3 (Actually) Fun Family Activities (and Day 7 of 7+ Giveaways)

My parents always called it Fun Family Time Together, or, abbreviated, F2T2. And there was a LOT of F2Tduring my childhood years.

To be clear, anytime my mom pulled out the F2TPhrase in a voice pitched with forced enthusiasm, we knew we were about to enter FAMILY HELL.

Long trip on a rickety train with a questionable safety record through the Indonesian mountains, our mouths raging infernos from cripplingly spicy fried rice we didn’t know how to order “mild,” on our way to our new home where we weren’t at all sure we wanted to live? 

“But kids!” my mom would say, “It’s Fun Family Time Together!”

Wildly boring road trip through three states to spend a week sharing a bed with my grandmother who was the nicest grandma in the whole world, and who always let me have peach pie and ice cream for breakfast, and who held six World Records in Exceeding the Snore Sound Barrier?

“It’s F2T2, Bethie!” 

My parents even invented a hand signal for F2T2 – a sort of full-arm, stirring-the-soup-pot / let’s-bring-it-all-in-together motion. I invented a secret hand signal for F2T2, too; mine was more efficient, though, requiring just one finger and a flip of the wrist.

Well, here we are on Day One of Winter Break! Day One of 17 Days of Fun Family Time Together, relaxing and sleeping in and bonding and creating beautiful, indelible family memories, minus the relaxing and sleeping-in bits and a little heavier on the magical mess than the more traditional pristine beauty.

Our morning started with stunningly loud sibling screeching, is what I’m saying.

Winter Break is, of course, Not a Break. Except for teachers who feel they’ve done their part by being directly responsible for our kids for a mere 35 hours per week for the past 16 weeks, plus an additional 100 million hours of prep work, grading, conferences, I.E.P. meetings, late nights, early mornings, giving up their free time, etc., etc. and so forth. But is it enough that we heap teachers with unfathomable riches and piles of personal wealth? Nooooooo. We also give them time to be away from our kids. For a Break! As though they’ve earned it.

(Psst… my sarcasm is a cry for help… don’t leave me, teachers! I NEED you!)

And now, all of a sudden, I find I’m the mama in the Fun Family Time Together scenario. The mama making the angry kids hug it out. The mama set on brainwashing my offspring into believing, though my voice is tinged ever-so-slightly with hysteria, that this insanity of togetherness is AWESOME. The mama who – get this – actually believes it’s fun to be together. And that this is a privilege. And that the exhaustion is somehow worth it. And the mess is a symbol of life. And the struggle a symbol of love.

Which is, truly, entirely my parents’ fault and proof that F2TBrainwashing works. 

It works!

I know it works because it was only three weekends ago that we celebrated Thanksgiving with my cousins. Five nights and four days of Family BLISS. Or, as I like to call it, the Dress Rehearsal for, OH MY WORD, WINTER BREAK IS COMING.

Every Thanksgiving since we’ve had kids, we celebrate at either my cousin Jen’s house or mine, driving north or south for hours and hours through the Pacific Northwest with tens of thousands of squirrely kids in our respective cars — none of whom ever have to pee at the same time. And then we have fun.

Actual fun.

Real live fun.

With our family.

Which means we ought to never underestimate the power of mothers like mine who are determined to create families who love each other. Those mamas have mad skills. 

So, from my family to yours, here’s wishing us all some very Fun Family Time Together.


And, P.S., in case you’re looking for some (actually) fun family activities to add to the usual fun like eating too much and sitting on the couch, here are three of my family’s tried and true ideas:

1. Host a Tasting: Cheese or Apples, Fair Trade Chocolate or Wine… the options are endless. Of course, some tastings are suitable for including children and some, HOORAY, aren’t. But if you’ve been looking to expand your family’s food horizons, this is a fun way to do it. You can have folks take notes or do research or vote on their favorites or you can just, you know, consume it.

photo 4 (32)



This year, my dad hosted Scotch Tasting for the grown-ups.

He did an amazing job. Lots of research. Impeccably sourced liquors. Fact sheets. He was thorough

Which worked out better for some people than it did for others.

photo 5 (17)






My cousin Jen and me tasting the Islay Scotches.





2. Compete in Family Olympics

photo 5 (18)In addition to our other family sporting events (see below), this year we added Family Olympics. Now, please understand, although I love to run, exactly zero of these Olympics and sports activities are my idea. Ever. This idea belongs to my cousins, Leslie and Nathan. My ideas tend to center more around meal planning, meal eating, dessert planning and dessert eating, but I have to admit, even when I was faced with the skinny slide portion of the obstacle course and had to decide whether I could send first one of my legs down and then the other, since there was NO WAY both of my legs were going to fit at the same time, Family Olympics was a blast.

photo 2 (73)

We began with the obstacle course at a playground, moved on to the relay event which included hugging balloons ’til they popped and rolling toilet paper along the floor with our noses, and followed up with measuring the capacity of each of our mouths (using water and spitting into a beaker) to decide who has the biggest mouth – an event for which I was the favorite but surprisingly didn’t win (GREG.)



3. Have an Annual Soccer Match or Family Fun Run

Hold your own 5K Family Fun Run. Or send everyone out for an annual family soccer match. If you’re like me, you’ll find an excuse every year to sit this one out and have ONE WHOLE BLESSED HOUR of F2T2 all to yourself. And that, my friends? Really is fun. 


