Consider it quality time squared: You get to spend the day with your children, they learn about the joy of helping others, and everybody makes the world a better place. When choosing an activity, take a cue from the things that your child loves. If she’s obsessed with dogs, she’ll enjoy rounding up supplies for the animal shelter; a nature nut will dig a trail cleanup. What’s age-appropriate? Kathy Saulitis of generationOn, a New York City–based nonprofit foundation that partners with youth service groups, has a few suggestions: Young children might visit a nursing home or make cards for people in hospitals, while older children can collect food for a food bank or organise a car wash to raise money for a cause.
Make a time capsule
Preserving your family artefacts is a fun way to celebrate your family now and later—just don’t bury the collection. “When it’s unearthed, if ever, it’s usually a soggy mess,” says Paul Stephen Hudson, a cofounder of the International Time Capsule Society. Pile everything into an archival box, then stow it away in a cool, dark place. Include the big stuff (artwork, school reports, notes to your future selves) and the little (movie stubs, a printout of a Facebook page, a toy with its batteries removed so they don’t corrode). Items that won’t stand the test of time: delicate clothing, food, or tapes and discs that will be outdated by technology. Add a silica-gel pack (which comes with new shoes) to absorb moisture, and set a date for the big reveal in 25 years.
Stick to surefire zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and bush beans, says Charlie Nardozzi, a gardening expert and writer (howtogrowing.com). Use a one-by-two-foot self-watering planter and let your co-farmer handle the watering and harvesting. You may pull more than your share of the weight (and weeds), but if it convinces your children to eat a vegetable, it’s sow worth it.
Teach your children an old family recipe, or start a brand-new tradition by baking bread. Sound too Master Chef for you? Actually, if your kiddos can mold Play-Doh and make mud pies, they’ll be experts at kneading dough. (The hands-on fun quotient is the same, but the result is much more appetising.) Find a foolproof whole wheat bread recipe.
And pitching a tent in the backyard counts. With the free app Xplor Home (for iPhone and Android), children can finally snap a photo of wildlife and the app will share it with their educators at childcare or school. Once the sun sets, keep them entertained with good old shadow puppets. And don’t forget to brush up on ghost stories for around the campfire (er, flashlight). You’ll find plenty of ideas and more at ultimatecampresource.com.