6 Ideas for Starting a Family Bucket List by Rich Bennett

Since its release in 2007, the film The Bucket List has inspired many people to make a list of things they want to do or accomplish during their lifetime.

I’ve always appreciated the intentionality and forethought that comes with making such a list. Recently, I’ve been thinking … what about making a “bucket list” of things we want to do or experience as a family before our kids grow up and leave our home?

So, my wife and I sat down to create our own family list. Here are our six ideas, which you can build on or use to help start your own list.

1. Special Vacation Destinations

When I first started thinking about making a family bucket list, most of my initial ideas gravitated around places I’d like us all to visit together. For us, the clock is winding down on this knowing we only have four summers before my oldest son goes to college.

Rich and his children at the beach

We’ve visited a Disney park, Yellowstone National Park and beaches on both coasts. Now that our kids are older, we’re starting to hit historical locations like Mount Rushmore and presidential libraries. A big one left for us is to travel to our nation’s capital, and perhaps cities closely connected to our nation’s founding, such as Boston and Philadelphia.

While we weren’t quite this formal, we know one family that made a list of places they knew they wanted to travel to as a family before their kids even started school, and they’ve been systematically crossing those places off over the years.

2. Take A Missions Trip

We know families that have taken overseas missions trips with their elementary age kiddos. For us, we decided to wait until both our kids were at least middle school age. And, we decided to make our first family missions trip a domestic one with the help of Adventures in Missions.

Sure there are ways you can serve others right in your own backyard. But travelling together away from your hometown not only enables you to experience some place new, it requires greater reliance on God’s strength – putting you less in control – something I personally need to experience to be reminded to lean on His power – not merely the abilities He’s given me.

3. Teach Your Kids Key Life Skills

As parents, we like to do things for our kids. And, quite frankly, sometimes it’s just easier to do things ourselves rather than take the time to teach them to do them. But both my wife and I know young adults who left their parent’s home for the first time not knowing skills like the basics of cooking … how to do laundry … balance a checkbook … mow and trim the lawn … or change a flat tire.

Make a list of those things you were glad you knew how to do when you left your parent’s home – or, that you had to learn the hard way – and make a point to teach your kids before their time comes to strike out on their own.

4. Care For a Pet

My wife and I have always joked with our kids that the reason that we got a dog shortly after we got married – and before we had kids — is that we figured if we really screwed up the dog, we’d know to stop there.

But the truth is, having to care for something or someone besides yourself is a great way to learn responsibility – and become less selfish. Having pets that your kids help care for is a great way to prepare them for bigger responsibilities down the road.

5. Experience Classic Movies Together

Beyond just being entertained, watching classic films together is a great way to expose your kids to other time periods, get your kids thinking critically about decisions other people make, and tee up discussions about a host of life topics.

For instance, we recently all watched The Sound of Music together, a movie I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Not only is it extremely well made, but it gave us the chance to have discussions about what it means to be selfless, take risks to help others and provided a historical context for World War II.

Plugged In’s website offers free online “Movie Nights” lists for both families with younger children, as well as families with teens, which provide great ideas for age appropriate movies to watch together. Each movie listed also comes with discussion-starter questions that you can use to talk about themes the film raises from a biblical perspective.

6. Align with Your Kids’ Passions & Interests

If your kids are like ours, they each have different things that animate and energize them. My daughter loves animals, art and being outdoors. My son is fascinated by dioramas of places, anything to do with aviation and space, and is increasingly interested in music.

As a result, we look for activities, or places to visit, where together we can explore the different passions God’s given each of us. We’ve visited several space and aviation museums over the years. And we’ve likely made more trips to the zoo than the typical family for my animal loving daughter and wife.

So those are major items on our family’s bucket list. What would you put on a bucket list for your family? What have I left off?

About Rich Bennett
Rich Bennett (@coloradorich) is a contributing writer for Dad Matters and the Vice President of Ministry & Marketing Strategy for Focus on the Family