendly decorations, like paper lanterns you can hang from a tree at the park. 

7. Have family movie nights. 

This seems simple enough, but what you watch together is as important to your family’s self-care as if you watch together. Choose feel-good films with endings that will leave your fam with plenty to talk about. Those with families at the core are ideal—and they don’t all have to be animated. The Greatest Showman, for example, is as perfect a fit as Toy Story and likely to appeal to all ages.

8. Take a nap together. 

Sometimes just lying together in the stillness and quiet can be enough to help you slow down and recharge as a unit. Make it extra fun with cozy blankets and sleeping bags in the living room, or pile up in one bed if there’s room for everyone.

9. Journal as a family. 

Pick a favorite spot in the house or outdoors and gather for a short journaling session where everyone can jot down or draw their thoughts. Here are a few all-ages family-friendly writing prompts from Journal Buddies to get you started:

  • What’s your favorite family memory?
  • What’s the hardest part of growing up?
  • What does it mean to be part of a family?

10. Sing your hearts out. 

You don’t need an actual karaoke machine to recreate the fun of singing along in your living room. Team up for duets or host mock competitions that mimic those on television—there are so many ways to make a family singalong your own. The act of singing can also help relieve stress and depending on how good (or not-so-good) everyone’s voices are, it may prompt a major case of the giggles, too.

11. Make a family vision board. 

Using pictures, drawings, and inspirational words or phrases cut from catalogs and magazines, vision boards bring a family’s unified goals to life. Grab a piece of poster board and work on one together that represents your family’s plans and aspirations for the coming year. Hang it somewhere where everyone can see it, as a great reminder of what your family can accomplish when you pull together.

12. Have a family game night. 

Board games, puzzles, and simple games like charades are all great for family members of all ages. Plus, a little healthy competition never hurts anyone, so consider switching up teams and having prizes for the winners. Even a simple trip to the ice cream shop or a chance to choose the next night’s dinner are worth playing for. 

Beef up the self-care benefits by playing games that focus on naming or acting out emotions. For example, your prompts for charades could be different feelings like brave, cranky, joyful, angry, and hopeful. Talking about feelings helps us all learn to process them better, which is a big part of self care.

13. Make mindfulness jars. 

Being mindful is all about surrendering to the stillness in the quiet moments, like watching a shaken snow globe settle back into calm. Making mindfulness jars is a fun family activity that leaves everyone with a great self-care tool to use in the future anytime they need it. Just fill a glass jar with liquid soap, water, and glitter or glitter glue, then shake it up (as if you were rattling your feelings). Take deep breaths as you watch the sparkles swirl until you can see through the jar again.

14. Have a photo scavenger hunt.

This is a super fun activity that sneaks in some mindfulness and creativity. Create a list of items that each person can snap a photo of—these can be indoors or outside, general or very specific. For example, some items on your list might include:

  • A book with the word ‘The’ in the title
  • A group of 3 things that are red
  • Something with numbers on it
  • Something that’s empty
  • Favorite toy
  • Something taller than you
  • Something that’s fuzzy
  • Liquid

This gets everyone observing and thinking about their surroundings in a new way! Split up, and take one photo of each thing on the list (if you have really young kids or children without cameras or devices, you can split up into teams). When everyone’s finished, come back together and show each other what you photographed for each prompt. It’s really interesting to compare how each person in the family interpreted the items on the list—one person’s take on “liquid” might be a cup of juice, while someone else might snap a pic of a rain puddle, or water coming out of the faucet. Great conversation starters!

15. Volunteer. 

Find a cause your family cares about and make it a regular part of your routine to volunteer together. Research shows that altruistic endeavors are not only good for the recipient, they’re good for the volunteer, too. Doing something meaningful for others as a family can help strengthen your bonds and shared values.

16. Start a family garden. 

Working outside with the earth is soothing enough, but watching something your family planted together grow and tending to it together can be just as rewarding, if not more so. Try an edible garden, so there’s a connection to nourishment and family meals, too. If you don’t have a private outdoor space, a container garden on your balcony or herbs grown in your windowsill offer the same benefits.

17. Host a neighborhood food or clothing drive for a local charity

This is another feel-good activity that is as good for the family doing the good as the beneficiary. Kids can have fun drawing flyers for neighbors and asking them to get involved by making donations. Make sure the whole family delivers the goods, so everyone shares in the moment of doing something good, together.