Today is Day 7 of 7+ Giveaways!
(Day 6 is still accepting entries: click here.)

I invited the 5 Kids Blog advertisers (see the column to your right) to join me for 7 (and more!) days of giveaways. CHECK BACK for a NEW GIVEAWAY EVERY DAY.


Today, our friend Anne-Elizabeth of Humdinger Goods, a company that offers small batch culinary items, garden art and home goods, is giving away a beautiful Sweet Stuff Gift Basket containing:

1 bottle Tahitian Vanilla
1 jar infused Vanilla sugar
2 cookie cutters
1 Potluck spoon
1 Christmas ornament
Sugar cookie recipe



This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jessica, winner of the Sweet Stuff basket. Jessica wrote, “I am trying to throw myself into the Fun family time together, i really am…hopefully we all come out unscathed on the other side!”


TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this blog post by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Monday, December 23rd. One entry per person, please. A winner will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Tuesday.

This giveaway is open to international participants. International shipping provided by me.

Note: The 5 Kids Blog advertisers provided no additional compensation for these giveaways. Anne-Elizabeth of Humdinger Goods is paying for the cost of the giveaway and U.S. shipping. She paid me for her ad only, and this just seemed like a fun way to work together for your benefit. OK? OK.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Fabulous!

  2. My “break” involves hauling student papers on the plane to my parents’ house where I hope to squeeze in grading time during naps or while my parents are watching our kids. This is why I no longer give homework over break (and am usually not foolish enough to assign something major due right before it).

    Can I be rewarded with baking goods please?

  3. I would love to win the drawing!!

    And, I wish I got to spend that many days with my sweet boy. I only get Xmas Eve and Xmas day…then it’s back to work and daycare.

    Enjoy your holidays!

  4. Clever moms witb ACRONYMS for activities!

  5. Then there are those of us who teach your kids all year, and during our breaks, OUR OWN KIDS ACTUALLY EXPECT US TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM TOO. Geez. I’m kind of dreading the era when I will come home from teaching middle schoolers to parenting middle schoolers.

  6. ooooh. I was just talking to someone about the joys of vanilla sugar!!!

  7. I am absolutely using the “who has the biggest mouth” idea. Love it!

  8. oooh, that basket looks so good!

    I’m hoping we have an enjoyable and family fun Christmas break!

    But really? I’ll just settle for one where no one pukes. My standards for successful breaks are pretty low.

  9. I wish I could go back in time and do some of these things with my children. But wait… I have grandchildren!

  10. Ooh! That basket looks awesome. And as a teacher enjoying her first day of break . . . I will enjoy it, then promptly miss all my little ones!

  11. Does repeatedly eating handfuls of chocolate chips count as “chocolate tasting”?

  12. “We have more fun!” Shouted with gusto in my family stands for well intentioned family fun time resulting in a disastrous outcome. Examples of having “more fun!” Car trouble in any form but especially if said car trouble leaves family stranded on the side of the road, outing that ends in frantic rush to the Emergency Room, getting hopelessly lost and never making it to intended destination and the ever popular family fun cut short due to bodily fluids, choose one or an exciting combination of several.

  13. Mmmmm, fancy vanilla! Pick me!

  14. For family fun time we are going to start potty training our 2 1/2 year old son. What is more bonding than cleaning pee puddles and spending lots of time in the bathroom. Our house will be filled with tinkle instead of tinsel. 🙂

  15. For people to truly understand how vile that scotch was, they must know that my face doesn’t typically look like it was stepped on by an elephant 🙂 F2T2 🙂

  16. As the spouse of a teacher for 20+ years, I wait for Winter break as anxiously as my kids and husband do! It isn’t really a true break, agreed, but the change in routine feels like a respite nonetheless!!!

  17. Great giveaway!

  18. I am trying to throw myself into the Fun family time together, i really am…hopefully we all come out unscathed on the other side!

    1. Congrats, Jessica! You won the Sweet Stuff Gift Basket from Humdinger Goods. Check your email for a message shortly.

      Beth Woolsey

  19. I love your confessions of the mayhem of break but also loving it! That’s me too. I long for the routine of school, but I delight in the freedom and craziness of being together! Our day one of break began at 6:15 with the one year old wanting to PLAY!!! We managed to make some presents for christmas, and take a hike in the muddy melting snow. 🙂

  20. I can practically smell that vanilla from here, and scientific experiments have proven that vanilla is most effective from my own kitchen.

    Also this is my last Adults Only Family Christmas for at least 19 years, and I intend to savor it by spending the night at my parents’ house and reliving childhood Christmas memories with my baby sister. Who is almost 22.

  21. Those sound like great family activities.

  22. Love the idea of the family Olympics. Have you tried a treasure hunt? I’d suggest individual ones though if your family are as competitive as mine, or tears may follow…

  23. I want the cookie-makin’ stuff! (Is that enough comment?)

    My mom also had an acronym for our family, which was TE2AM: my siblings’ first initials, plus Ed and Esther (hence, the two). My brother got to be first on the team, and of course I was last, which is where the middle sibling is for everything. TE2AM-building activities were very difficult, because I ALWAYS had to do ALL the work, while my siblings got to lay around, being lazy.

  24. A teacher and parent here and on day one of break I am about 48 hours away from dreaming to be back with your children. School is orderly, school has rules that children actually follow, school has folks whose job it is to mKe and clean up lunch. Christmas break is a break for no one.

  25. Great basket!

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