18. Plan a family break. 

Whether it’s your family’s dream trip or a short staycation in town when the kids are out of school, just planning a getaway from the regular routine is half the fun. This is a great way to bring everyone together as a unit to plan an adventure that everyone will love. The more everyone engages in planning it, the more they’ll appreciate spending the time together when the big moment finally arrives.

19. Play backyard games like tag, kickball, and wheelbarrow races. 

Getting outside (whether it’s in your own yard or a neighborhood park) and moving your bodies are great self-care activities on their own, but adding in the team dynamics brings the family unit together to enjoy it collectively. 

20. Give each other alone time, together. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best self-care you can share is the silent usage of space without disruption. Take 30 minutes or an hour and turn off any loud electronics, such as a TV (earbuds are OK if watching or listening to something is someone’s definition of self-care). Make a pact to stay out of each other’s way for the time allowed and give yourselves the freedom to enjoy your individual self-care routines (taking a bath, drawing, or reading, for example) while under the same roof.

21. Write each other letters. 

Who says you have to live far apart to be pen pals? Sometimes it’s easier to “talk” to a loved one when you’re doing so via the written word. This potentially cathartic process also shows children that there are myriad ways to communicate and connect with others. If you have children who are still learning to write, drawing and painting their feelings does the trick, too.

22. Practice belly breaths. 

The simple act of mindful breathing can be a huge boost for your mental health. Practicing “belly breaths” together when you’re calm makes it easier to use this strategy in times of stress, or when we’re feeling angry or overwhelmed. Here’s how to do it: Place your hand on your belly as you inhale through your nose for a count of two; notice your belly going out. Then feel as it goes back in, as you exhale through your mouth for a count of two. Repeat! Sesame Street in Communities has a fun interactive tool for teaching this technique to young kids.

23. Draw self-portraits. 

Creative expression is a proven outlet to promote self-care, and focusing on a self-portrait can help everyone get in touch with how they’re feeling—in general, and about themselves—in a new way. It can also give you some new insight into your child’s wellbeing. Is their portrait looking sad? Did they draw themselves in a scary environment? Did they illustrate friends they’re talking to? Use the drawings to open up conversations.

24. Take an ice-cream break. 

You’ve heard the saying…we all scream for ice cream! It’s a beloved treat that can get just about everyone excited, even grandparents. If going out is too much, try making a sundae buffet at home with everyone’s favorite flavors, syrup, sprinkles, and other toppings.

25. Thank you notes. 

Nothing makes the soul feel lighter and brighter than a simple gratitude check, because no matter what’s going on in your family’s life at any given moment, there’s always something to be thankful for. Name the things you’re each grateful for, then write thank you notes to reflect that feeling. These messages might be to a person who has touched your life (be sure to send those notes via mail or email to brighten that person’s day!) but could also be a note of thanks to a treasured object that brings your child joy, an event that you’re grateful for, or anything else that inspires that feeling.

26. Hug it out. 

A simple hug is an easy way to show support for each other. More intimate than a pat on the back, research shows it can also relieve stress. Take five minutes to “hug it out” as a family and enjoy one of the sweetest forms of self-care there is!

27. Take a bike ride. 

You’ll see a lot more than you will on a walk, making it perfect for a morning or afternoon of exploration. Science shows that time spent in nature really does improve mental health, and so does exercise, so this is self care times two!

28. Set morning intentions together. 

A lot like setting goals, setting intentions is even simpler and more specific. Ask each other what kind of day you’re going to have and take in each other’s responses. It helps to also share one thing you’re going to do, say, or avoid to ensure you have the kind of day you intended. Younger kids can draw their answers instead of writing them down, or everyone can just share their intentions out loud. 

29. Give each other compliments. 

If loving yourself is in itself a form of self-care, it’s easy to deepen that love when others remind us why they love or admire us. This is a great exercise for modeling how to give and receive compliments, while nudging children who are naturally self-centered (which, incidentally, is age-appropriate from infancy all the way through adolescence) to consider the qualities they like most in others.

30. Try simple acts of kindness. 

Research shows that performing acts of kindness improves a child’s overall well-being and promotes good vibes among their peers. It also helps them build trust and more meaningful connections, boosts everyone’s mood and can even improve your health. We have 50 random acts of kindness to inspire you—read it with your family and decide which one you can do today!

If you enjoyed this, check out our other 30-Day Challenges for families!

And don’t forget to get your free printables for each of these fun and connection-building challenges!

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.